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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Professional Development

Professional Development

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Throughout my career as an educator I have been involved in many professional development workshops/seminars in which I took away very little from the experience. Today it seems harder than ever to motivate and engage staff in meaningful professional development. Even though I am satisfied with how I have planned my upcoming staff development day on 11/3, I am interested to hear everyone's thoughts about how teacher professional development should be structured. What are the essentials? What are the pitfalls? Is there a protocol that you or your district follows when making a decision on requests by teachers to attend off campus PD opportunities? Are teachers held accountable when they return from outside PD events?

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Deven Black's picture
Deven Black
Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

This topic speaks to me because on 11/3 I will be presenting my first professional development workshop (on the use of SmartBoards in social studies).

Because of my dissatisfaction with top-down PD I have been busy polling the teachers I'll be training to find out how much they want SmartBoard mechanics training as opposed to demo lessons using the IWB. I'm hoping that this will lead to a more useful expense of time than the usual rehashing of one tired topic or another.

When I have talked to my principal about the lack of differentiation in the PD we receive he said it was due to lack of planning time. He all but admitted that our in-house PD is thrown together, no doubt with good intent, but also with little effect.

I am sent to occasional off-campus PD. I'm in the middle of a three-session workshop on Project-based Learning which will continue on two days in November. I will offer to turn-key this training but I doubt that offer will be acted upon because of the expenses involved in covering my classes and the classes of the teachers who might attend.

As a result, the PD is likely to make me a better teacher, but its overall effect is spread thin.

I've read of proposals to have teacher PD follow the medical model in which each doctor is individually responsible for so many hours of continuing education in his specialty. This CE is available online, at conventions and in certain more local venues.

I support the idea of individual teachers having the responsibility for their own continuing education, but they must be given the financial and time resources to do so.

Steve Barkley's picture
Steve Barkley

Planning the follow up is essential. Without the accountability it is too easy to get back to business and forget the practice that the new learning requires. I just helped a high school principal plan for follow up from a reading across the curriculum workshop. One week later dept heads bring example of how they used it to dept chair meeting with principal,next week teachers take example to dept meeting, next week teachers share examples with cross curriculum groups, throughout the process teachers are asked to share problems or questions.... that is the topic of the next month's faculty meeting.

Jan Moreland's picture

It is something I am alsways seeking to improve. This current year, I feel we are getting on reasonbaly well at my High School. Teachers and other staff have been asked to state which PD sessions they will attend (we have weekly one hour sessions and threex3 hour sessions during the year). If they are applying for accreditation, they need to write a short evaluation of each and also a 2000 word piece at the end of the year. It's accredited through the College of Teachers (www.collegeofteachers.ac.uk). Some of them are blogging thier evaluations - I'd like to expand that. Off site PD - they should write evaluations but don't always - trying to get that on the blog too. They publish their longer writing on our private staff wiki. Alos see www.splatshs.wetpaint.com for more.

I would really like to have each member of staff have a formal PLN - at them moment it's very informal, but that's always a good start.

Eric Sheninger's picture
Eric Sheninger
Principal at New Milford High School

You hit on a great point in regards to PLN's. So many of us now see how important these can be for professional growth. The question now becomes, how can administrators/schools implement formal PLN's within schools and for specific staff members?

Teri Wilkins's picture
Teri Wilkins
Teacher training

I always make it a point to ask teachers what their needs, expectations, and assumptions are before beginning a professional development presentation. That way, I can make it clear if I am going to address them or not and to point them to some other resources if I can. This helps to cut frustration levels.

M.E.Steele-Pierce, PhD's picture
M.E.Steele-Pierce, PhD
Assistant Superintendent / West Clermont School District / Cincinnati OH

Thanks, Mgilb, for the great articles.

We changed "PD" in our district to "professional learning" this year. Nicely compliments PLC and PLN.

Here are the essentials in our district:
1. Use our internal experts. Enhances credibility and authenticity.
2. Keep it focused. Stay on goal/topic for extended sessions.
3. Everyone learns. Expect admins to participant fully.
4. Always model good teaching. What we expect in the classroom, we expect of our presenters.
5. Follow up!

Not perfect, yet. So much still to learn, esp using Web 2.0 and creating authentic PLCs and PLNs.

Johnny Hamilton's picture
Johnny Hamilton
Ed Tech Consultant, SMART Board Trainer, Author of Online CEU Courses

Many of the problems of onsite training such as scheduling, tracking learners' progress, one-size-doesn't-fit-all, can be addressed by incorporating online training. New technology tools are changing the rules about how training can be delivered- resulting in increased efficiency and effectiveness. There is a free eBook that shows how teachers and administrators can benefit from these new rules at www.2itedsol.com/newrules.pdf.

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