Every teacher can probably describe a boring or downright ineffective professional-development experience they’ve had. There are many challenges when trying to design a successful and engaging PD program for ongoing teacher education. Whether you’re an administrator looking for useful tips or an educator who wants to hone your own skills, the research-based hints below will help you avoid some of the most common problems and mistakes in PD programs.
All teachers at Bates Middle School are expected to use arts integration in their classrooms. To help train teachers in the fundamentals of art, they have professional development every other week, and at least one per month is on arts integration. Learn more about this school.
Credit: Zachary Fink
Structure Professional Development Time with Purpose
Simply increasing time for professional learning will not in and of itself improve teacher practice. Effective professional learning time must be purposefully structured (Guskey and Yoon, 2009, citing Birman et al., 2000; Garet et al., 2001; Guskey, 1999).
Remember, Learning is a Journey, Not a Destination
Focusing too much on the “weight” of the chicken rather than the “feed” can undermine the process of authentic professional learning and the positive climate necessary for growth. After an extensive review of the professional-development literature, Webster-Wright (2009) proposed that educators shift the discourse from delivering and evaluating PD programs to understanding and supporting authentic professional learning as it is situated in the everyday context where it occurs. Authentic professional learning lends itself to design thinking, an iterative cycle that includes designing, testing, troubleshooting, and redesigning.
Give Constructive Feedback
Authentic professional learning requires methods for reflection and feedback. American Institutes for Research offers a Web-based service called Professional Development Activity Log, which supports longitudinal data collection on professional development implementation and teachers’ self-reported knowledge, skills, and changes in teaching practice. After extensive research on teacher evaluation procedures, the Measures of Effective Teaching Project mentions three different measures to provide teachers with feedback for growth: (1) classroom observations by peer-colleagues using validated scales such as the Framework for Teaching or the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, further described in Gathering Feedback for Teaching (PDF) and Learning About Teaching (PDF), (2) student evaluations using the Tripod survey developed by Ron Ferguson from Harvard, which measures students’ perceptions of teachers’ ability to care, control, clarify, challenge, captivate, confer, and consolidate, and (3) growth in student learning based on standardized test scores over multiple years.
Build Trust Between Administrators and Teaching Staff