Harvard University professor Heather C. Hill says the “professional development system for teachers is, by all accounts, broken.” The question is how to overcome this for our most effective professional development as educators.
Studies show that teachers need to take part in programs providing at least 14 hours or more of professional learning in order for it to be effective. Frankly, these types of programs are few in number. Short-term professional development learning is on the rise, and we are seeing the impact it has on our educational system.
A report from the Institute of Education Sciences revealed, “teachers spent eight or fewer hours on each type of professional development in which they took part.” Exposing teachers to new teaching concepts in a one-time workshop is not achieving notable results in the classroom. It’s time for teachers to partake in better professional development.
Like anything worth doing, it all starts with mapping out a detailed plan.
The Quest(ions) for Effective Professional Development
When creating a map for effective professional development, teachers must start out by answering pertinent questions. The answers they generate will help pinpoint realistic goals and identify resources for achieving them. Additionally, the answers will clearly indicate areas of content in which professional development needs to focus.
- What are the top two instructional goals for the upcoming year?
- How will these goals impact learning outcomes for staff and students?
- What types of internal/external professional development resources are available?
- What is the best time for teachers to take part in professional development?
- Is there time to access effective professional development, or does time need to be carved out?
- What are methods for making professional development practical?
- How will we measure the effectiveness of the training?
How Does Effective Professional Development Take Place?
Workshop-style professional development has been shown to be ineffective. That said, it’s still what almost 90 percent of teachers are provided. One-shot workshops should be avoided, and instead be replaced by training that incorporates the following aspects:
- At least 14 hours of training that can be spread out over several days and conducted on an ongoing basis
- Align with state and district school goals and standards
- Focus on core content and modelling
- Provide multiple opportunities for feedback
- Provide various activities that require teacher collaboration
Why Is Collaboration Important for Professional Development?
A survey released in Education Week states that teachers “view common planning time with colleagues as one of the most effective ways of improving their classroom instruction.” In regards to professional development, this view makes it clear to see that professional development training should be conducted by teachers who have many years of experience in the classroom. These teachers need to have extensive experience in leadership positions at both school and district levels. Also, they should possess first-hand knowledge of the strategies and concepts they teach during professional development training. By collaborating with such teachers, professional development becomes much more effective and provides an array of benefits to teachers and students.
Necessary Professional Development Skills for Modern Teachers
To be an effective teacher, a person will need to hold much more than a college degree. Certain practical skills are necessary to teach students in ways that align with today’s modern learning methods. You’ll find many of these skills align with the qualities of the Global Digital Citizen.
Here are 15 professional development skills that all teachers should be able to master in their craft:
- Team player
- Continuous learner
- Maintain strong online reputation
- Ability to unplug from social media
- Deep understanding of technology
- Ability to empower
- Strong student engagement
Remember also that your number one goal as a teacher is to promote student growth. The most effective professional development training will focus on:
- Setting high expectations for your students
- Helping you identify realistic expectations for your students
- Using today’s best educational technology
- Planning instructional strategies
- Applying classroom management techniques
- Applying higher-order thinking
- Using cooperative learning
Tips for Acing Professional Development
Another important part of effective teaching is realizing that performance rates are calculated using both student and teaching results. If your teaching results are not distinguished, you can’t expect your student performance rates to be distinguished either. This is why professional development should focus partly on improving your own performance, not just classroom outcomes.
One excellent way to improve your performance is by reading more. Joining a professional scholarly group or even reading an online educational blog can expand the knowledge essential to improving your teaching. Another way to enhance your performance is by attending educational conferences and workshops. Just keep in mind that any workshop or conference providing less than eight hours of instruction should not be considered formal professional development.
As we mentioned earlier, collaboration is key to effective professional development. This is why you should observe other teachers as much as possible. Ideally, you will observe those who implement effective teaching strategies as they are great sources of knowledge. Then once your performance has been improved, you will want to continue collaboration efforts by sharing what you have learned.
Of course, there is always the question of time. This is often the biggest hurdle to overcome in regard to professional development for teachers, with funding as a close second. However, proper fund reallocation can make all the difference in achieving effective professional development.
District 2 in New York City revamped its professional development approach to improve student achievement with great success. They created coaches for teachers as well as professional learning labs providing excellent instruction. Besides this, they also got rid of isolated, one-shot workshops. It didn’t require millions in extra spending, either—just a restructuring of funds to buy teacher time and coaching staff. As a result, the district was able to hold professional development spending to a remarkable 3 percent.
Professional Development Resources
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
- EdWeek Teacher PD Sourcebook
- Discovery Education
- Education World
- Teacher Vision
- 6 Practical Tips for Achieving Effective Professional Development
- The 11 Most Inspiring TED Talks for Modern Educators
- How to Avoid Teacher Burnout: 10 Safeguards For You to Know