Change the Odds by Reimagining Teacher Professional Development
By Lynn Kepp, Sr. VP Strategic Partnerships …
District administrators know one-off, intermittent professional development opportunities don’t deliver a lasting impact for teachers. When professional development is disconnected from teachers’ needs it can feel irrelevant at best, and in many situations, can overwhelm teachers. The research about what does work, though, is clear.
The disjointed way professional development has been approached in the past needs to be reimagined and transformed into a much more comprehensive, cohesive and effective system of professional learning.
Teachers require coaching and follow-up support that provides a cycle of inquiry enabling them to plan, execute and improve their instructional practice. The application of professional development to teaching practice is most effective when teachers not only learn through seminars or one-on-one coaching, but also demonstrate these learnings to their coach, practice and receive feedback with follow-up. Teachers agree that this approach is preferred and have said they want professional learning that is ongoing and embedded in practice. They agree that this is essential to successful implementation of more rigorous academic standards, most notably Common Core. To be most effective with students, teachers also say they need coaching to be relevant, hands-on and sustained over time.
While it’s good to see many district leaders have coaching in place, it is often inconsistent and poorly executed. Teachers say most current coaching programs do not meet their needs or lead to improved student learning outcomes. Teachers’ opportunities for the kind of ongoing, intensive professional learning that research shows has a substantial impact on student learning are decreasing. Administrators play a critical role in setting the stage for teacher and mentor success by creating time for induction and establishing a positive culture for teacher development in their buildings and in the system.
We know teachers thrive in professional learning communities that are guided by professional teaching standards, focused on teacher development, providing them with reciprocal peer support in which to solve problems. Regularly scheduled seminars and participation in online learning communities can provide the opportunities teachers need for rich networking, professional dialogue and reflection. Additionally intensive and ongoing multi-year coaching helps to improve teacher practice, and consequently, student achievement.
Want to know if your district is providing the level of professional development teachers need? Take the self-assessment we created to help district leaders reimagine professional development in their district. This is the fourth in the series of the weekly “Change Makers” my colleagues and I are publishing through mid-December to help you change the odds for students in your district.
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