Does the above picture remind you of a teacher professional development session?
According to the US Department of Education, states that receive Race to the Top money are asked to advance reforms around four specific areas. One of the specific areas revolves around recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals.
Recruiting, developing, and retaining effective teachers can be problematic. In some states, 1 in 5 teachers leave the profession within the first five years. As Forbes suggests, training new teachers costs school districts a significant amount of money. This link provides graphs and documentation that points to the dire situation.
Recruitment begins by having an effective professional development (PD) program. Developing effective teachers starts with having an exceptional PD program that gives accurate support and feedback to all stakeholders. Often, teachers will seek out PD opportunities outside of their school district because there is a lack of targeted PD support from their employer.
One size fits all PD support continues to be on the endangered list, as the approach shows that it’s not effective in promoting permanent change. Having a self-selected PD growth model can encourage ownership and lead to best practices. When possible (I hope often) educational administrators need to release a bit of the control in the professional development department. Teachers are professionals, and most understand where they need additional support.
How can the current PD model change to better reflect teachers’ needs?
Here are a few ideas that involve PLNs:
Teachmeet: The first TeachMeet occurred in Scotland in 2005 and has been spurred through learning networds enabled by Twitter and Facebook.Teachers at TeachMeet meet at local schools or establishments to inspire each other with interesting and useful ideas, develop and maintain a network of partners in teaching and learning, and share ideas and strategies to use in the classroom and beyond. One teacher characterized TeachMeet as professional development unplugged. Teachmeet can also lead to e-learning opportunities.
Twitter & Facebook: Twitter and Facebook have become resources that teachers visit to gain insight into best practices and methods to integrate technology and learning. Educational Twitter chats also offer opportunities for teachers to engage in meaningful conversations with other professionals across the world through various hashtags.
Survey & Implement: Administrators may use teacher survey data to tailor multiple PD opportunities for educators. Notice that I said multiple. Giving teachers choices often encourages ownership and higher probabilities that the PD sessions will have lasting value. Teachers should have an opportunity to select from various sessions to maximize their PD. After the sessions, surveys should also be used to document the effectiveness of the sessions.
How would you change teacher PD?
* Picture credits (2) to Renjith Krishnan