Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tenets of Good Professional Development

Unbelievably, I'm going into my sixth year of teaching. That means I have been to a LOT of professional development. Most of it has been a useless waste of time. However! I remain hopeful that it can be done well, and that it can be of use to teachers like it's meant to. Here is my Official Guide to PD. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Workshops should last no more than 1 1/2 hours. Furthermore, teachers should not be sitting in the same room all day long. Parse the PD into different rooms. Once the bum goes numb, so does the brain.

2. When planning PD (as a supervisor or as a presenter), ask yourself the Golden Question: Is this DIRECTLY relevant to classroom teaching? This cannot be emphasized enough. Teachers should be able to think about bringing your content into their practices. Now, whether or not they decide to is another issue, but it should be easy to connect PD workshops to everyday teaching.

3. Encourage participation. It breaks up monotony and keeps people awake. It keeps them accountable for the information, it helps teachers get to know one another, and best of all, that's good teaching. Remember, professional development is supposed to help teachers get even better at their jobs. Modeling is an important skill not just for classroom teachers!

3b. That said, limit role play; adults will feel silly and roll their eyes and/or refuse to participate.

4. Give time for discussion and planning--teachers want that time to figure out how to use the information in their teaching, because remember, it needs to be RELEVANT.

5. Think about the timing of the PD--what do teachers need most? The week before school starts is *not* the time to discuss child psychology or fancypants theories--teachers are anxious to get working on specifics for the students that will be arriving all too soon.

6. When possible, use faculty members to lead PD. Good teachers want to learn from each other. Do panel discussions, brainstorms, small groups, etc. (Hm, doesn't this also sound like something teachers are expected to do in the classroom? Just because you're working with grown-ups doesn't mean you abandon good teaching strategies!)

6b. Make sure that presenters is not only qualified to lead a workshop, but that he/she is also a good speaker, and (here's that word again) RELEVANT.

6c. Please ensure that PowerPoints are spell-checked!

7. Ask teachers for their input and feedback--what are they most interested in? what do they think would be most useful? what new things do they want to learn about or explore? Then, if possible, have options to choose from.

8. Make sure the workshop is something new, or new enough, to be worthy of the time. For example, using technology in the classroom could be really useful, but if the school doesn't have technological resources, or if it's about things like overhead projectors, that's a waste of time. An old idea like, I don't know, group work, that's a no. (I hope this makes sense.)

9. Evaluations must ask about the RELEVANCE of the workshop and how effective the presenter was. Again, good PD should be good teaching!

Educators: What do you think? What did I miss? What would you add/change/delete?


rabi said...

this might be just me and my science brain talking, but don't tell me something is a best practice and expect me to accept it at face value. either tell me why & how we know, or give me the information I need to go and find out more for myself. in short: I need evidence.

my other rule is: provide free food. as often as possible. ;)

Michelle Haseltine said...

I agree!! Thanks, right now I am putting finishing touches on my presentation for PD for next week. (I'm presenting.) Good reminders and suggestions.

Hope your PD this year is a positive experience!

Anonymous said...

Works for hs/ms math, don't know about other stuff:

teach something short, modeling a technique, a style, a piece of technology, or even just the approach to a variety of content.

Discuss for reaction (everyone)

Present (what you were going for, and how you hit it. Or why it didn't work)

Discuss how the idea, style, technique, content, whatever - could be adapted for different classrooms.

Give teachers time to plan a little using it.

Share out.

1. Learning from each other.
2. Best practices, from a peer.
3. A direct taste of what it's like in the students' seats.
4. Broken up. Teachers play roles of students, teacher as audience, and teacher as planners
5. Walk away with partial product (ha ha if there are any math teachers reading)

This approach to PD also models
1. self-directed PD; and
2. in a way, reflective teaching.

What do you think? Viable for elementary? Do you guys already do it? Or are you addicted to paid, outside presenters?


erin said...

when responding to audience comments, be encouraging and constructive, not rude.

actual exchange from my technology-centered PD yesterday:

presenter: who here uses skype in their classroom?

[several raised hands - presenter picks one]

presenter: why do you use skype?

teacher: because it's fun for the kids.

presenter: what do you teach?

teacher: i'm an ed tech in instructional support.

presenter: well, "it's fun" isn't a reason to skype with kids. you should use technology in a meaningful way.

and after that, very few hands were raised. who would want to participate with that kind of feedback?

Schoolgal said...

I think the first rule should be to gear PD to what teachers want instead of the powers that be. My former principal loved to pick the topics that put us all to sleep.

Have examples of children's work to present, and provide as much hands-on as possible.

Limit the time to 1 hour.

And most importantly, tell teachers that what is presented is not the Gospel and can be tweaked to meet the needs of their students. Too many admins want whatever was presented to be taught as presented. Teachers and their students are not Stepford Wives.


teachin' said...

I agree with rabi - don't just say it's research-based, give me a little background on the research so I can judge how valid and reliable the data is (and I'm a Language Arts person, so it goes beyond science desires).

Also, differentiate PD based on needs/desires, but make it meaningful for all content areas. At my school, we often focus on math and Language Arts because those are our state tested areas. While I understand that, the ways they try to differentiate for the other areas seem fairly meaningless. They already feel like the red-headed stepchildren since their contents keep getting cut for ours; demonstrate that they still matter with meaningful PD.

12 more years said...

Don't badger veteran teachers with information that they've heard a thousand times already. We don't do it to the kids- don't do it to us.

If differentiation is the gospel, have me bring a lesson plan, along with data about my students. Show me how I can REASONABLY differentiate that lesson plan in a MEANINGFUL way- stop telling me "you must differentiate instruction" and not be able to show me how. If YOU can't do it, there is a damn good chance that I can't, either.

SeƱorita Rubii said...

PDs at my school last year were full of read-alouds and role playing, I can only hope someone in charge of them stumbles across this list. Walking away from a PD with something concrete you can use in your classroom should be one of the presenters objectives without a doubt.

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

We're having a PD day at my school tomorrow, and I have to tell you I'm NOT looking forward to it. I'll let you know how it squares up with your list of what REAL PD should look like!

Unknown said...

This capacity to fit, align, and design is a required skill; it is an art; it is the capacity to change teaching. Teachers with this skill set look at new objectives and new strategies through the lens of a designer, fully capable planning, teaching, and revising daily instruction.

Life Coaching

Unknown said...

In addition Professional Development courses are either general, or skill- based. General professional development caters to general skills, through basic personal education. Skilled development on the other hand, deals with the current profession, leadership qualities, managerial skills and enhancing a person's productivity.