How to Create Meaningful PD
Every year, school districts devote a significant amount of time, effort, and resources to the professional development of their educators. However, putting theory into practise in the classroom can be a challenging endeavour. Professional development that is genuine and meaningful includes a well-defined outcome, relevant modelling, and substantial participation from participants. It may take some time to create professional development opportunities that have effects that are long-lasting.
START WITH A CLEAR OBJECTIVE AND FOCUS
When deciding what kinds of training to provide, it is important to first determine the needs of the staff. Collect feedback through the use of an online survey tool or through concentrated conversations with members of the staff. Not only will leaders not have to speculate as to what teachers require, but staff members will also have the satisfaction of knowing that their opinions are valued.
Before beginning their professional development, teachers would benefit from having a clear deliverable to help them put what they learn into practise in the classroom. Think about how valuable it is for sessions to end with an activity or resource that teachers can immediately put to use in their classes the following day. When I facilitate a session on differentiated practise, for instance, I centre the session on a playlist that contains resources from a wide variety of subject areas. The materials are readily available for the teachers to take back to their classrooms and put to use.
Every school has a wide variety of requirements, and it can be tempting to want to address all of them at once. The key to making changes that are long-lasting is to determine the level of urgency associated with each need and to prioritise the work. Consider the institution’s overarching mission or the primary emphasis it places on education as a way to direct the process. For instance, if the primary school’s focus is on incorporating increased reading initiatives into all classes, then the professional development methods for text inclusion in all subject areas should be a top priority for the school. Determine one or two essential objectives, and then concentrate your efforts there before moving on to other matters of importance.
MODEL AND EMPOWER
One of the most important aspects of leading an effective session is providing examples of good instructional practise. Include, for example, a vehicle to model this practise during the session if equitable calling practises are expected to be used in classrooms. One simple method involves asking participants to write the name of their favourite song on an index card. After that, the facilitator can select cards at random from a stack whenever the group needs contributions.
Rely on the wealth of information that is already available. It’s possible that educators will politely listen to a trainer lead a session, but if a colleague leads the learning, there will be significantly more buy-in and investment on their part. Work in collaboration with educators to determine the areas of professional development that can benefit from the specific skills that teachers possess. Because of the shared responsibility, every member of the staff is given the authority to collaborate on the development of meaningful learning experiences. For instance, if a teacher is especially skilled at disaggregating data and zeroing in on specific students, you should ask them to demonstrate their best practises. Give the floor to another teacher who is known for developing creative lessons based on a predetermined curriculum, and allow them to demonstrate how they approach the subject matter.
Transferring knowledge gained in settings other than the classroom into actual teaching is one of the aspects of professional development that is among the most difficult. For instance, I presided over a meeting of the department to discuss ways to improve student language by modifying the format of the questions that we ask. After the training, I went around to different classrooms to see if there was any discernible change in procedure. After investigating this gap between theory and practise by talking to the teachers, I came to the conclusion that the problem was not the teachers’ desire or ability to bring about change; rather, it was habits that stood in the way of bringing about the change.
It is possible for us to change the ways in which we conduct our teaching, but doing so requires not only new ideas but also a variety of different teaching tools. The following time I got together with the teachers, I brought a few different planning templates and models with me that illustrated where in the lesson one could insert intentional questioning. The training was transformed into a work session in which the teachers worked together to test the new methodology.
Follow-up is essential to the achievement of successful professional development goals. After the session, look into different ways that you can coach teachers in any capacity that they want. Make use of one-on-one interactions as a means of reinforcing the ideas that were covered in a session. Pay a visit to various classrooms so that you can not only observe but also model instruction.
It takes time to make meaningful progress in one’s professional development. According to research conducted on organisations, any kind of change that sticks around typically follows a path that is somewhere between three and five years long. Determine the level of one’s success based on incremental results. For example, if a school’s primary objective is to boost the morale of its faculty and staff, the school’s opportunities for professional development might begin by investigating how morale is conceptualised. The leadership of the school is then in a position to decide what smaller goals could eventually lead to the larger goal. One way to determine whether or not morale has improved is to observe whether or not teachers participate more fruitfully in monthly staff meetings or how many people volunteer their time to assist with efforts to make the school more aesthetically pleasing.
Collecting data about the smaller goals that may signify improvement on a larger scale can be done over the course of time. Ensure that your professional development is gradual and that it allows for course corrections to be made if and when they become necessary. Include those educators in the next round of planning for professional development if, for instance, the results of a survey regarding teachers’ opinions reveal that a number of participants do not believe the training is applicable to their jobs. They have the ability to share concepts and points of view that the leadership of the school may have missed or been unaware of. Focus groups should be held on a regular basis with a variety of school staff members. This helps to expand the range of perspectives that are considered and improves understanding of how participants have responded to the sessions. Schools are more likely to achieve their goals when they undertake professional development as a whole-staff initiative and receive appropriate buy-in and feedback.