Creating a Teacher-Driven Professional Development Program
Teachers instruct, while administrators or coaches observe and provide a list of areas for improvement. This is the standard professional development structure. When instructional leaders provide teachers with the opportunity to self-assess and reflect on their own practises, professional development becomes more useful and meaningful, as shown in the following example. A teacher-driven professional development plan motivates teachers to be enthusiastic about learning and invested in the opportunity to grow.
TAKE YOUR TIME AND MAKE A PLANNING.
Allow plenty of time for the development of long-term plans when developing a teacher-driven professional development programme. Teachers at my school, the Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary, began the process of teacher-driven professional development a full year before it was implemented by a team of instructional leaders.
Ensure that the rubric and professional learning plans are aligned with any district-mandated professional growth plans in order to get the most out of the programme. The buy-in of teachers is an essential first step in the process. Teachers must have a say in the decision-making process in order to gain their support. Make a connection between educational reading and classroom experience during team planning. To brainstorm goals, consider using the framework “What makes effective teaching?”
We discovered five characteristics of effective teaching based on our observations: differentiation; questioning; feedback; cognitive engagement; and academic rigour, among others. We developed a rubric based on the characteristics to evaluate the various levels of performance for each of the individuals. The list contained the best practises that the majority of teachers considered to be the most effective.
Create a rubric to be used to evaluate the various levels of performance for each. To give you an example, we used the following evaluation criteria: ineffective; developing; competent; and exemplary. Teachers can provide input in a more objective manner when a framework is designed for them. Once a plan has been established, collaborate with teachers to determine the most effective ways to put what they have learned into practise in their respective classrooms.
USE REAL-WORLD EXAMPLES
In order to capture a typical day of instruction, the instructional leadership team asked all teachers (classroom teachers, special education teachers, special area teachers, and intervention teachers) to videotape a lesson from their classrooms. Pre-assessment activities included teachers watching their own video before beginning the professional learning session. The teachers gave themselves ratings in each of the rubric’s categories. To ensure that it was a true self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses on a regular day of instruction, teachers completed this work independently.
Several teachers believed that their classrooms were engaging, but after viewing their videos and utilising the rubric, they realised that while students were compliant, they were not cognitively engaged. Teachers used the notes section of the rubric to provide evidence for each rating they gave students in class. After rating themselves in each of the five areas, they identified the area that was the weakest according to the rubric, and that area was designated as the component that they would focus on in the coming months.
Teachers are assigned to professional learning groups based on their areas of growth that need the most attention. Teachers collaborate with other teachers who are undergoing the same professional development in order to hold each other accountable between learning opportunities. Some teachers used accountability partners to help them complete their assignments. Others chose to have a teacher partner observe their class informally in order to gain a different perspective on something they learned during the PD.
Every conversation is organised around the rubric, which ranges from evaluative to non-evaluative. In order to facilitate instructional conversations throughout the building, a common language must be established. Given that instructional coaches and administrators are in charge of professional development training throughout the year, they are able to speak in a common language in all conversations, from evaluations to informal coaching cycle discussions.
Every month at our school, instructional coaches and administrators provide ongoing professional learning and development for teachers and administrators. It could be as simple as reading professional literature on cognitive engagement or working in a group to develop high-order questions that are aligned to specific standards to achieve success. As a result, teachers are immediately involved in the process because the activities are centred on areas that they have previously identified as potential growth opportunities.
Encourage teachers to come up with their own methods of evaluating what they have learned on their own. To determine which students were truly engaged in their learning and which were simply complying, teachers participating in the cognitive engagement professional development programme developed a data-collection tool that could be used by individual teachers to track student progress. When they discovered that there was a lack of cognitive engagement among the students, they were able to concentrate on ways to make their day-to-day lessons more engaging. The tool outlined specific characteristics of a cognitively engaged student as well as specific characteristics of a conforming student.
Teachers were able to observe their classes with specific goals in mind because a uniform framework for assessing students on these characteristics had been developed for them. Teachers were more engaged because they had a say not only in the overall professional development but also in specific growth areas. Teachers of all levels of experience can benefit from developing a plan with teacher buy-in because it allows them to engage in professional development from a different perspective.