Effective PD Within the School Day
Every school places a strong emphasis on professional development, also known as PD. Some of it is provided by colleagues who share the best practises they’ve found, while some of it is provided by district staff or outside vendors.
It can be challenging to schedule professional development sessions during the school day. If PD is scheduled for the beginning of the day, it will most likely take place before the start of classes. In most cases, teachers are anxiously watching the clock, as they are eager to get to their classrooms and begin preparing for the day. If it’s given at the end of the day, teachers will be worn out and ready to transition into their evening routine. If it’s given in the middle of the day, students will have already gone home. Therefore, what can the teacher leader do to support the professional development of their colleagues either in the morning or after school?
GIVING TRULY USEFUL PD WITHIN THE SCHOOL DAY
1. Keep it simple: Maintain your focus on one particular subject. Consider the following scenario: you are expected to review standards-based teaching and learning methods as well as share best practises with newly hired educators. Instead of introducing both of these topics at once, you decide to focus on just one of them.
When instructors are provided with the opportunity to digest and put into practise one useful strategy at a time, the information will be retained. When there are too many ideas, they become noise. Pick one thing to focus on, immerse yourself in it, and put your whole heart into it. Set a later time and/or date to discuss the remaining topic(s).
2. Offer a few handouts but don’t go overboard: You should always give instructors a hard copy of the material—perhaps a bulleted list of the most important ideas—that they can take with them. If they are given an excessive number of handouts, teachers will skim through them, but they will not really concentrate on the particular idea being presented.
Be wary of making the claim that “everything can be found online.” Even though it is vital to be aware of paper waste, very few teachers will actually read the information that is provided online after they have returned to their classrooms because they simply will not have the time to do so. Give them time during the PD to read the material if they are required to do so, but keep in mind that conciseness is of the utmost importance.
3. Maintain its importance: instructors are looking for the specifics as soon as possible. Right at the beginning of the presentation, you should go over the fundamentals of what it is that they need to know. If it is at all possible, provide a visual model, and be very clear about how this topic will affect them, as well as how it will positively affect student learning.
If there is still time, you should demonstrate what needs to be done, which includes: Demonstrate how to fill out a new district form using the Smart Board, or provide examples of how to write learning intentions or success criteria using language that is understandable to students. Instead of spending time going through thirty PowerPoint slides trying to convince teachers of what they need to do, you should get straight to the point as quickly as possible.
4. Make the connection: In what ways does this professional development relate to the activities that teachers are already conducting in their classrooms? They want to know whether or not this new information will easily integrate with what they are already teaching, and if it won’t, they want to know how you will assist them in integrating it with the bare minimum of reorganisation on their part.
For instance, if it is expected of teachers that they will incorporate informational text into their lessons, they should be ready to provide specific examples for each topic they cover. Make an offer to attend department meetings and produce individualised demonstrations based on the topics being discussed. In what ways can the physical education teacher incorporate informative reading into the badminton lesson he is teaching? Demonstrate how the process of connecting the dots can result in growth opportunities.
5. Be practical: When the professional development is over, let the teachers know that you are available to answer questions or help them find the answers if you don’t already know them. It’s possible that some teachers, particularly those who are just starting out in the profession, might find it embarrassing to ask questions in front of their colleagues. It may be beneficial to schedule a separate professional development activity once a month specifically for new teachers. This would allow for ample time to address the new teachers’ particular concerns and provide sound guidance that is specifically tailored to meet their needs.
After the PD, you should always send an email to your colleagues thanking them for their participation. Include your schedule and strongly encourage subsequent action.
6. Pay attention to the people in your audience. Always hand out an exit ticket to educators in order to collect their comments, and make sure to leave them enough time at the end of the professional development session to fill it out. If they go back to their classrooms with the exit ticket, they won’t be able to finish it because there will be other things that require their immediate attention waiting for them there. Asking teachers how they would like professional development (PD) to be structured, how it could be more timely, or how it could be delivered in the most effective way is one way to encourage them to share their ideas. The teachers are appreciative of the fact that someone is asking, and they are more than happy to share their thoughts.
On my exit tickets, I include the following questions:
Please provide a list of three strategies that you intend to implement into your teaching practise as a result of today’s professional development.
Let me know if you would rather have support with your particular ideas if that is the case. Please provide a list of the days and times you are available for further contact.
What kinds of enhancements do you recommend for the upcoming professional development workshops?
Follow up with the teachers after they have finished the exit ticket by locating the requested instructional resources, graphic organisers, or technology sites that align with their comments. It is essential for your continued success as a teacher leader that you follow up on their questions or requests that were written on the exit tickets. You want to reassure teachers that their responses on the exit ticket have been read and that you have taken them seriously.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PD DOESN’T WORK
Even the most well-planned PDs occasionally fail to achieve their goals for a number of different reasons. If you are given a negative exit slip, you should, if at all possible, speak with the instructor who wrote it. The purpose of this exercise is to figure out how to maximise the value of the next opportunity for staff development. It is of the utmost importance to demonstrate to teachers that their contributions to the school, both in terms of their time and their talents, will never be in vain.