Sep 09

Empowering Teachers to Plan Their Own Professional Development

The field of education is constantly evolving, and the COVID-19 pandemic sped the rate at which teachers and students had to adapt to teaching and learning outside the normal classroom setting. Unfortunately, according to an analysis by McKinsey & Company, the “impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the school year.” In light of the learning gap, many educators are seeking ways to hone their craft in areas that make the most sense for their students.

How do teachers plan for professional development?

Planning your professional development requires addressing and overcoming challenges, including:

  • Burnout. It’s no secret that teachers everywhere are suffering from burnout. The stress of managing work-life balance, student safety concerns, and administrative demands can get in the way of professional growth. Learn how to identify and avoid burnout.
  • Decision fatigue. Teachers make non-stop decisions throughout the day leading to a phenomenon called decision fatigue in which making decisions becomes exhausting. To combat it, create and maintain a routine that eliminates unnecessary snap decisions. Set out your clothes and make your lunch the night before and set specific days and times for grocery shopping, sleeping and working out. By creating a routine, you eliminate the number of small choices you make daily, making more time for important decisions.
  • Goal setting issues. Common pitfalls when setting goals include goals that are not specific enough, have no time limits for attainment, are unrealistic, unmeasurable, or don’t really matter that much to you. Eliminate goal setting issues by creating SMART goals.

SMART goals for teachers’ professional development

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. 

  • Specific. Rather than saying, “I want to use more technology in the classroom,” identify what tool(s) you want to use and for what purpose. Or, instead of setting a goal to make your classroom more inclusive, you might plan to implement certain principles of universal design instruction or assign more books by authors of diverse backgrounds.
  • Measurable. If your goal cannot be measured, you will have no way of ascertaining whether or not you’ve reached it. Even if you don’t reach your goal in the expected time, measuring your progress will show you how far you’ve come and give you the motivation to keep going.
  • Attainable.  Be sure your goals are challenging but attainable. Your goal should be something you can realistically achieve, given the time and resources at your disposal.
  • Relevant. Every teacher, every school, and every group of students is different. Your professional development goals should align with your values and long-term goals. They should be relevant to you and to the student populations you teach.
  • Time-based. Your goal should have a timeline reflected in your professional development plan.

Tips for Professional Development Goals

Take inventory of your skills and classroom experiences and think about what you’d like to improve or start integrating into your practice. Are there consistent challenges you experience in the classroom? Is there a technological or pedagogical approach you’ve heard of that you’d like to try? Are you living up to your full potential as an educator? You might also wish to consider where you’d like to be in your career in a year, five years, or ten years. What can you do in the short term to help you get where you want to go? Consider your state’s teaching license, certification renewal, and continuing education requirements. You may wish to pursue professional development separate from these requirements or in conjunction with them.

What are examples of professional growth goals for teachers?

Professional development goals that incorporate elements of teaching standards and professional development standards may include examples such as:

  • I will learn strategies to improve student learning in the area of [subject] in order to incorporate them into my daily instructional practices.
  • I will add to my skills administering and collecting assessment data to appropriately plan interventions, to improve student learning 

Creating a Professional Development Plan

Once you have a set of goals in mind, it’s time to create a plan. The more detailed your plan is, the easier it will be to follow. 

  1. Begin by stating your professional development goals and a projected date for achieving them. For example, you might want to learn a new skill before the beginning of the next school year or practice a new teaching technique over several months. 
  2. Establish a timeline so you can commit to a deadline and check in with your progress and keep you on track. If your goal is more challenging or has a longer projected timeline, break it down into smaller individual goals. 
  3. Identify which strategies and resources you’ll use to achieve your goal. This might include attending a professional development conference, school in-service days, participating in a virtual training or workshop, or even online professional learning.
  4. Share your professional development plan with a supervisor or peer mentor for added accountability.

Professional Development Resources for Teachers

While schools and districts provide professional development resources for teachers, many teachers wish to take professional growth into their own hands in a way that fits their schedule and classroom needs. Numerous resources are available for teachers to grow their professional skills and reconnect with their love of teaching. 
Avanti has an ever growing library of videos and resources containing immediately actionable strategies for teachers to grow and expand their techniques to improve student outcomes. Avanti’s professional development materials are research-based and informed by teachers’ actual experiences in the classroom. Our resources cover everything from student engagement to assessment of learning goals and how to implement new strategies successfully. Make Avanti’s videos and supplemental materials part of your professional development plan by starting your free trial today.

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