Research shows that teachers trust and prefer learning from other teachers. And as teachers are experts in their field, many schools are expanding staff development days to include teacher-led professional development. While learning best practices and exchanging ideas among teachers are helpful, transformative professional development requires a more planned approach. This post provides tips on how to plan a professional development day for transformative learning.
- Choose relevant topics. Focus on topics that are pertinent to as many teachers as possible. Surveying teachers to discover what areas they believe would be the most beneficial will help you create a more engaging professional development day for teachers. For example, topics such as educational technology, classroom management, relationship building, student engagement, preventing burnout, and promoting wellness are relevant to a larger group.
You can always break out some sessions to allow teachers to engage in subject or grade-specific learning. For school-wide topics, enlist your seasoned teachers to guide those learning sessions, enabling them with leadership opportunities that keep them engaged.
- Create self-assessment tools. Because teachers have unique challenges and are at different points in their careers, their professional development needs aren’t the same. Help teachers self-assess their teaching with a rubric you create collaboratively during a professional development day.
In Edutopia’s post, “Creating a Teacher-Driven Professional Development Program,” former teacher and instructional coach Laura McCullough explains how her school developed a rubric by brainstorming “What makes effective teaching?” After determining that differentiation, questioning, feedback, cognitive engagement, and academic rigor were best practice areas, they created a rubric to help teachers assess themselves. Teachers recorded a typical lesson and reviewed it, scoring themselves using the rubric as they would for students. This process helped the teachers identify areas they could work on over the next few months.
Knowing where strengths and weaknesses lie will help teachers plot their own professional learning paths and help them help you determine topics to cover.
- Create active learning opportunities. Instead of using a lecture format, create activities that include strategies teachers can take back to their classrooms and apply to their lessons. For example, you could use classroom strategies aimed at building engagement, such as paired responses. When teachers engage in the same types of activities that they are creating for their students, they become more active learners. Be sure to include time in your sessions for reflection, discussion, and questions so that the strategies are easier to implement and more likely to be adopted.
- Know what you’ll do with extra time. If you have time left at the end of a session or the day, plan what you will do to keep teachers engaged. You could have slips of paper ready for teachers to tell what surprised them, have them rate their top three topics, or vote for what they’d like to cover on the next professional development day. You might give them prompts, pair or break the teachers into groups, and have each group present their observations of the session. Be sure to structure the activity so that it is productive.
- Include inspiration. Teachers get into teaching to make a difference, but they don’t often get to see how they impact students over the course of the students’ lives. Open and close your professional development day with a motivational video. You can perform a Google search or locate videos on YouTube or TedED. Be sure to test the technology so that it goes off without a hitch.
- Keep it going. Rather than being confined to a few sessions throughout the year, a teacher’s professional development is most effective when it’s part of an ongoing journey. Even if they aren’t full days, regularly scheduled sessions or check-ins offer chances for teachers to review progress and build upon new skills and strategies learned. According to the Policy Learning Institute’s research, “Professional development that is sustained, offering multiple opportunities for teachers to engage in learning around a single set of concepts or practices, has a greater chance of transforming teaching practices and student learning.”
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