teacher professional development

5 Strategies For Better Teacher Professional Development

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Teacher Professional Development is a big deal.

Just as a teacher has to create conditions that support and encourage student success, school districts have to support teacher professional development.

Today, professional development runs the gamut from one-shot workshops to more intensive job-embedded professional development, which has teachers learn in the day-to-day environment in which they work rather than getting pulled out to attend an outside training.

However, the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education report, “Teaching the Teachers,” notes that most professional development today is ineffective because it neither changes teaching practices nor improves student learning.

Teacher professional development can fall short in numerous ways, including:

  • Too many (and sometimes conflicting) goals and priorities competing for teachers’ time, energy, and attention.
  • Unrealistic expectations of how much time it will take schools and teachers to adopt and implement goals.
  • Professional development training events that are inappropriate in size, scope, or structure to support learning new ideas or skills. Gathering 100 teachers into one room for a training event will never give them the time they need to reflect on the material, ask questions, listen to their peers, or go through activities to enhance their comprehension.
  • Lack of support for teachers’ implementation of new instructional practices. Research shows there’s an implementation gap in teachers’ professional development. They may learn, understand, and agree with a new idea or technique presented in a workshop, but it’s hard for them to implement that idea without ongoing support.
  • Failure to provide teachers with feedback about how implementing new skills impacts student learning.

How Districts Can Turn Professional Development for Teachers Around

Just as every student learns differently, teachers have many different learning styles and face a variety of circumstances in the classroom. The CPE’s report asserts that any professional development initiative must recognize that “teaching is inherently complex and nuanced” and promote the empowerment of teachers via professional learning communities.

According to the report, effective professional development offers:

  • Ongoing instruction for a significant duration of time. Continual professional development gives teachers time to learn and implement new strategies. According to the report, studies have concluded that teachers may need as many as 50 hours of instruction, practice, and coaching before a new teaching strategy is mastered and implemented in class.
  • Support for teachers during the implementation stage. According to “Student Achievement Through Staff Development,” teachers take an average of 20 separate instances of practice to master a new skill, and this number may increase if the skill is exceptionally complex. Providing support addresses the challenges associated with changing a classroom practice.
  • Active learning opportunities for teachers. These activities can include readings, role-play, open-ended discussions, live modeling, and classroom visits. While many forms of active learning help teachers decipher concepts, theories, and research-based practices in teaching, modeling the new practice has been shownto help teachers understand and apply a concept and remain open to adopting it.

an article written by Joel Zarrow for teachthought.com