One of the best ways to ensure student success is to make sure teachers receive highly effective professional development. Like other professions, teachers are required to participate in continuing education in order to improve their practices and stay licensed. Besides university classes, teachers attend trainings given by their schools and districts. These trainings are usually on a range of important topics that support the improvement plans and goals of the larger organization.
Some of these presentations may be tailored to and accessible by most teachers. But what often ends up happening is that all teachers have to sit through professional development on programs or processes that they do not intend to use. This can be frustrating for the presenter, who is looking for participant buy-in, and for the teachers, who feel like the training is not a good use of time.
So how do you design a professional development experience that teachers can get excited about?
Check out these ideas for effective teacher professional development (PD).
Use Your Own Techniques
If you are going to teach teachers, use the techniques you are sharing. Incorporate the processes you want teachers to learn by using them during the professional development. Teachers like to see things in action to ensure that they are useful tools and tips. If they remain engaged and learn throughout the process, they will believe in the method.
Teachers are busy. Spending a few hours in PD means those hours were not spent on planning lesson or grading. Make sure teachers leave the PD with something actionable that they can use in the classroom the next day or week. If they do not put the new methods into practice right away, they likely never will.
Make it a Choice
While they have to attend PD, teachers rarely have a choice about what topics they get to study. Consider differentiating PD options with breakout sessions that cover different topics. Give teachers the options to attend the sessions that make the most sense for their personal practice.
Without future check-ins or accountability, teachers are unlikely to internalize new processes right away. Set up a schedule to meet with teachers to observe their classroom practice of the new methods and to answer any questions they may have.
Focus on the Long-Term
Professional development should fit the long-term goals of the school, district and individual teachers. If the professional development is without any focus, teachers will not see the value in it. However, if PD sessions build on each other toward a common goal and the trajectory is clearly laid out, teachers will buy in. They will be able to look back at the end of the year and see the clear path they took to get where they end up.
Present at the Right Time
The school year ebbs and flows based on many factors. Professional development is great before school begins as teachers are planning for the year. Introducing brand new topics and priorities right after school starts is not good timing. Teachers will wonder why it was not introduced when they were still planning for the year. Also, avoid major PD during testing and right before long holiday breaks.
Pair Them Up
Have teachers work with colleagues during professional development. Encourage them to check in with each other to see how the implementation is going. It is good for teachers to have a sounding board about the new things they are learning.
Teaching teachers can be challenging and rewarding work. If you think you are up for the task of being a school leader, check out the Master of Education in Educational Administration Advanced Program for Principal Licensure and Master of Education in Educational Leadership Advanced Program for Continuing Professional Education degrees at Grand Canyon University.
To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Education helps school leaders learn the best ways to support teachers, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.