Creating Successful Teacher Professional Development – Elements to Consider

Creating Successful Teacher Professional Development – Elements to ConsiderAlison Anderson recently blogged about her edcamp Portland experience at Getting Smart, and I loved some of the ideas that she touched on regarding teacher professional development.

The one hurdle that many people face when thinking about implementing teacher professional development is the time they’ll need to carve out of an already busy schedule. While most sound teacher development requires only two hours a month, (Thomas Guskey and Kwang Suk Yoon, p. 497) it does need to be consistent and ongoing, and not just a few months of lecture from some educational guru. I love the idea that Alison shares in Google Hangouts. If you and your teachers have, or create, a Google Plus profile then you can connect via video to colleagues to conduct meetings. This flexibility provides educators the opportunity to hold teacher professional development sessions without having to be physically present.

I also like the fact that these Hangouts can be recorded and saved to YouTube for sharing and re-watching as needed; something that adds to the flexibility of a sound professional development program.

In her blog, Alison shared six elements that educators at edcamp Portland came up with to help engage teachers in professional development success. I think they’re worth resharing…

1. Consistency in timing and format – Teacher professional development needs to be more than a lecture series. It needs to happen consistently (monthly for two years?) and the format of the meetings need to be structured.

2. Humor – PD doesn’t need to be dry – If you’re not having fun you’ll most definitely want to be somewhere else. Make it engaging, fun and personal.

3. Stay focused and be considerate – Just like in your classroom environments, teacher professional development should be engaging but focused on the topic at hand.

4. Give teachers the choice to not only watch, but participate – I believe that every teacher has something that can help other teachers. This is the collaboration part of good teacher development that is so important.

5. Encourage community viewing. Teachers need to share what they are learning in their professional development sessions, whether that is by sharing their YouTube Hangouts or encouraging other teachers sit in on their classroom teaching, this part is imperative.

6. Host the Hangouts on an easily assessable site so teachers can view them. I think it would be of great value if districts create a page, shared drive, wiki or microsite for their teacher professional development efforts, containing materials, videos, and other resources to which all teachers can access.

Combine these six elements with what we’ve blogged about on a number of occasions and I think that teacher professional development can be set up for success in any school or district environment. Our five elements are:

1. Choice – Teachers are like students; they need and appreciate choice. Choice within a given framework or focus allows teachers to determine their personal priorities.

2. Flexibility – In addition to choice, teachers need to be allowed to make modifications to make the new learning work best in their own classroom environments.

3. Small Steps – Learning is incremental. It takes time to change practice and to be lasting it must become a part of the teacher’s routine. Professional development for teachers that allows them to practice, in small steps, supports this idea.

4. Support and 5. Accountability – Change in teaching practice is challenging and requires both support and accountability. Teacher Learning Communities provide teachers the opportunity to develop personal action plans, report back to the group what happened as a result of implementing those plans, reflect and receive feedback (support) from colleagues who are working on the same changes in practice.

I’d love to hear from other educators on what they feel is important for successful teacher professional development, so please drop a comment below.