There are myriad choices when district administrators sit down to evaluate teacher professional development programs. Like anything involving choice, there are good decisions and bad decisions. When reviewing professional development options most administrators should be asking the question that Dylan Wiliam frequently asks:
What are you (school/district leaders) doing on a regular basis to help your teachers get better?
I also think it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of the professional development after it’s been completed. Reading the blog post – What’s the Point of Training and Professional Development? – I was reminded of how many programs are evaluated solely based on how the teacher found the training and not on its effectiveness in the classroom, with the students themselves.
The effectiveness of a typical training class or professional development workshop is most often determined by an end of session survey the learning participant completes. Teachers are asked to rate the effectiveness of the training and how much they learned, most often before they ever have a chance to apply it. It’s not that gathering opinions of learners about the content and delivery of a lesson is wrong, it just shouldn’t be the sole measure of how well the knowledge and skills that were acquired are being transferred to applied behaviors.
Effective teacher professional development needs to be collaborative and, more importantly, ongoing. This gives the teachers the needed opportunity to apply what they’re learning in the classroom with students. They can report back in their teacher learning communities what they’ve found works and what doesn’t. They can work together to shape ideas on how best to engage students and move their learning forward. The chart below shows the power of ongoing collaboration and its success in knowledge, skill, and overall implementation:
Source: Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development, 3rd ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, p. 78
Teacher professional development programs built around collaboration, where teachers gather and discuss proven formative assessment strategies and teaching techniques for engaging students have proven effective. We’ve seen the results and they work; teacher professional development can work. So if your professional development isn’t working, change tactics, but don’t give up!
Photo Credit to Kevin Jarrett.