Setting up Teacher Professional Development for Success

Setting up Teacher Professional Development for SuccessDoctor Kimberly’s Literacy Blog at Learning Unlimited recently had a piece titled 5 Key Steps to Better Professional Learning that dovetails nicely with what we’ve been blogging about with regard to teacher professional development.

In the post, the author shares five steps that I believe are right on when it comes to creating a teacher professional development program positioned for success, which are:

1. Shared Vision – A shared vision for student learning is paramount. Working toward a common vision for what teachers expect their students to know and be able to do at each level is really what having education standards is all about. While not all educators like the Common Core State Standards, they do put in place a strong set of standards from which all educators can work. Using it to form consensus in teacher professional development efforts can help get “everyone on the same page” and form a shared vision.

2. Shared Leadership – Teacher-leaders who work with the principal or district leaders to help plan, launch, and sustain long-term success are key. This shared leadership principle is similar to our Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs), comprised of teachers, one or two of whom facilitate ongoing professional development.

3. Choice & Differentiation – Giving teachers the opportunity to choose what works best for them. Teachers, after all, are like students; they need and appreciate choice, within a given framework or focus. It helps sustain their interest long-term and set the table for greater success.

4. Collaboration – Just like student learning in today’s Common Core landscape, teacher collaboration in their professional development efforts can lay the groundwork for success. Providing time (and other resources) for this ongoing collaboration is important. Encouraging teachers to establish their Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) allows them to reach out, not only within their school or district but to others as well. With all the digital tools (and social media) available today, collaborating on what works and what doesn’t can help all teachers gain valuable insights that will sustain long-term teacher professional development success.

5. Support – Ongoing support as teachers implement new practices and techniques can help guide success. Establishing a climate of risk-taking is a part of that support. Teacher Learning Communities, or regular professional development gatherings, can help lend this support. In addition, classroom observations and coaching opportunities can also help teachers overcome the challenges of trying new ideas and techniques in a live classroom setting.

These five steps mirror our five principals – 1) choice, 2) flexibility, 3) small steps, 4) support and 5) accountability – for putting embedded teacher professional development on solid footing and geared for success. What other steps or elements do you think need to be part of a successful teacher professional development program?