Five Core Elements for Teacher Professional Development Success

Five Core Elements for Teacher Professional Development Success

With summer now upon us and FUSION a recent memory, educators have a lot to think about. If you attended FUSION you’re likely armed with a lot of great information and ideas on how you might affect change in your school or classroom next year. Even if you didn’t attend the conference, you’re likely beginning to use those summer months as opportunity for teacher professional development.

We’ve blogged a lot here at Teach. Learn. Grow. on a wide range of teacher professional development topics, and most are supported best by a set of core elements identified by Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy in their research. We thought this would be a great time to review these as educators embark on determining the best course of action for their professional development needs.

  1. Choice – Teachers, like students, need and appreciate choice. Choice within a given framework or focus allows teachers to determine their personal priorities for changes to classroom practice.
  2. Flexibility – In addition to choice, teachers need to be allowed to make modifications to make the new learning work best in their own environment.
  3. Small Steps – Learning is incremental. It takes time to change practice and to make lasting change, new learning must become a part of the teacher’s routine. Professional development for teachers that allows them to practice, in small steps, supports this idea. Real change occurs when we apply ourselves to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time.
  4. Collegial Support – Change in teaching practice is challenging and requires support. Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) provide teachers with opportunities to develop personal action plans, to report back to a peer group about what happened as a result of implementing those plans, and to reflect and receive feedback and support from colleagues who are working on the same changes in practice.
  5. Accountability and Resources – Teachers, like any professionals, need to be held accountable for results AND they must be provided with the time and resources to accomplish meaningful change.

These core elements are also part of what John Hattie, author of Visible Learning and a leading thinker in teacher professional development, extols. For example, he recommends learning opportunities that extend over time, involve external experts, engage teachers sufficiently in learning, and include processes with an effect on student learning such that teachers’ discourse and ideas about learning are challenged and supported by school leadership.

In this era of heightened accountability focused on teachers, it has never been more important for us to provide teacher professional development that doesn’t just espouse successful theories, but adheres to a structure that facilitates successful outcomes.  It’s not enough for us to give teachers more information about what works; we must also provide a framework for long-term integration of new skills.  School and district leaders can support teachers by adopting new practices that offer time for new learning as well as professional experimentation, personal reflection, and collaboration.

As you build your professional development programs, consider those five core elements above to stack the odds for success. How are you building your teacher professional development programs? If you’re a teacher, what are your plans for summer development? We’d love to hear how you prepare for the new school year ahead.