Updated: Jan 28
There's no doubt that professional development is important — it keeps teachers up-to-date with the latest teaching techniques, allows them to collaborate with other educators, and provides a forum for sharing ideas. But how can you know if your PD is actually having an impact on student achievement? In this article, you'll discover how to create PD programs that will give you the greatest return on investment.
While most teachers agree that professional development is important, there are some who question its value when it comes to improving student achievement.
Here’s the thing, if a professional learning program doesn’t lead to better performance in the classroom, it’s not effective. That’s why you want to take the time to ensure you are planning professional development that helps teachers grow as educators and gives students a better chance for achievement.
Creating professional development that leads to student achievement requires a shift in mindset. Teachers need to understand that the aim of professional learning is to support them as educators and give students a better chance for achievement.
They need to be engaged in the planning process, and they need to be active participants in the PD experience. Professional learning isn’t something “done” to teachers; it’s something teachers lead.
Of course, teachers must get time during the school day to meet with their colleagues for teaching collaboration and professional growth. But this should not take away from time spent delivering instruction or planning lessons.
Professional learning is not just about teacher training, it’s about providing opportunities for teachers to develop their instructional craftsmanship. When teachers are out of their classrooms gathering meaningless credits or attending useless sessions that don’t help them improve as educators, they don't serve students.
This is why I recommend developing professional learning programs focused on building instructional leadership skills in teachers, engaging students in their own growth and progress, and providing opportunities for students to achieve at high levels.
How to create professional learning programs that actually lead to student achievement
Professional learning is about creating a culture where teachers feel supported and encouraged to do the best work of their lives.
Having a professional learning program is great, but if it doesn't lead to student achievement, then it's a waste of time.
The same goes for training teachers in the same ineffective strategies year after year.
Tailor your professional development to the needs of your classroom and school. As you assess the needs of your school and classroom, think about the following questions:
What are the specific learning objectives that you have set for your students?
What are their standards?
How can you help them meet these goals?
Do they have support from their parents? If not, how can we help them build this support?
What resources do they need to learn at your high level and reach their potential?
How can you use technology to provide these resources for them?
How do you personally measure student learning as it relates to your goals and objectives?
In order to be successful with professional development, there must be a shared vision. A shared vision is created by teachers involved in the process of creating a plan that will lead to higher student achievement. When creating this plan, it is important to recognize how each teacher will play an active role in ensuring student success through learning. Also recognize the importance of sharing ideas and strategies among teachers so everyone can benefit for everyone's benefit.
When it comes to professional development, many teachers simply cannot do it all. In order for professional development to be successful, teachers need to build their capacity to meet the needs of students. Teachers are responsible for the instruction of their students and many times, they become the experts at the content.
In order for teachers to become instructional leaders in their classroom, they need support and direction. This is where collaborative leadership comes into play. Collaborative leadership is a shared vision and responsibility among all stakeholders that leads to student achievement.
Toward a Shared Vision
In order to be successful with professional development, there must be a shared vision. A shared vision is created by teachers involved in creating a plan that will lead to higher student achievement. To create a shared vision, teachers need to be included in conversations around developing curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessment.
This can be done through having a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, how they are going to learn it, and how they are going to demonstrate mastery of learning expectations. Through this process, teachers begin developing professional responsibilities towards instructional leadership in classrooms.
What you should consider when creating a PD program
When you’re creating a PD program, there are a few things you should consider. It’s important to have goals and objectives for the program, and to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with the program. Also, you should think about who the audience is and what their needs are. This information will help you create a program that works for you and your team.
Let's face it: most professional development is a waste of time.
Teachers will check out PD programs just like they check out professional journals or read books, but if it doesn't relate to their classroom, they won't use it. So if you're going to invest in PD for your teachers, why not spend the same energy and money to make sure it will help your students?
A professional learning program that leads to student achievement must include five components:
Content and Curriculum;
High Quality Instructional Coaching;
Teacher Practice and Learning;
Data-Driven Decision Making; and
Ongoing Support and Evaluation.
The best PD programs are not only professional, they're also highly personal. So when we talk about what makes them great, we don't just mean the materials you need to plan a great session. We mean things like making sure your program is flexible enough to meet the needs of all your teachers, no matter their proficiency level in the subject or skill set, and that it's crafted to keep them engaged and excited to continue learning.
Professional development is an important part of being a teacher, but it can be difficult to create PD programs that are effective. Here are some tips for creating professional development programs:
Make sure the program is relevant. If your professional development falls outside of your job duties or doesn't apply to what you're currently teaching, it's likely not going to be as effective as it could be.
Involve teachers in the design process. While you may think you know what's best for your staff, teachers have valuable insight into what they need to know and how they learn best. If they're involved in the design process, they'll be more likely to engage in the program and take away what they need.
Use a variety of instructional strategies. Spend just one day lecturing and you risk boring or overwhelming your teachers. Mix up activities and question-and-answer sessions with breakout sessions where teachers can discuss issues relevant to their classrooms.