In the education profession you often hear key terms such as, differentiated instruction, rigor, integration, and progress monitoring. Whether you are a full-time teacher or a school faculty member, you work in a wonderful profession that allows you to love and empower children everyday. Whatever your role may be in your school, you are an influential part of many children's lives.
As educators we often reflect on how to modify our teaching techniques to further serve those bright-eyed children everyday. Many schools provide Professional Development opportunities in a variety of ways. PD [Professional Development] could be an in-house workshop designed by the school administration and veteran teachers; or an enlisted outside resource with expertise in a specific subject or field.
Educators are considered to be lifelong learners, each with individual strengths, but also having a range of interests and needs. Professional Development in schools should be structured to provide educators with beneficial knowledge and tools ready to use in the classroom. A Teacher-Centered Professional Development is an approach to provide educators an opportunity to collaborate together. The book Teacher-Centered Professional Development by Gabriel Diaz-Maggiolo shares a Teacher's Choice Framework. Teachers choose and initiate professional growth activities according to their schedules, strengths, and needs.
Using a Teacher-Centered Professional Development approach, here are five foundations to effective Professional Development.
1. Content Specific
The content presented during the professional development should not be generic but significant to the educators receiving the training. Material should be grade-level specific with a particular objective in mind, such as classroom management, guided reading, or working with students with disabilities.
During the PD session, the trainer should provide materials and resources the trainee can use immediately in the classroom. Those attending the PD session should have the opportunity to create any resources necessary to implement the content learned.
I once attended a Professional Development training on using Thinking Maps with fictional stories.I was given a set of materials with sample lesson plans using Thinking Maps with fictional books.We collaborated to create lesson plans using a variety of fiction stories, thinking maps, and objectives. We then shared those plans with other educators. We left the PD session with several useful ideas and plans to enforce in the classroom.
Once the new skills and strategies are learned, the professional development should remain an ongoing process. This allows time for educators to practice and implement those strategies in the classroom. We know from teaching children, once a skill is taught, that skill should be practiced multiple times in a variety of settings in order for mastery to occur. PD is learned, practiced, discussed and reflected upon, then implemented again.
4. Modeling and Support
Students learn new content and skills when the teacher models what is expected. During the professional development, the presenter should model the strategies for educators to fully grasp the new knowledge. An educator learning a new skill should also observe other teachers who have shown mastery in that content. Recognizing other professional’s strengths will offer more insight to the trainee and allow correct implementation in the classroom.
My students often show me their completed work, looking for my approval or ask for their grade regarding a recent test. As a lifelong learner we resemble our students and want to know how well we have completed a task. Implementing the learned strategies from the PD sessions is an ongoing task. Just as you should observe mastery teachers, the trainee educator should also be observed by others. Those observers should provide valuable feedback with positive comments and helpful critiques.
Whether you are a veteran teacher or just beginning your career in education, you will always be a lifelong learner. Each year you will be given a new group of students, each child unique with his or her own learning styles and creative abilities. Professional Development will always be an ongoing process.You should take what you have learned and implemented in the classroom from one year to the next. You should continue to practice and reflect upon your PD sessions and modify your teaching strategies for your students each year. Collaborate with your school administration, teachers, and faculty to structure professional development to meet the needs of your school and the amazing students you encounter everyday.