I think many teachers are wary of professional development (PD) because thoughts like it’s a boring meeting or it’s a waste of my time tend to creep into their heads. But professional development can be a powerful tool for teachers since it can make them more marketable. It can drastically improve their teaching and in turn, improve their students’ abilities.
Before you throw a training session together willy-nilly, make sure that you study Professional Development for Teachers programs that have been proven to work. It seems like an obvious solution, but there are many programs out there that talk about results without giving teachers steps to take to get those results. To make your PD programs more effective, check out these tips:
Collect Relevant Data from the Previous School Year
If you collect test scores and figure out where your school’s weak areas are, then you can set reasonable goals for that year. A quantitative approach can be very dry, but it will help you look at all sorts of variables at national, state, and local levels. You can briefly talk about these statistics in your PD programs, but more importantly, you’ll need to figure out how to work on trouble areas.
For instance, many schools are focusing heavily on math and science PD programs. While we can train teachers in math and science, we should look for ways to make those subjects fun. Yes, I said it (or wrote it): fun! Instead of telling teachers how to drill students with quizzes and worksheets, use the time to develop teaching games and puzzles. And while the hard sciences are important, don’t be afraid to branch your PD programs out to other areas like English, art, or history.
Narrow Your Focus
Teachers are human after all, so they may be asking “What’s in it for me?” While PD programs often focus on how to improve students’ learning, they should pique educators’ interests. Instead of telling teachers what to improve gettheir specific feedback–teachers will be much more engaged if they choose the areas that they want to learn about, or improve in.
PD programs are also very effective if you narrow the group size and the topic focus. If there are too many people in the program, you will have to talk more generally. But if you narrow in on a few first grade teachers for instance, then you can create very specific program and get very specific feedback.
Really Think Outside the Box
Your standard PD program will usually have a mentor—or a fellow teacher—offering up some new teaching strategies. If your meetings are starting to become stale, change the format of the PD program. You could turn the program into a dialogue and hear about inspiring teaching stories. You could offer your teachers opportunities like TEFL certification. Have a training program that focuses on teaching blogs and education technology. There are millions of ideas out there, so think outside the box!
Find the Right Teacher
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to hold a Professional Development for Teachers course. Some schools hire coaches, but teachers may respond better if they are trained by someone from their school. If a teacher has some expertise, or is passionate about a subject, they could host a quick training session. While many programs are held at universities or colleges, you can hold programs at the school, or even online.
About The Author
This article was written by Darren Broderick, who went to a Professional Development for Teachers program, and absolutely loved it. It taught him much, and has made him a few good friends.