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Relevant Teacher Professional Development

Jul 2, 2017 by

How does a Principal place the emphasis on relevancy in Professional Development?

School principals are more than ever before moving towards more engaging and effective professional development for their entire school staff.

Are you concerned about the quality of the teachers in your school? As a school leader, it is critical to make sure that every teacher on your staff is willing to be the best teacher ever. They need to grow as professionals and implement the latest trends if they are going to keep students abreast of the latest developments so as to provide the best education possible. Research has shown that teachers who are committed to professional development are those who are the highest quality and make a real difference in student’s education. That means that they are constantly challenging themselves and others around them. As a school leader, it is very important that school teachers are willing and committed to developing their skills and methods in the interests of the student body. It is important that they develop so that they are aware of the latest developments in educational methods and in their subjects. They need to be willing to expand their knowledge of their core subjects to teach in an up-to date and relevant manner.

However, it is common to see many teachers failing to develop. There are those who are not committed to professional development.  A school leader, needs to encourage all the staff as a school community of learners to commit to professional development. One of the most important ways this can be achieved is by making it relevant. If a teacher believes that new methods and ideas are relevant to their classroom practice, then they are more likely to engage in professional development. There are several ways that a school leader can make professional development more relevant.

Professional Development Revisited

It is widely recognized that those who are knowledgeable about their subjects are usually the most capable teachers and they can make a real impact on students learning outcomes. There is now a real problem in American schools, many teachers are trained in education and are professional educators. They are not as familiar with the subjects that they are teaching as they should. Too many teachers are only aware of the philosophies of education and not about their actual subjects. This ultimately means that the students are losing out and not getting the education that they deserve. School leaders should ensure teachers are committed to continuous improvement in their subject. Granted this takes money, but sometimes teachers are willing to pay out of pocket to learn a new strategy or to stay abreast on their subject matter. As a result, it becomes the principal’s role to disseminate information. An environment can be fostered by a school leader which allows them to constantly reflect upon their subject and to stay up to date on what they are teaching.  Many teachers know very little about their subject beyond the curriculum. A school leader can change this and improve teacher’s knowledge of their subjects. One way to do this is by having the teachers in the building observe each other and see how the different teachers are teaching the same curriculum.

Another way, is to give a teacher in your building half a day off and have her/him visit a neighboring school district to observe another teacher. This would revitalize another aspect of education that requires constant improvement is teaching methods. Too often many teachers are happy to continue using methods that they first learned in college many years ago and as a result are out of date. Many teachers are not aware of the prominence of technology and the need to develop skills using the latest tech developments that are changing faster than writing and typing up this article. This is a real problem.  School leaders will persuade their staff that they need to develop and to reflect upon their subject and all that it encompasses in today’s world. Principals need to motivate all within their walls by making professional development pertinent.

Essential Components of Professional Development

It is the role of every school leader to make Professional development timely and engaging. They can do this in both formal and informal ways. One way is by making it compulsory, which most schools do already. It should be made clear that further advancement depends on the person’s motivation and that it is the onerous of every teacher to develop, especially since teachers’ impact so many lives every single day.

It is recognized that re-training is very important. School leaders often organize regular classes or seminars in professional development.  Here educators will be informed of the latest developments in areas such as teaching methods, subject matter enhancement and technology. They should be encouraged to take part in activities and to undertake projects based on these classes such as drawing up lesson plans. In this way teachers can have a basic framework that of what is expected and this will encourage them to update their skills. These classes should be intellectually engaging and above all relevant to the classroom environment that they operate in. This is important for critical reflection which is key to professional development.  In these classes, teachers will be asked to provide feedback on what they just learned.

Another way of making professional development relevant is to enable staff members to take responsibility for their own professional development. They should ‘own’ their professional development . One way to do this is by having a teacher give a professional development session.  Teachers have varying levels of expertise and they should be entrusted to take on some aspect of professional development in their schools.

Another way that professional development is made relevant is if groups of teachers come together to discuss their subject matter or a book that they want to read this year. They can in an informal setting discuss the curriculum and current developments in their areas of expertise. This can be done over lunch once a month or a paid for by the principal Panera or local diner after school outing. For example, the English department could discuss the latest theories in English or the latest writers or bestsellers. This will encourage teachers to consider if they need to undertake research in their subject and to broaden their knowledge.  If teachers are made aware of the benefits of some approach, then they will be more likely to embrace it. If they are shown that technology can help them to become better educators, then they are more likely to use the latest technology. But here is the catch – they have to be given the opportunity to fail. Because what is good in my classroom is not necessarily right for Yolanda’s class. So principals need to understand that. If a particular ‘fad’ is just not working right in our school setting. Let’s take a step back and reevaluate. Come back together, see if we want to all invest the time into this, and then make it better for our student population.

A school leader can organize workshops on how technology can provide a better educational experience for students. People if they see something is practical, hands-on, and useful are more likely to use it. If teachers see the benefits of an emerging technology or even a teaching method then they will seek to learn more about it and ultimately use it. A true leader will lead by example. If a school leader is committed to continuous improvement, then this will persuade teachers that development and learning is relevant and important. Above all professional development is a continuous process and every teacher should be encouraged to seek to improve over the course of an academic year. It is important that a leader in education ensures that the development of teachers is aligned to the vision of the school, standards and the curriculum.

Keywords:  Professional Development, Continuous Development, school leader, improvement, learning, teacher motivation.

Comment Below: Let us know about the latest professional development that you have attended and explain how it was implemented.

References

American Federation of Teachers (2017) Professional Development for educators Retrieved from: http://www.aft.org/position/professional-development-educators-0

Davies, V.  (2016). Eight Top Tips for Highly Effective PD. Edutopia. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/top-tips-highly-effective-pd-vicki-davis

Education World (2016). Teacher Training: Delivering Relevant Staff Development. Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/teacher_training/teacher_training004.shtml

Holmquist, A. (2017).  Scholar: Train Teachers in Real Subjects, Not Education Philosophies. Retrieved from: http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/scholar-train-teachers-real-subjects-not-education-philosophies

Miles, K. H., Odden, A., Fermanich, M., & Archibald, S. (2004). Inside the black box of school district spending on professional development: Lessons from comparing five urban districts. Journal of Education Finance, 30(1), 1-26. Retrieved from: http://learningforward.org/docs/pdf/why_pd_matters_web.pdf

Mizell, H. (2010). Why professional development matters. Washington, D.C.: Learning Forward. Retrieved from: http://learningforward.org/docs/pdf/why_pd_matters_web.pdf

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. (Summer 2005). Why Is Professional Development So Important? Washington, D.C.: SEDL.  Retrieved from: http://www.sedl.org/pubs/reading100/RF-NB-2005-Summer.pdf

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