Saturday, November 9, 2013

Professional Development

I am an avid reader and thinker about teaching. I spend lots of mental energy around trying to improve my skills. I am working for an organization that provides professional development. Mostly the in house professional development that I have taken advantage of has been relatively useless. This is sad. I want to learn to improve my skills. Eric Westendorf blogs here about this concern. Our one-sized, here then gone programs are a waste of resources.

Our professional development must be differentiated, practice based and provided in manageable chunks. In some ways the development during staff meetings is the ideal time frame. These occur in short periods on a regular basis. Staff plan on attending because they must. To move to differentiation, we need to look at the current level of skill of each professional and their interests. PD horror stories of we had to go and they spent three hours going over the new math program and I am a music teacher, make even dedicated people wary of programming.

Our department was asked for someone to sit on the professional development (PD) committee and I volunteered. My vision included setting district goals- for example developing capacity to deliver CCSS instruction and then personalizing PD. We do not need every teacher to take the same class, we need different classes for different teachers. If a district selected 3-5 goals and asked teachers to rate their skills and interests in each of the goals, then they could arrange a variety of PD opportunities to meet the needs. This could range from giving proficient teachers release time to work with/coach teachers developing skills, Japanese style lesson studies, formal workshops, book studies and beyond. Teachers could be held accountable for SMART goals accomplishment. Focus groups could work together to reinforce the skill acquisition and refinement for the group.

We know one sized fits all PD does not work, but we continue to pursue it. We know that personalized staff development is effective at improving capacity, but are afraid of embracing the strategy. If we cannot embrace new approaches, we truly are fossils that belong to the past, not the movers that will activate the future.

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