Much of the conversation around education and schools revolves around how students learn, what they’re being taught, and how much time they spend in the classroom. However, just as important is the topic of what additional training and lessons teachers receive. Besides being mandated in many states and schools, professional development can be an essential piece in creating highly-effective teachers and classrooms. Unfortunately, a recent survey conducted by researcher Linda Darling-Hammond reported that although 90% of the teachers they surveyed had received some form of professional development, a majority of them found it totally useless. An additional survey done by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that principals share these same concerns and don’t feel the professional development they provide adequately prepares teachers for the changing nature of their jobs, including the increasing focus on technology and digital learning tools.
Clearly, the current method and information contained in professional development is not working for today’s teachers. In order to deliver more effective training, experts have come up with the following tips:
1. Professional development must be ongoing with a significant amount of time dedicated to follow-up training.
The current method for delivering professional development is often in a lecture-type setting. Teachers sometimes call these training sessions “spray and pray” where a large amount of information is thrown at them, then they are told to go implement it without any additional support. In order for any information to be truly useful, any professional development needs to be immediately followed up with support for implementation. This could include time with the teacher in the classroom, collaboration with colleagues, or at the very least, an additional session where teachers can share what they’ve tried so far, and any challenges they’ve encountered.
2. Training sessions need to be appropriate in size and scope.
Many professional development sessions include upwards of 100 teachers, which means they are typically not personalized and do not allow the structure to allow teachers to ask questions or understand how to apply the ideas to their individual classroom. The content presented during these sessions is rarely useful when it is generic. Instead, it needs to be specific for the teachers who are attending (for example, grounded in their discipline or grade-level). Purely lecture-type instruction is also not as effective as allowing for discussion with their colleagues and including activities that show teachers how they could use the learnings in their classroom.
3. Goals and priorities for teachers need to be clearly communicated and focused.
Teachers often report that they receive too many goals that all compete for their time and attention. As a result, they are unsure what to prioritize and don’t truly focus on any of them. Professional development can add to the problem if they already have too many other issues on their plate. To create more effective classrooms, administrators need to communicate which goals teachers should focus on for the year, and their professional development should relate to and support these goals.
Professional development represents a lost opportunity for most teachers. Instead of thinking as these sessions as just another requirement that needs to be met, it can become part of a much larger objective. By providing personalized training for small groups that focuses on prioritized goals and includes follow-up training for implementation, professional development can become an invaluable part of teachers’ careers.
To learn more about how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can provide effective professional development, contact our team or try a free trial.
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