Reimagining professional development for today’s classroom
Friday, February 24, 2017
In a recent EdSurge article, Ken Halla, professional development expert and administrator in Virginia, stressed the necessity of rethinking professional development programs for K-12 teachers and making them more useful and relevant. Gone are the days when boring textbook-oriented programs would drone on and on.
Teachers today need practical knowledge through continuous professional development programs that can combine the academic and digital needs of K-12 education with the global perspective. As Halla pointed out, training needs to be practical and immediately applicable, offering tools and resources that teachers can use right away.
The right kind of development will help teachers improve the classroom experience for both themselves and their students. The programs, therefore, need to incorporate new and emerging technologies.
A new methodology is required to rebuild a lesson plan and incorporate these new technologies. It will also transition from lectures to hands-on learning that will take into account the evolving role of the digital classroom, leading to a more seamless and immersive experience.
This approach will show teachers all the problems their students may face, and it will prepare them to tackle those problems. Teachers can then work as facilitators instead of just instructors. The benefit is that they will not only improve their calling, but they are also likely to be more sympathetic to students' issues and amenable to adjustable grading.
A two-year study conducted by the University of California shows the direct correlation between quality teaching training and improving student performance. Called the Pathway Project, it delved into how intensive 46 hours of training in the cognitive strategies and instructional approach helped teachers and their students.
Students taught by teachers who underwent this professional development showed more promise for better scores on their writing assessments. The study also showed that enabling teachers to undergo a sustained professional development program helps foster stronger growth and overall student achievement.
We can see districts gearing up for the challenge. Teachers in Southern Lyon County, Kansas, were exposed to not just training but a variety of PD programs they can opt for. The University of New Hampshire was recently awarded a $200,000 grant to develop an online PD programs from 100Kin10, a group that aims to train and retain 100,000 K-12 STEM teachers by 2021.
Before we demand teacher accountability and assess the progress of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we need to train our teachers with a data-driven, practical, evolving program. Furthermore, any training will need some room for personalized professional development that addresses the individual needs of the teachers, too. This will, in turn, help them understand individual student needs better and improve student learning.
It's time to change from the one-size-fits-all PD to a modern, measurable and accountable program that will empower and motivate teachers.
In a related development, professional development leaders Virginia-based NCTAF, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, and Dallas-based nonprofit Learning Forward have merged, aiming to improve teacher quality. Their goal is to address concerns related to ESSA and its proper implementation to improve teaching and learning.
They have witnessed how little professional development of teachers was taken into consideration when states talk about measuring accountability. They intend to change this skewed view and ensure a new outcome for American students, which can only happen with high-quality teaching practices.
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