Universal principles for providing meaningful PD for educators
Monday, August 29, 2016
This summer, I collaborated with Limited Resource Teacher Training (LRTT), an organization dedicated to delivering high-quality, sustainable teacher training in parts of the world where teacher training is really needed to improve education.
I was privileged to work and lead teacher development in two areas of Guyana: the capital city of Georgetown and Lethem, an interior region with scarce resources. It was truly inspiring to work with such passionate teachers — the majority of teachers walked two to four hours to attend the training sessions.
Guyana has a rich culture of hospitality, Caribbean music and delicious curry dishes. The country is faced with similar education issues that we face in the U.S. — namely inequity in resource distribution, teacher shortages in critical areas, and providing sustainable teacher professional development.
In my work in Guyana, I came to further recognize fundamental principles that all leaders of adult professional learning must consider. Based on adult learning principles (andragogy) from Malcolm Knowles and best practices on experiential professional learning from David Kolb, the following factors must be considered in order to transform teacher practice to increase student learning.
Professional development must be data-driven
Professional development (PD) that is based on the needs of your teacher audience will have a more meaningful impact than a PD packed with tons of random strategies. If the PD is targeted based on learning walks, teacher observations and student needs, the learning will be practical and teachers will be able to use concrete instructional practices the next day with success.
Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. Their goal is to leverage the power of professional learning to affect positive and lasting change.
As a member and prior presenter, I have found the organization to be a great resource in providing current research on providing professional learning that will support teacher practice. IF you're interested in learning more, the upcoming Learning Forward conference is Dec. 3-7 in Vancouver, Canada.
Professional development must be differentiated
Just as a one-size-fits-all approach does not benefit students, teachers are all at various stages in their teaching career. Therefore, PD should include choice.
Technology affords us the opportunity to differentiate and offer personalized learning paths. After teaching core strategies, I love to model the use of choice boards and dinner menus using Google resources to provide teachers with various learning options to meet the learning objective.
Within the PD, facilitators should provide teachers' time to reflect on the strategies presented so they can differentiate it and adapt it for their learners. Additionally, collaboration for time to share ideas on how the strategies can be used for various content objectives will allow teachers to build their strategy bank and a network for support.
Professional development must be ongoing
Following the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle, learning is not a "one-stop" fix. Rather, PD should be ongoing and consistent to provide teachers experiential learning opportunities, time to practice the strategies learned, and follow-up support and feedback after implementation.
Effective school communities set up professional learning communities (PLCs) or collaborative learning teams (CLTs) that meet regularly in a safe community to discuss implementation and reflections for refining lesson plans and student outcomes.
For more information on creating PLCs, visit ASCD. Also, please check out my favorite books on effective PLCs: "Cultures Built to Last: Systemic PLCs at Work" by Richard Dufour and Michael Fullan and "Collaborative Teams That Transform Schools: The Next Step in PLCs" by Robert J. Marzano and Tammy Heflebower.
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