Professional Development: What's Next for Teachers?
Written by Amy Redman
North Lawrence Community Schools
A crash course on Google Meet, Zoom fatigue, numerous sessions to learn about digital tools, pets as co-workers, family disruptions while on a video call, school in session then closed then hybrid. What a season we are in! Educators deserved a restful summer with a chance to relax and regroup. But what’s next? Just as teachers added strategies and tools to help meet the various needs of learners to their repertoire, administrators should explore the benefits of continuing flexible options for professional development.
In the past, the best option to hold teachers accountable was to bring the entire district or building into the auditorium and let them listen to a presenter deliver the same content to all participants. This model usually included a set schedule of X-number of presentations a year with little follow-up on the actual implementation of the ideas presented, if the strategy was even something that all audience members could truly use in their classrooms.
Is there a better method? Can administrators still hold teachers accountable for learning new ideas if they aren’t completing a head count as everyone walks in the door? Is it possible for teachers to choose topics and delivery methods that work best for them? Is this still considered to be good professional development? According to Edutopia, “The best professional development is ongoing, experiential, collaborative, and connected to and derived from working with students and understanding their culture.” A quick dive into research over educator PD illustrates that we’ve known this for decades, but we haven’t implemented it well. Perhaps it’s time for a change.
Let’s consider the location and delivery method of PD workshops. Do educators need to be in the building to learn? Sometimes that answer is an astounding YES. Maybe a team of teachers is creating shared lessons and needs to be in the same room. Maybe a teacher needs to be close to their curriculum sources and other items in their room. But perhaps we should explore allowing participants to choose a location that works best for them. In fact, I’m writing this article on my back deck listening to chirping birds with a snoring dog at my feet. I know that I think more creatively when I’m outside and away from other distractions. I attended many webinars and virtual PD sessions in this same location when working from home, and it was just as effective as being in my school building.
Which brings us to the topic of delivery methods. After being forced to communicate through computers and similar devices during the pandemic, some of us discovered we enjoy virtual workshops. Let’s be honest, part of that is because we could wear pajama pants all day! But silliness aside, I was in a comfortable environment that meant I could focus on the content of the workshop. How many times have you sat through a three-hour session in a school cafeteria that was the same temperature as the refrigerator? An uncomfortable space means it is more difficult to focus on the content and retain less information. Learning virtually is not for everyone, but it can be a viable option.
A few of the benefits are being able to easily bookmark a new resource for further exploration, the ease of looking up new vocabulary terms, and the ability to work it into one’s schedule. Perhaps professional development, specifically summer sessions, would be more accessible if teachers could join from their backyard.
So how should professional development be designed? Teachers shout from the rooftops that PD needs to be immediately applicable in their classroom. They want to leave the session feeling inspired, creative, and motivated to try something new tomorrow! The workshops offered by Five Star Technology Solutions allow teachers to explore different resources or experience a new tool as a student and teacher, making it relevant to their specific needs. We allow the participant to glean what content is most relevant to them while inspiring new ideas. An effective workshop remains focused on specific, stated objectives. That means participants can also focus on those stated topics. Five Star Technology Solutions believes that the best professional development is personalized, relevant, and applicable. We pride ourselves on offering a wide variety of topics, delivery methods, and customization to tailor PD for all educators. We change the way you experience professional development!