8 incredibly easy steps to a professional development makeover

According to Murray, ‘traditional’ PD is very often top-down, and what he describes as “drive-by PD,” or professional development that includes a speaker no one will ever see again, who lectures for an hour and then the topic is never revisited.

“Traditional PD is usually one-size fits all, planned by a small number of people, has little-to-no teacher input, and is a ‘sit ‘n get,’ or what I describe as little teacher feedback or participation. The professional development is also mandated, meaning teachers have to attend a set amount of hours during scheduled days and times of the week.”

Murray says this traditional PD model is wasting millions of dollars, because even though teachers are there, when the development becomes nothing but a “culture of hours,” the “culture of learning” is lost.

“Professional development is continuous, it’s engaging, and…guess what?! It’s led by teachers,” explained Murray. “There’s a big disconnect between what teachers want and what superintendents and district leaders think they want. That needs to change.”

Easy steps for huge reform

1. Clearly define and articulate the vision.

For Murray’s district, this first step began by asking teachers to fill out an anonymous poll hosted by a third-party company on the subject of their professional development.

“We asked them questions such as ‘How do you think we’re doing with our PD?’ and ‘What are some improvements you’d like to see?’” said Murray. “And man…were we surprised.”

According to Murray, only 20 percent of teachers in the district said administration was doing an effective job with PD. And though this seemed like a “slap in the face, we decided to take what could have been a negative and turn it into a positive,” he said. “We decided to implement those changes and now, 95 percent of our teachers say our PD is effective.”

The first step to effective PD is by clearly defining what goals you as a district, and as an administrator, would like to see from the teacher, but also from your PD program in general, he explained.

“It’s good to ask yourself: ‘What is PD going to look like systemically three years from now? Five years?’ and “What is the path to these goals, and do the teachers know this path? Can teachers articulate the vision?’”

2. Lead by example and model professional learning.

“’Here’s what you need to do’ is not effective,” noted Murray. “Instead, try ‘Here’s what I’m learning; Here’s how I’m changing.’ Share your own learning and share your mistakes, too! It not only humanizes you and encourages your staff, but by being transparent, you foster a culture of professional learning.”

3. Recognize teachers as learners.

Many times, districts focus on differentiating student learning, but for some reason, that doesn’t translate to teacher learning, said Murray.

“Why do many districts think every teacher is at the same level of skills and learning? You can’t have one-size fits all; you need to differentiate learning just like you do for students,” he explained.

(Next page: Steps 4-8)

Meris Stansbury

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