8 incredibly easy steps to a professional development makeover

4. Balance differentiation with district-wide initiatives.

Murray cautions against too much differentiation, since many district staff have to be well-versed in important initiatives, such as the Common Core.

“If there’s all differentiation then there’s no vision. But if it’s all one-size fits all, then it’s ineffective. It’s a balancing act,” he said.

5. Utilize teacher feedback.

“This always gets me,” said Murray, “that we trust our teachers to literally shape the lives and minds of children every day, but we don’t value them enough to ask what they’re thinking.”

Asking teachers for feedback and then acting on their needs and ideas shows them you respect them as professionals, he emphasized. Not only that, it could save districts money.

“Many districts spend a fortune getting outside consulting on how to improve PD without ever asking the best resource they have: teachers. And this resource? It’s right there in your own classrooms.”

6. Cultivate teacher leadership and empower staff to design their own learning.

For Murray’s district, teachers suggest the topics they’d like to cover and then they help design the PD. Teachers also decide when to schedule the PD and when they can attend.

The district has no required PD hours, instead cultivating learning by asking teachers to design their own professional development roadmap.

“We ask teachers at the beginning of the year to design a roadmap of goals of where they’d like to be in terms of their professional learning,” Murray explained. “The school principal meets with each teacher, sits side-by-side, and supports the teacher-not by criticizing, but by making suggestions-and helping them clearly define their goals. Every roadmap should be different, too, since every teacher is at a different point in their career. ”

He continued, “It’s about trust. If you trust your teachers, it shows. Effective professional learning comes down to the ‘ownership of learning.’”

7. Move from hours-based to outcome-based accountability.

“When it’s the number of hours they care about most, the learning will be secondary,” Murray noted. “It’s not about seat time in our district; rather, it’s the outcome. Instead of ‘Have you reached your hours?’ it’s ‘Have you reached your goals from your roadmap?’”

8. Get staff connected!

Murray said his district is currently in the process of connecting teachers through online social networks, such as Twitter groups, Facebook pages, Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), and more.

“To help motivate teachers to get online, make online networking count as PD,” he said. “An hour Twitter chat on Google apps? Why not?”

“What it all comes down to is this:” concluded Murray, “conversations must move from ‘I attended…and here’s my completed number of hours…’ to ‘Here’s what I’m learning, and here’s how it transformed my classroom and instruction.”

For more information on professional development reform, as well as a list of Twitter groups for teachers and educators, join (joining is free) and their group: “Leadership 3.0”

Meris Stansbury

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