This idea misses the mark in two ways. First, an effective process needs to be designed for low-stakes coaching and ongoing development. Second, the teachers need to own their development and build their plans collaboratively with other professionals: peers, instructional coaches, or educational consultants.
The smart use of technology can revolutionize the process of providing high-quality professional development. Similar to how adaptive learning programs work for students, data can inform development plans and suggest next steps for teachers’ development.
Rather than prescribing specific resources, the technology should provide insight into the data, helping to illuminate what resources are relevant without dictating specific content or resources. To use a medical analogy, the technology and data provide diagnostic support. But the doctor uses that information and his or her own professional judgment to determine the right course of action.
Once initial plans are created, technology can play a major role in facilitating execution and action. A blended approach to professional learning—one that includes job-embedded coaching with a technology platform—provides both human coaching and data needed to set, meet, and refine individualized goals.
In our work, Generation Ready consultants work with teachers and education leaders to help build the skill and capacity to enable this process. Other school systems might have their own dedicated staff for coaching and professional development. Either way, the importance of executing these plans within the school environment—modeling, providing real-time feedback, facilitating collaboration—cannot be underestimated. Again, a shared technology platform to manage and monitor the implementation of ongoing professional learning activities, offline and online, can help increase the chances that these data-based plans are followed in the classroom.
Today, we are collecting vast amounts of data on students and teachers. Technology can help us sift through these data to gain insights into how we can improve educational practice and student outcomes. The data should be used to inform professional learning—and to tell us if what we’re doing is actually moving the needle. This is truly a new opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of professional development efforts inside schools, and it should be used to judge the value of commercial providers as well.
When we marry together modern technology and the professional judgment of educators, and empower the adult learning process, we will unlock incredible human potential and have a profound impact on student outcomes.
We have done so much to individualize learning for students. Now, let’s do it for their teachers.
Justin Serrano is the Chief Executive Officer of Generation Ready.