A PD model that creates experts, not robots

Why our ELA department dropped seminars in favor of real, ongoing professional development

pd-elaDuring my forty plus years in education, I have spent countless hours sitting in professional development sessions. Most of these were one-day seminars, with every teacher in the school or district in attendance. You might have attended sessions like this yourself. They were often conducted by outside “experts” who knew little about the problems teachers faced when planning for effective learning environments.

There was usually minimal participation on the part of administrators, and follow-up support was rarely provided. In spite of all of these drawbacks, many administrators have continued to spend large amounts of money on this type of professional development without considering whether it has provided any systemic growth.

As my district’s ELA coordinator, I began to take a close look at what we were offering in the way of meaningful, sustained professional development. Working in a district with a small instructional department, I knew that we had to be very creative and cost effective, but we also had to be innovative. To that end, we began our professional development make-over by partnering with a local college to offer year-long training in the form of a series of three-hour graduate courses.

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