The benefit of professional development (PD) for teachers is well known: improving teaching practices means greater student achievement. What’s less frequently acknowledged is that PD programs are often so wracked with issues that they’re rendered ineffective, if not downright detrimental.
Impractical, infrequent, identical—teachers’ complaints about PD programs run the gamut. Unless school administrators address these problems, they risk wasting not only time, energy, funding, and other scarce resources, but squandering the unique opportunity for teacher growth and student advancement.
Below are three common issues that teachers have with PD, as well as suggestions for how administrators can tackle them. Consider it a starting point for optimizing your school’s approach to PD.
Issue # 1: PD programs are impractical
Educators, administrators, researchers, and reformers agree that most PD opportunities are “of little use when it comes to improving teaching,” according to a paper from the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan think tank.
One reason for this is that PD programs fail to focus on practice. While imparting new knowledge about novel teaching techniques is a worthwhile objective of PD, that knowledge will never be put to use if it’s not contextualized in the classroom setting. Furthermore, a single-minded preoccupation with the latest educational research will overshadow the importance of refining traditional teaching methods, which continue to be used each and every day in classrooms across the country.
(Next page: How to fix your PD)