I recently chatted with Kathy Dyer, NWEA’s manager of innovation and learning, professional learning design, about how to connect professional learning (PL) to student outcomes and how to best support teachers.
According to Dyer, quality PL that sticks with learners is when people learn with, from, and for each other. “The good teaching strategies we use with kids are good strategies for teachers to use to learn as well,” she says.
Dyer encourages administrators to give teachers the opportunity to learn something new or expand and deepen something they already know. “When you give learners the chance to practice or apply what they’ve learned right away, there’s an expectation that they will continue to apply it,” she says. Be sure to include time for reflection in any PL session. By figuring out why something works, what can be adjusted, or what they can quit to put this new practice in place, teachers are able to make those adjustments.
If you can’t provide time for professional learning communities (PLCs), try to set aside time for teachers to collaborate during grade-level, content-level, vertical-team, or staff meetings. “Learning that happens in 10 or 15 minutes can be powerful,” says Dyer. Of course, there’s always social media. “Twitter lets teachers have instantaneous PL opportunities between classes, before school, or any time. Twitter chats are fast-paced conversations where you can walk away with a ton of new ideas.”
Here are five tips for administrators who want to improve their district’s PL.
1. PL must come from the data
Student learning needs should inform your PL. Adult learners too: Survey them to determine the three most pressing things they need to improve.