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professional-development

7 steps to more engaging professional development


Professional development doesn’t have to be a drag—here’s how to improve it

professional-developmentMost administrators and teachers share a common view of professional development: It’s not always as productive as they hope or it takes valuable time away from more pressing instructional demands. But seven simple steps can lead to more engaging, collaborative, and effective professional development, no matter the topic.

“We don’t want our teachers to think that any of our staff development is a waste of time,” said Amber Teamann, assistant principal at Watson MST in Garland, Texas, during an edWeb webinar. “It’s just a manner of conveying [professional development] in a way that allows your staff to get on board and have that passion. You want staff development to be something that is impacting student success.”

Teamann outlined a professional development strategy using the acronym LEARNER. Each step, she said, leads to better professional development approaches.

(Next page: The 7 steps to better professional development)

L: Let teachers choose. Giving teachers the freedom to choose their professional development structure, or letting them pick from a few pre-selected topics, gives them more ownership of their professional development. “They become so much more invested,” Teamann said.

E: Eats, energy, and environment. This is as simple as it sounds—provide snacks. “It shows that you value their time,” Teamann said. Providing snacks during a professional development session also puts teachers at ease because the food is an unexpected or appreciated perk, and this can make teachers comfortable enough to ask questions they might not have asked in a stiff setting.

A: Allow time. “[Teachers] have to be able to plan,” Teamann said. “Our teachers felt they never had enough time to implement what was being asked of them. They have to be able to plan and wrap their minds around the initiative.” When administrators propose or introduce new initiatives or ideas, they should also explain when and how they see that new initiative working and fitting into teachers’ days. Administrators also should offer sustained professional development and support to accompany new initiatives, because one-shot initiatives tend to have a low success rate, Teamann said.

R: Reminder of the vision. If teachers are in tune with an administrator’s vision for the school, they’ll understand the purpose of different initiatives. To this end, administrators should clarify those visions well enough so that teachers know exactly what is expected of them. “Having teachers aware of why you’re doing something is incredibly important, and will help ensure student success,” Teamann said.

N: Never walk away without a plan. Administrators should begin professional development with well thought-out ideas. Teachers should be able to see the goals of any initiative, and administrators should identify what success looks like and what they expect to see reflected in student performance. “If it is well thought-out, your staff will understand and know it can happen very quickly,” Teamann said.

E: Engaged by relevancy. Professional development should be driven by student behavior and student performance. Each initiative should have as its goal improved student performance. “What do you see coming from it?” Teamann asked. “Make sure people understand and see the relevancy of what you’re presenting and how it applies to their content.”

R: Rules and respect. Beginning and ending professional development session on time is often overlooked, but it is important to teachers, who often have little free time during the day and even before and after school. “Those little things are hugely important to the content you’re delivering,” Teamann said.

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Laura Ascione

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