Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seven themes about what works best in PD

Lately my focus has been on reviewing how we have traditionally provided professional development.  Helen Timperly found that there are seven themes about what works best in professional development.
"The outcomes of professional development seem to be more about changes in teachers, and not the impact of professional development on student outcomes." 
This is a great quote and important to remember.  What is the goal of PD and how does that align to student outcomes?  PD should be about student outcomes, not teacher outcomes.

1. Learning opportunities occur over an extended period of time. 

Professional development cannot be one and done - we need follow up and feedback to continue throughout the year.

2. Involvement of external experts was more related to success than within-schools initiatives.

One of my colleagues has said, if the presenter doesn't come from at least 90 miles away no one will listen.  Maybe there is some truth there.  This thought is really unfair for our local experts and not to mention very expensive for districts.

3. Engage the teachers sufficiently during the learning process to deepen their knowledge and extend their skills in ways that improve student outcomes. 

Engagement is no different for teachers.  We must remind ourselves that good instructional methods for kids are good methods for adults.  In the words of @tomwhitby "We know SIT & GIT doesn't work for students. Why would we think it will work for teachers.We are educators RIGHT? " Engage your teachers!

4. Provide professional development that challenges the teachers' prevailing discourse and conceptions about learning.  

For us to improve ourselves we need to be challenged.  This goes back to something I wrote about previously regarding the fixed mindset.  As educators we need to be able to see and understand that what we may be doing could be ineffective.  This is very difficult for some, but very important for growth.  Simply put; "When the facts change, I change my mind." John Maynard Keynes.

5. Talk to teachers about teaching.

How often does our professional development actually talk about teaching? If the PD at your school does, that is awesome!  I would assume that most PD rarely gets to student outcomes like instruction, we care more about things that have very  little impact on student achievement.  Example; Curriculum mapping, love and logic, and etc) Get the right focus and align your PD to student outcomes.

6. Professional development was more effective when the school leadership supported opportunities to learn and provided time to process new information and reflect. 

School leaders should take an active role in PD sessions.  Walking out of the room after you present the speaker makes teachers feel like it is not important.  They make statements like, "If the principal isn't here then it must not be important."  Leaders lets learn along side our teachers! Just like kids we need to provide opportunities for reflection and FOLLOW UP.  If PD is important then we should come back to it throughout the year.

7.  Funding, release time and whether involvement was voluntary or compulsory did not influence student outcome.  

Typically when budgets are cut the first things that are pulled out are PD funds.  Good PD planning takes time and should not be one-size-fits-all. As I look toward the future of PD I see a long road of planning that needs to take place along side teachers.

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