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Best Practices in Professional Development

Best Practices in Professional Development


In this lesson, students analyze the criteria for best practices in professional development.

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Source: Globe, Clker,; Stick Figure, Clker,; Bull Horn, Pixabay,; People, Pixabay,; Window, Pixabay,; The Gates Foundation,; blue men with arrows, Public Domain,

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Hello there and welcome. As with most things related to teaching, there are best practices. And in this lesson, we will look at the many characteristics that make for a high quality professional development. The reason this is so important is that an effective professional development experience for teachers will lead to increased student achievement. Doing the right thing is often easier said than done. Certain things are referred to as best practice for a reason, and this is true outside of education as well.

For example, when painting a fence or a house, best practice tells you to sand an area thoroughly first. I know it's the right thing to do, and I have every intention of doing so. But it's hard work, and after a while doing it, I become less than enthusiastic about continuing. What's the big deal, right? The result is that coat of paint I apply on that area has not been properly prepped and it won't last. Likewise, professional development designed without employing best practices won't be sustainable, either.

Teachers are the experts in the field, and designer of professional development need to take advantage of that by including them in the planning, implementing, and evaluation of them. Teachers are in the best position to take that learning opportunity and connect it to the reality of what's happening in classrooms every day. This makes teachers the perfect resource when you're trying to build a relevant professional learning experience whose ultimate goal is to increase student learning and improved achievement. Also, a byproduct of including teacher voice in the planning stages is that you increase teacher empowerment and self-efficacy.

It is extremely important for all of us involved in education to recognize our place in the bigger picture. By working collaboratively and aligning individual professional goals with the strategic goals of the school and district, we get that because it embodies a team approach. Furthermore, by being in a collaborative setting, teachers will have access to their colleagues and will be able to engage in dialogue with them, receive feedback, critically reflect, and revise their approach as necessary. You will find that this is true in PLCs. Peer-to-peer learning is not only available, but it's encouraged.

Next, we have that word again, alignment. In order to make an impact, build capacity, and sustain initiatives, professional development needs to be aligned to the school and district mission, vision, goals, and initiatives. That's not all, however. Adults learn differently than children. And as teachers, we have standards to adhere to. Therefore, it's important to also align PD with the following adult learning theories and professional standards to help ensure that teachers are getting the most out of their professional development-- Malcolm Knowles' six principles of learning, networked learning theory, social learning theory, situated learning theory, as well. And in order to help us measure the effectiveness of the professional development and whether or not the teacher has acquired the associated skills and competencies, alignment to Marzano's high-yield instructional strategies and Hattie's visible learning strategies should also be considered. These are essential because both ensure that your professional development plans and activities focus on the many skills and strategies that will have the greatest impact on student learning.

With the alignment to the professional teacher standards, it makes it possible for professional development to be measured for the impact on the school, as well as on the development of the competencies of the teachers. In order to accomplish this, however, it's essential that the outcomes and objectives of the professional development plan our written as competencies using the professional teacher standards mentioned. It obviously makes sense to use the same standards that are being used for teacher evaluation. Doing this will ensure consistency within the context of the professional learning community.

The Gates Foundation report tells us in no uncertain terms that "Teachers who are given more adult learning choice in professional development indicate significantly higher levels of satisfaction with professional development." In fact, according to their study, when teachers are allowed to choose the majority or all their professional learning experiences, they are more than two times as satisfied as those who are not given such choices. Lack of voice and choice leads to teachers feeling like many professional development activities are a waste of time. We know that teachers place a high value on professional development activities that directly support their work, such as planning and reflecting on instruction. Teacher choice in professional development also leads to some other benefits, as well, including the feeling of empowerment. Think about it. One of the main reasons to pursue professional development in the first place is to become more empowered, which means they have a sense of control and influence on their practice. When teachers are given the chance to act upon their ideas, it will influence the way they perform and ultimately lead to increased student achievement.

Differentiation works in professional development for the adult learner as well as in the classroom for our students. By taking a differentiated approach to PD, we are leveraging the teachers' areas of strengths. It behooves administrators to model this with their staff during meetings and learning opportunities. If they want their teachers to use the practices as well, they should show them how to do it. This approach has been shown to help improve teachers' empowerment and build teacher leadership capacity.

We invest a great deal of time and effort into professional development, so it's important that when we plan them, we take into consideration the sustainability of them. One shot deals or isolated workshops are far less effective than ongoing aligned professional development opportunities that are sustained over a long period of time. We are very fortunate to be working during a time with so many alternate opportunities for PD, like coaching, peer-to-peer learning, online courses and resources, open sharing, or review of associated data. This type of professional growth planning leads to teacher self-efficacy and the capacity to implement and sustain initiatives and instructional strategies that have the greatest impact on student learning. And when teachers know that these strategies are making a difference, it will increase their engagement, thus creating long-term changes in their practice.

Let's summarize. In this lesson, we looked at many of the factors and practices that tribute to the effectiveness of professional development. They include teacher voice, collaboration, alignment, competency based, teacher choice, differentiation, and sustainability.

And now for today's food for thought. Create a checklist of the seven items covered in this lesson. Which are evident in the professional developments that you have participated in? For more information on how you could apply what you've learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompany this presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you next time.

Social learning theory. Social learning theory. Social learning theory. Social learning theory. Social learning theory. Social learning theory. Social learning theory.

Notes on "Best Practices in Professional Development"

(00:00-00:18) Intro

(00:19-00:59) Do It Right

(01:00-01:35) Teacher Voice

(01:36-02:12) Collaboration

(02:13-03:19) Alignment

(03:20-03:51) Competency Based

(03:52-04:57) Team Choice

(04:58-05:26) Differentiation

(05:27-06:15) Sustainability

(06:16-07:32) Summary/Food For Thought

Additional Resources

No More ‘Sit and Get’: Rebooting Teacher Professional Development

This National Education Association article offers research-based best practices for teacher professional development.

Professional Development: Learning from the Best

Although an older resource, this useful toolkit includes relevant processes and templates for aligning professional development goals to district and school goals and objectives.