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Teacher Voice and Choice in Professional Development

Teacher Voice and Choice in Professional Development


In this lesson, students will examine teacher choice in professional development, empowerment in professional development, and differentiating professional development.

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Source: Globe, Clker,; Thinking Person, Clker,; Leadership Puzzle, Clker,; Cheeseburger, Pixabay,; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wikimedia Commons,; Bill Gates, Wikimedia Commons,; People in Library, Provided by Author

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Hello there. And welcome to this lesson, where we will examine teacher voice and choice in professional development, and discuss ways teachers can become empowered through differentiated professional development. Let's get started.

You don't have to look very far to find a parallel example for the topic of this lesson. In fact, a well known fast food chain summed it up best with only four words, with their ad campaign called "Have It Your Way." When we go to a restaurant and ask for our food to be prepared a certain way, the chances of us being satisfied with it are obviously much better. That's because we get a sense of control and ownership, and the same is true for most things. It is also why when we deal with some of our more challenging students, we offer them choices.

There is something about being given the opportunity to have input and make decisions that is very empowering in all areas of our lives. According to a report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers who are given more choice in professional development indicate significantly higher levels of satisfaction. It's a sentiment that isn't often spoken about publicly, but the truth is that many professional development activities are viewed as a waste of time by teachers.

Teachers certainly value their time, so it's no surprise that they place a higher value on professional development activities that directly support the work that they do every day, such as planning and reflecting on instruction. When teachers are given the opportunity to choose their professional learning experiences, they are more than two times as satisfied as those who have been forced upon them.

This quote from the Gates Foundation study really emphasizes the point. "The correlation between teacher's ability to choose professional development and their levels of satisfaction speaks volumes about the impact of limited choice on the perceived effectiveness of professional learning." They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Can you see the learning taking place in this photograph?

It's no surprise that ed camps and unconferences are popping up everywhere. I've had the opportunity to organize them for educators around my state, and I can tell you that they are inspiring and powerful. They are completely participant driven. The pulse of the room is taken, and groups are formed organically. Participants decide what they want to investigate and learn from one another.

Unconferences are any opportunity that teachers are provided with choice aligns with self-directed learning theory in the self concept assumption in andragogy. The definition of teacher empowerment is the process through which teachers become capable of engaging in, sharing control of, and influencing events and institutions that affect their daily lives. One way to promote teacher empowerment is through personal choice and professional development. If you think about it, empowerment is one of the main reasons to pursue knowledge in one's field in the first place.

Much like the students we serve, when teachers have the opportunity to think outside the box and given the confidence to act upon their ideas as well as to influence the way that they perform, higher achievement for all will follow. An exciting trend that is taking place is the differentiation of professional development for the adult learner. The practices that work with our children are finally being used to meet the needs of the professional educators that serve them. By taking a teacher's interest and strengths into account, learning can be specifically tailored to meet the needs of the adult learner thus targeting areas of growth and increasing motivation as well.

If you are an administrator or anyone who is responsible for professional development, my advice to you is to lead by example. Research indicates that administrators who model the effective use of differentiation have teachers that are more likely to use differentiation in their classrooms to meet the needs of their learners. Differentiated professional development has also been shown to support teachers who hope to build their own leadership capacity.

Professional development has changed a great deal from when I began teaching over 20 years ago. And we're better off for it. There are many more opportunities and ways to differentiate learning for adults, including the following, study groups on books or specific topics, action research to plan and implement initiatives, collaborative planning, vertical teaming, school develop sessions focused on specific topics, professional learning communities like RTI and critical friends, and district wide initiatives.

So we've come full circle, and I would like to summarize this lesson with a statement. Involving teachers in selecting, planning, and implementing professional development will lead to increased teacher empowerment and growth that will positively impact the students that they work with. So here's today's food for thought. Think about a typical day. What opportunities do you have for learning and growth? What about monthly or annually?

Now, it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section will be super helpful. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. Each link includes a brief description so you can easily target the resources that you want. That's all for today. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Teacher Voice and Choice in Professional Development"

(00:00-00:12) Intro

(00:13-00:52) Your Way

(00:53-01:33) Teacher Choice

(01:34-02:26) A New Type of PD

(02:27-03:02) Teacher Empowerment

(03:03-03:50) Differentiation

(03:51-04:24) Opportunities

(04:25-05:12) Food For Thought/Summary

Additional Resources

Learning Forward Keynote: Autonomy, Accountability, and Professional Learning

This article illustrates the importance of teacher choice in professional development.

The Gates Foundation Examines What Teachers Want in Professional Development

This Association of American Educators article reveals that although most professional development is provided from a top-down approach, professional development where teachers have empowerment and voice is the most powerful.