The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) defines professional development as "a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement." I definitely agree with this statement, but I would add the word "customized" to the definition. It is important for teachers to be empowered to have "choice" as they undergo professional development to make it meaningful and valuable to them. We can't forget that teachers are learners too, and teachers need to be differentiated based on their readiness levels, just like our students do.
If you are considering to initiate professional development in your school, or district, I recommend using these 10 Easy Steps to Leading Professional Development (Note: Some ideas were borrowed from 11 Steps for Planning Professional Development which is a great resource! We used a lot of these steps to create our professional development plan)
- Get your administration's approval
- Identify leaders who can provide expertise. This includes your own teachers and staff. You do not have to hire expensive consultants for professional development. Look inside your own school and district first.
- Develop a professional development committee to plan and coordinate.
- Demonstrate examples of classroom technology use, best practices, etc.
- Create a needs assessment. What does the staff need/want for professional development? Take a survey, email them, ask them to send in ideas.
- Design a professional development program based on the needs and wants of the staff.
- Lead your professional development at staff meetings
- Share successes as well as expectations not yet met.
- Reflect on the professional development experience. Continue to plan and re-evaluate often.
- Create programs that provide on-going support. Offering 2 hours of training is all well and good, but there must be on-going support to help teachers implement what they learn.
The Technology Specialist and Technology Department Head in my school district has been a great mentor to not only me, but to lots of teachers in my school building. He is passionate about technology, yes, but he is more passionate about learning. To help motivate and inspire the teachers in our school, he is initiating professional development in lieu of Digital Learning Day. He calls it the Digital Learning Series and the series kicked off on Digital Learning Day, February 1, 2012. Below is his outline for our school's professional development in digital learning.
- The goal of each month is to explore a concept and discover how it can support, enhance and possibly transform your teaching and learning practices.
- By focusing on a theme for an entire month, it allows concepts to be broken down into manageable, bite-sized pieces. It will also allow for the delivery of some focused, timely professional development (formal/informal, self-paced and face-to-face/virtual/web-based).
- I’m really interested in your development as it relates to increasing the frequency with which you use technology for your teaching and for student-centered learning activities. My standard caveat here is: “I’m less interested in THAT you are using the technology and more interested in HOW you are using the technology”
Here is my school's example, of educators uniting together to initiate professional development from the ground up. The following message was sent as an email to our staff by our Technology Specialist.
"The Digital Learning Team (DLT) is excited to share our ideas and expertise with you this Friday. We have crafted quite a few offerings for you to select from this Friday. There are 12 choices spread out over the two sessions (session 1: 8:30 – 9:30 and session 2: 9:40 – 10:40). Here is what you need to do:
Take a look at the course program guide and make a note about which offerings you would be interested in trying (Select a first choice and second choice offering from each session), make sure to look at the prerequisites and any links that relate to your course of interest.
Register for your selections (a Google Form created in Google Docs)
Depending on your interest, we may or may not run every course. We’ll let you know where they’ll take place. Some will be in labs while others will be in classrooms with laptops."