When Professional Development Underperforms

“Professional Development.” PD. When this phrase is introduced into teacher circles, many teachers cringe with thoughts of poor instruction, time wasted on doing and learning things that do not apply to them, or initiatives that will go away with the next administrative change.

But then again, there are teachers who do look forward to similar sessions with excitement because they learn so much and use that knowledge when instructing their students. The rapid increase of educational technology tools dictates that teachers need time and proven strategies to use the tools in the classroom. The time and strategies can be included in current PD sessions, yet still be relevant to the core subjects.

What are some of the factors that cause this divide? What can you do to help change how PD is viewed in your district?

Let’s start with what PD is not.

Effective professional development is not “sit and get” time
Professional development should not be a time to “sit and get.” Who is actually being developed during a sit and get? More than likely, the presenter is the only one who “gets” anything (specifically for their pocketbook, if you catch my drift), unless there are some great inspirational pieces that are simple for educators to take back and apply within instructional practices

Effective professional development is not irrelevant to an educator’s practice
Let’s look at another viewpoint of what professional development is not. Having lived in the Midwest plains of Kansas and Minnesota, I know what silos are. They generally stand beside barns as storage for bulk farm materials. I’ve been inside a few silos, and the smell alone made the experience memorable. In agriculture, the silo can be used for storing fermenting feed, silage; the silage is then processed into animal feed or into biofuel feedstock. During professional development, teachers are given information and it is stored away for later relevant use. If teachers do not use the information in a timely fashion, the information begins to ferment and cause additional issues.

Effective professional development is not a one-time learning opportunity
One more aspect of what professional development is not deals with frequency. PD is not a one-time opportunity for learning. Anyone who wants to develop a new skill or talent knows that a one-time practice session is not enough. Even Allen Iverson knows frequent practice is important (for all you NBA fans out there).
Do the sessions allow for appropriate practice of the skill, or at least for the opportunity to be observed and given feedback? If not, then the current model of professional development needs to be changed.

Read the entire article by Rodney Turner on edSurge at https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-10-08-when-professional-development-underperforms

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