A teacher assisting her students with project-based learning
For Teachers

Quality Professional Development: How to Really Grow in Your Teaching Practice

By Brian Gatens February 6, 2014

When it comes to professional development (PD) for teachers, schools have begun to shift away from the traditional practice of standalone lectures by outside presenters. They are moving toward PD that is more job-embedded — relevant to teachers’ actual work environment and their specific grade levels. To help maximize your professional development and better serve your children, consider the following:

Identify growth areas

Once school districts have addressed the training required by regulations, they typically let the teaching staff choose a “learning strand” for their PD work. To make this as effective as possible, spend some time reflecting on your work and where you’d like to grow.

Rather than taking a broad approach, try focusing on key “micro” areas of your practice. Perhaps it could be asking better questions in the classroom or engaging the students more, but regardless of the topic, it’s best if you’re the one deciding where you want to improve.

Avoid the bright shiny thing

Companies are excellent at marketing technology-based solutions to teachers but don’t get caught up in the mindset that the latest and shiniest website, device, or app is guaranteed to improve your practice. Instead, you have to focus on changes in your work that will help you to better serve your students.

This may be as simple as reconsidering a standard practice. For example, why do you have students raise their hands to answer questions? Perhaps it’s time to consider new forms of assessments such as Project-Based Learning. Regardless of what you try, it should ultimately enhance your curriculum and advance your teaching practice.

Find like-minded colleagues

Teachers are no longer bound to working only with their direct colleagues or people inside their districts. Anybody can turn to online resources such as the use of Twitter hashtags (i.e. #EdChat #EdLeaders) to find opportunities for online assistance in education.

Along with your individual research, explore state professional organizations’ local offerings, attend a conference to network and gain new ideas, and look to webinars and user groups as opportunities for growth.

Don’t live a standalone life

Far too often, teachers take part in an individual PD offering and then go back to their daily practice without really attempting what was offered. To help prevent this, it is best to look for opportunities to use those PD practices in your classroom immediately. Additionally, try forming a small check-in group with others who attended the PD offering. You can continue meeting or you can start emailing each other to share how implementing that new strategy or tool is going for you. Supporting one another’s efforts and problem-solving together can make such a difference.

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