Sunday, March 3, 2013

Professional Development: Targeted, Ongoing and an Opportunity to Develop Teacher Leaders

Professional Development: Targeted, Ongoing and an Opportunity to Develop Teacher Leaders

Patrice Bucci
February 2013

The face of professional development is changing. Delivery models are evolving.  Now more than ever teachers need support as they negotiate their way through the reams of information that is being rolled out in federal, state and district initiatives. As municipal budgets continue to be hampered by cuts, it becomes more difficult to design and fund professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators. We are at an inflection point. Where is professional development going and how are we going to get there?

Stakeholders are beginning to understand that for educational initiatives to be successful, professional development that fosters teacher learning needs to be targeted, relevant and ongoing.  Instead of the traditional one size fits all delivery systems, professional development models going forward would be more supportive of teacher learning if teachers had a say in what they wanted to learn.

But, teachers can’t wait for districts to research, plan, and fund professional development days. As a result, grassroots efforts by teachers are gaining traction as the digital world enables them to connect and learn in new ways.  Teachers can no longer wait for their one or two days of professional development, they want their PD streaming. 

Teachers are always thinking about teaching, but now their focus is on learning…their learning. Teacher accountability issues have brought teacher learning into hyper focus. Teachers are rapidly becoming consumers of their own professional development. They are rethinking faculty meetings, engaging in study groups, and developing personal learning networks in the digital world.

Twitter, facebook, and the blogosphere are ripe with ideas for changing professional development models.  Negotiating this landscape requires leadership, instructional leadership that fosters inquiry and collaboration. In order to prevent this landscape from becoming the Wild West, it is necessary for planning to be three pronged. Professional development needs to address the district’s strategic vision, the schools instructional needs, and teacher’s personal goals.  Given the recent MetLife survey that highlighted the decreasing teacher morale problem, this is no easy task.

Where do we begin?  Fostering teacher leadership is a great place to start.  Identify what makes a teacher leader.  Identify what supports a teacher leader needs in order to grow and reach colleagues. Have faculty members define the teacher leader’s role and responsibilities so that everyone has input and understands the rationale for the role.

Teacher leaders can facilitate school based literacy teams. They can guide their colleagues in identifying areas of strength that can be capitalized on. They can also steer their colleagues in their efforts to identify areas of need. These teacher leaders can direct teachers and administrators to the research and resources that can support faculty efforts in their ongoing professional development efforts. They can utilize a wide variety of delivery models (livebinders, curating platforms, blogs, wikis, edcamps, etc).

The days of the one-day drive by professional development workshops are over.  Professional learning has taken on new meaning and new forms.  It’s exciting and invigorating! The digital world has given teachers a voice and a seat at the table…knowledge is expanding…and knowledge is power.