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What Makes PD Valuable? These 3 Components Are a Great Starting Point.

What a school year this has been! New technology. New teaching platforms. New challenges. New successes.

But with new experiences - new learning opportunities arise for students and teachers.

Every year educators participate in a series of professional development (PD) sessions. They are designed to enhance skills and introduce new concepts, ideas, and strategies.  

As educators - and lifelong learners - you must reflect on your practices.  And be open to learning new trends for professional growth and the benefit of students.

So with the many different professional development options available, what makes PD valuable?  What should you look for?   

Summer time is the perfect time to engage in personal and professional development.  It’s also a time to begin to think about what PD’s would be beneficial for staff come the new school year. 

Let’s explore some things to look for to get the most valuable learning opportunity for you and your school.

Why is Teacher Professional Development Important?

To understand what to look for we should know why we need it.  Studies show that quality of teaching and leadership plays an important part in student achievement. Teachers and leaders need to continually expand their skills and knowledge to be as effective as possible.

The best way to improve on teaching practices is through professional development.  

For new teachers - the demands of juggling unfamiliar experiences in the classroom - can be overwhelming.  PD’s provide the space to learn effective tools to tackle the daily challenges. 

It’s also a great way to engage with other teachers and educators.  Students learn so much from each other - adults do too!

For more experienced teachers - professional development - provides the chance to discover new methods that can help shift your lens and adapt your current practices.2 

So whether your school has seasoned veterans or fresh-eyed newbies, professional development is a must for student achievement and teacher growth.

What Makes PD Valuable?

Let’s face it - classroom needs are constantly changing - especially now.  This year educators had to adapt, learn, and sometimes start from scratch!   What might’ve been important 5 years ago may not be what you or your students need right now.

So where do we start?  And what should we look for to find value in our PD’s?  Here are 3 characteristics to look for when deciding on a PD.

Content Focused

The goal of a PD is to expand our knowledge and help reach our personal and professional growth.  And this helps us provide meaningful learning experiences that will benefit our students.  

PD’s that are content and/or curriculum-focused provide great value to educators.  One study showed that teachers who participated in curriculum-focused professional development - and implemented it in the classroom  - had students do well on assessments.3

Another study showed that content-focused PD’s geared to increase a teacher’s understanding of content-specific pedagogy resulted in significant gains in teacher’s knowledge.4

Maybe your professional goals are to increase engagement during reading instruction.  Or perhaps your school’s goal is to focus on STEAM integration in the classroom.  Look for PD  opportunities that speak to the needs of your teachers and school.  

So take a moment and think about - or better yet ask your teachers - what exactly do you need to focus on?   Identifying that will help you zone in on the best PD for you.

Relevant

Nothing is more time consuming than attending a workshop that is not relevant to you. Imagine going into distance learning - or hybrid models - at the start of the year and not getting trained. You would need to know expectations or the tools that will help you be successful.

It’s important to realize that past PD’s - given every year  - may not be relevant in your current schools and classrooms.

So what might that look like for your educators?  

PD’s focused on new technological platforms and programs that will enhance instruction is more relevant than ever.

Another focus area is social justice and anti-racism. This is a huge priority and at the forefront of change.  

Now is the time to re-examine - how are you addressing this need in your school?  

What supports and training does your staff need? 

How is social justice infused in every subject matter? 

Do we have an understanding of implicit bias?

Seek to find what’s relevant to your educators and community for greatest return on investment in PD. 

Collaborative, Positive, and Fun

When do students love learning?  When they are engaged, collaborating and having fun. It is no different for adults.  In fact, research shows that one way adults learn best is when the learning is experiential.5

Collaboration and camaraderie is essential among educators.  It fosters a positive work environment and impacts the school community.  Activities where participants can work together, model best practices, and share ideas has a greater chance of fostering engagement and learning.

Many teachers find the best PD’s involve active learning.6  When you can get hands on strategies that you can actually practice - the value and buy in - is greater.  

Plan Your PD

PD’s are so vital for professional and personal growth.  When workshops aren't relevant to your situation, focused on content knowledge, or collaborative and fun - you miss an opportunity to add value to your school and your community. 

As this school year comes to end - take a moment - reflect on the successes and challenges that took place.  Examine the needs of your teachers and your school.  Ask your educators what support they need for next school year.  

And begin to plan perfect PD.

Summer is a great time to participate in PD’s without the regular stresses that arise during the school year.  It provides the perfect environment to refocus and re-energize. 

Check out the Teach Your Heart Out Conference to register for a magical and innovative virtual conference.


Resources:

1Why Professional Development Matters https://learningforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/professional-development-matters.pdf

2 3 Ways Experienced Teachers Can Get More Out Of Professional Development

https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-ways-experienced-teachers-can-get-more-out-professional-development

3Teaching Teachers: PD to Improve Student Achievement https://www.learningforjustice.org/professional-development/teaching-teachers-pd-to-improve-student-achievement#:~:text=Research%20shows%20that%20professional%20development,measures%20that%20evaluate%20their%20success.

4Does Content-focused Teacher Professional Development Work? Findings From Three Institute Of Education Sciences Studies https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20174010/pdf/20174010.pdf 

5Five Principles for Teaching Adult Learners https://generalassemb.ly/blog/principles-teaching-adults/#:~:text=Malcolm%20Knowles%2C%20a%20pioneer%20in,learn%20in%20their%20own%20way.&text=The%20time%20is%20right%20for%20them%20to%20learn.

6A Checklist for Effective Teacher Professional Development https://generalassemb.ly/blog/principles-teaching-adults/#:~:text=Malcolm%20Knowles%2C%20a%20pioneer%20in,learn%20in%20their%20own%20way.&text=The%20time%20is%20right%20for%20them%20to%20learn.

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