Boxlight Educator UK

The Best Professional Development Program is Support

Posted by Melizza Rios on Jun 11, 2020 9:45:00 AM
Melizza Rios

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At one time in my career, I engaged in, facilitated, and tried to stay awake through quite a few professional development sessions. Most were mandated and scheduled right before school started in the hopes that something would transform our practise so much that 100% of our students mastered all learning objectives in the school year. After a few weeks of teaching, many of us were overwhelmed and discouraged that all those exciting strategies and techniques didn’t work with every situation, every subject, or every student. I do not envy school leadership tasked with the responsibility of selecting and organising professional development each year.

Factors such as identifying teacher and student needs, finding resources and materials to meet those needs, and allocating budget can be quite stressful. Throw in the strong possibility that PD may be facilitated wholly online, and administrators must carefully wade through the glut of courses and programs available. Ultimately, the goal of any teacher training is that students benefit from the implementation of new instructional strategies regardless of the learning environment (physical or virtual). How can administrators sort through the options available?

Let’s start with recognising what makes PD effective:

  • focus on content that includes strategies for using specialised curriculum or instructional tools within classroom contexts and provide multiple access points for students in all subject areas.
  • active learning and practise opportunities to better understand the needs of diverse learners, including the why’s and how’s of engaging and collaborative learning for all.
  • expert coaching and support that focuses on the teacher’s needs to nurture the diverse learners in their classrooms.

Then there are elements of PD that are vital, influencing teacher confidence with implementation:

  • school leadership support when it comes to providing PD that teachers feel they need; this may mean surveying teachers or engaging in small group discussions, defining skills teachers do not feel confident with. Teachers should feel that if they make a mistake, they will be supported and guided. Better yet, school leaders can offer to facilitate a lesson using skills and methods shared in a PD.
  • peer collaboration that includes planning units/lessons together and engaging in peer observation. With school closures and the shift to distance teaching, opportunities for peer observation are more likely since “class coverage” is not an issue and teachers can freely take notes, and with permission, record, and view learning sessions later. This type of peer collaboration should be taken advantage of while it’s still possible.
  • personalised options to meet teacher needs where they currently are in their instructional experience, giving teachers time to process and apply new skills and methods. This does not necessarily mean that number of years in teaching is the same as experience with specific skills. For example, not everyone is comfortable with technology or using web applications. This takes time and patience is key.
  • expert coaching and support. Yes, this was mentioned previously in what makes PD effective, but it is also vital with helping teachers feel confident with newly learned skills, to the point that they are willing to move beyond learned skills to discover and practise new skills. Some teachers may reach the level of confidence to innovate practice and serve as a coach to their colleagues.

Within the past few months, teachers have been thrust into distance teaching situations, usually with limited experience or comfort. School leaders at every level have had to quickly accommodate student learning needs, as well as the means for that learning to be delivered, which meant “fast track” professional development for teachers to learn the software and applications provided. It was almost like teaching someone to surf by plopping them in the middle of the ocean then pushing a surfboard towards them.

As we look to what schooling will look like next school year, keep in mind the new opportunities available to educators with distance teaching and learning. Classrooms might look quite different and stakeholders need insight to adequately prepare. Implementing quality PD will help teachers improve their practise so that, ultimately, students benefit from the new instructional strategies, regardless of the learning environment (physical or virtual).

To learn more about how Boxlight-EOS provides personalised professional development that can help teachers and students, please visit the link: Distance and Blended Learning Courses.

Topics: professional development, teacher training

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