The backbone of exceptional teaching is the practice of achieving effective professional development. Ongoing and engaging, it is a teacher's best friend for maintaining career excellence in all they do. However, PD comes with challenges, not the least of which is time. Time is often made an enemy of teachers. However, it can also be a reason to seek the most efficient PD opportunities possible. But with only so many hours in the day, what's a busy teacher to do?
Inside Peg Grafwallner's Edutopia article Effective PD Within the School Day, you'll find the answers. She reveals 6 different ways busy teachers can succeed in achieving effective professional development. The tricky part, she says, is picking the optimum time to do it during the school day:
"If PD is given at the beginning of the day, it’s typically prior to classes starting. Teachers are usually eyeing the clock, eager to get to their classrooms and prepare for the morning. If it’s given at the end of the day, teachers are again eyeing the clock, exhausted and ready to shift to their evening routine."
Simplest is always best when it comes to professional development. To maximize success, follow the 6 strategies summarized below.
6 Ways of Achieving Effective Professional Development
Keep it Simple: Time will be limited for everyone, so it's best to stick to a single topic. "When teachers are given the opportunity to digest one sound technique at a time and implement it, it will stick," Pam advises.
Minimize the Handouts: When the staff leaves for the day, always have hard copies of what you covered for them to take. Make sure to keep them brief and concise. "If they’re given too many handouts," says Pam, "teachers will scan them but not really focus on the specific presentation idea."
Focus on Importance: Achieving effective professional development means sticking to the key issues that matter. "Teachers want the nuts and bolts right away," Pam reminds us. "Give them the basics of what they need to know right at the beginning of the presentation."
Connect the Dots: It is relevance to the learner that makes learning stick when teaching anything. As you'd expect, it's no different when administering PD opportunities. That's why Pam urges us to consider how PD connects to what teachers are already doing in their classroom.
Keep it Sensible: Leaders and administrators must ensure they stay available to answer questions anytime. This is especially important for new teachers who are new to ongoing PD sessions. "After the PD, always send out an email thanking your colleagues," Pam suggests. "Include your schedule and encourage follow-up."
Listen to Your People: "Teachers want to share their ideas, so ask them how they want PD to be structured, or how it could be more timely, or how to best deliver district initiatives," says Pam. She suggests using exit tickets for this. Just make sure you provide time during the PD session for teachers to fill them out before leaving.
Read more about achieving effective professional development in Pam's Edutopia article.