Change is hard, but it's worth it.
Part of change and transformation, especially in education, is focusing on our best professional development. This is true of every level of educator, including administrators. Sometimes, however, busy teachers can overlook their own professional development. This can happen for any number of reasons: no time, lack of support, limited personal or district budgets, trend fatigue—you name it. Nevertheless, teachers should always try their best to find ways of improving their craft when they can.
Fortunately, schools are getting it right and acknowledging the need for school improvement through professional development. The question now becomes what can administrators do to make professional development worthwhile and accessible for teachers. here are 4 key things you might consider:
Choice: Everyone needs freedom and choice to carve out their own destiny. That amounts to a choice of time, the manner of presentation, and of the topic.
Flexibility: In today’s world, it’s easy to make information available when teachers are ready for it. It’s also important to shift gears if something’s not working.
Planned Scaffolding: Take it in small steps. Professional development is never a one-off thing. That's why in order to be effective it must be ongoing and deliberate.
Support and Accountability: When you ask people to change what they’re doing, naturally you’ll get resistance. In that case, your best response is to offer support and accountability. Peer and self-evaluation is a good resource to tap.
These are many of the same considerations that teachers use to create solid learning for their students. It includes goals, skills needed, pre-assessment, honoring the time, how the lesson will fit into their lives, post-assessment, and collaboration.
Professional Development Questions Administrators Should Ask
Use these guiding questions when considering how to approach professional development. They will provide the framework to support a great plan.
What is most important to you? Take some time and think about this one. It's far more important than we sometimes give it credit for.
What are your greatest professional strengths and weaknesses? This is all about self-awareness and honesty. By knowing our strengths we can capitalize on them, and finally move beyond them.
What are your overarching goals? Think short term, long term, school-wide, district-wide, statewide, etc.
How do these large goals translate to specific disciplines and teams? Think about learning outcomes. What do you want to see happening in your student population? What would it look like for teachers to get those results from their students?
What is already being done? Look to your own staff and look to other schools in your district. Find strengths among your peers and colleagues and capitalize on them.
How will teachers fit this into their schedule? How much time will allot for professional development and how regular will it be?
How do I make it practical for the teachers and their proper discipline? Too often policies can be put in place with little guidance on how to fit them with the curriculum. This doesn't happen often, but it should still be a consideration no matter what.
How will we know if our goals are being met? What are your plans/methodologies for measuring progress with professional development?
How can we get staff to participate in planning implementation and evaluation? No educator is an island, even though they're often expected to be. Approaching professional development as a community endeavour allows for the best kind of collaboration. By encouraging everyone to seek help wherever they can get, it achieves better results.
Ultimately the key is to support and nurture each other in your professional development community. After all, teachers need the same support as their students. It is this support and accountability that go hand in hand with collaboration, the hallmark of successful modern learning of any kind.