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What Does Effective Professional Learning Mean to Today’s Teachers?

What Does Effective Professional Learning Mean to Today’s Teachers?

Professional development is a phrase that's used within many careers, but it seems to hold special weight for the teaching community. PD can take many different forms, from expert-led workshops to professional learning communities to one-on-one instructional coaching to participation in Twitter chats.

When tailored to meet individual teachers' needs, PD can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on teacher satisfaction, student achievement, and school culture. However, when ill-conceived or delivered poorly, professional development can seem like nothing more than a frustrating requirement, and a waste of precious time.

How should districts, schools, and/or teachers themselves determine what professional learning is necessary? What is the best professional development you've experienced, and why? How has technology changed professional learning? What's your vision for professional learningand how could schools change to achieve it?

Roundup Post: Characteristics of Meaningful PD

By guest blogger Leanne Link, communications assistant at the Center for Teaching Quality Who better to lead conversation around teachers' PD than the people who have experienced it? In May 2012, seven teachers shared their visions for the future of PD. Here are elements that participants said could make PD particularly effective: Teacher Ownership: Teachers should have more choice on focus topics, format, and who's in their PLCs, suggests Delonna Halliday. And when teachers lead their peers in PD, colleagues listen, Sarah Brown Wessling emphasizes. Social Media: Meenoo Rami and Jennie Magiera find professional inspiration from colleagues on Twitter (and ...


Follow-Up: How Hybrid Teachers Create Credibility in PD

Sarah Brown Wessling One of the undercurrents in this forum has been the role of teachers in creating their own best professional learning experiences. Whether through personal reflection, participation in online conversations or attendance at an "unconference," we teachers are asserting ourselves in new ways. The landscape of professional learning is vast and what we most need are those assertive teacher voices, bringing our classrooms into the conversations with the confidence that we, too, are experts. In order to develop and utilize that necessary teacher voice and experience, many schools and districts are creating hybrid positions where teachers are both ...


Follow-Up: In PD, Showing Better Than Telling

Jessica Shyu I've been out of the classroom and managing adults for the past five years. And yet, everything I know about adult management and coaching I learned from my middle schoolers. It was my students who shared with me life-long gems such as, "You can't make me learn if I don't want to." They taught me that positive reinforcement and direct feedback works, whether you're 13 or 31. And most of all, they taught me that showing is always far better than telling. This last one particularly resonated for me as a new special education teacher. I remember in ...


Follow-Up: Book Clubs: A Powerful Form of PD

Jessica Hahn In my last post, I wrote about my vision for professional development. I believe that professional development should foster deep understanding in teachers. So what might this professional development look like within a school? One of the best PD experiences I've had in the last couple of years was a book club. Four of us, ranging from a first grade teacher to middle school math teachers, chose to read a book about math discussions in the classroom. We read, we discussed, we tried out some of the "talk moves," and debriefed. We then decided to videotape ourselves trying ...


Follow-Up: Thoughts From a PD Connoisseur

Delonna Halliday My fellow Teaching Ahead authors have been writing about how teachers can develop their own innovative plans for growth. Many of us seem to have an innate drive to grow and improve our craft, learning on our own even if the "system" doesn't support it. But some of our colleagues don't do this. At least, they don't yet. And in some ways, I get it. After all, here's how many administrators approach the lack of interest: "If we pay them to attend this great PD opportunity, they will come and learn, thereby becoming better teachers." But here's what ...


Follow-Up: Make Your Case for PLNs

Jennifer Barnett My guess is that many of this roundtable's readers are familiar with personal learning networks. But is there a similar awareness among those who design PD for the teaching community? What if administrators were willing to make room for this type of learning within existing structures? And how do we convince them to do so? I'd like to propose four basic strategies for teacher leaders who value PLNs and want to get the idea across to colleagues and school leaders: 1. Share specific examples of the power of your PLN—including its impact on your practice and your...


Follow-Up: What PD Coordinators Can Learn at Edcamp

Meenoo Rami "I came to Edcamp Philly today from DC because I like the unstructured nature of it. In the past, when I have gone to conferences, I was expected to sit back and receive information from experts. But here, I am expected to participate, voice my opinion, bring new ideas to the table. For example, I created a wiki for today's sessions so presenters can easily share resources. I am part of something bigger than myself when I come to an Edcamp."—Alecia Berman-Dry, Technology Coordinator at St. John's Episcopal School Olney, Maryland Over 150 educators met on the ...


PD That's Mine to Keep

Jessica Hahn When I first began teaching, I had one measure for the quality of any professional development experience: Did I walk away with something I could implement the next day in my specific grade? I loved sessions where a teacher of my same grade would tell me a bunch of math games to play or how to set up centers during guided reading. Better yet were those sessions I walked away from with a packet. It could be a packet outlining books for certain writing skills, listing songs for morning meeting, or containing actual pre-made centers ready to cut ...


Teachers as 'Lead Learners'

Sarah Brown Wessling I like to tell my students that in our classroom, we're working to flatten the hierarchies that separate teacher from student. I remind them that anyone who comes into our classroom—students, administrators, community members—gets elevated to the status of learner because there isn't more crucial work we do. Yet, living this elevated learner culture is a tall order when it comes to leveraging that philosophy across an entire school, district or state. In my inaugural year as a hybrid teacher (½ the day in the classroom and the other ½ as professional development coordinator for our district)...


Digitizing Teacher Discussions

Jennie Magiera In my last post, I talked about Bionic PD: a magical meld of in-person teacher-centered PD sessions and digital professional learning networks and online resources. The thought was that the teacher discussion ignites curiosity and the digital resources sate the curiosity after the discussion is long over. However, this interest-sparking discussion, as well as PD follow-up, can also take place digitally. Our school has had a 1:1 iPad grant this year, and as part of this grant we needed to collaborate as a PLN to learn about our practice. However, the team was already laden with after ...


Where Real PD Comes From: Self-Reflection

Jessica Shyu They say love for oneself is the best kind of love of all. And so it's with great pride that I share that my best professional development over the past seven years has been what I've done for myself personally. Don't get me wrong—I love PD. It isn't just my job, it's my lifestyle. My Friday night happy hours used to be spent debating how to balance skill-building with knowledge-sharing. I hauled my five-pound All Kinds of Minds notebook all the way to rural China. I used to have a thing for Doug Lemov. But at the ...


My 24/7 Personal PD Provider

Jennifer Barnett I work in a district that is wildly dedicated to implementing a project-based learning curriculum, using technology to facilitate the learning process, and practicing strategic teaching and formative assessment every day. I've witnessed the dramatic impact that our efforts have had on students' abilities to research, analyze, discuss, collaborate, and reflect on their learning. They use technological tools in focused ways on a daily basis. They are active learners. Not too surprisingly, the best professional development I've experienced is pretty similar to my students' learning. I find teamwork invigorating, research revealing, thinking and writing liberating, and discussion necessary ...


Thoughts From a PD Connoisseur

Delonna Halliday Call me a PD connoisseur. A class on how to use a new online math program that assesses and offers remediation? I'm there. A workshop on brain theory and how to implement new strategies? I'll pay for the three-day retreat. Fortunately, I have a husband who juggles childcare and his own job to support my passion for (addiction to?) professional development. That said, I do have some PD pet peeves: 1) Classes I'm forced to take. Arbitrary decisions about my professional learning rub me the wrong way. It is like saying, "So, Del, I've never seen you teach, ...


PD That's for Teachers, by Teachers

Meenoo Rami Every Monday night from 7-8 p.m. EST, English teachers from around the world 'meet' via twitter to share, reflect, and question their daily practice in the classroom. The topics covered on #engchat range from teaching Shakespeare to digital storytelling in the classroom. Each week, a practicing teacher brings a new perspective, ideas, and questions to the forum. Participants often leave with more questions than answers—and that's a good thing. This is professional development for teachers, by teachers. (See a sample thread.) When I started #engchat, I doubted my ability to turn a nebulous idea into a vibrant...


Bionic PD: Half Live, Half Digital

Jennie Magiera Differentiated. Relevant. Engaging. These are all words used to describe quality instruction. Yet how ironic is it that they so rarely describe the professional development of teachers. Most of the time we are talked at for several hours on a Saturday morning, or in the afternoon after a long day in the classroom, with nothing to engage us but a conciliatory bowl of candy. This would not stand in our classrooms, so why does it with teacher PD? It doesn't have to be this way. If providers of teacher professional learning were to simply adhere to the tenants ...


The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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About the Contributors

  • Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu is vice president of teacher excellence and leadership at Teach For China where she leads teams to train and develop more than 300 fir...

  • David B. Cohen

    David B. Cohen

    David B. Cohen is associate director of Accomplished California Teachers, and a National Board-certified English teacher at Palo Alto High School (...

  • Patrick Ledesma

    Patrick Ledesma

    Patrick Ledesma is a middle school technology specialist and special education department chair with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. A N...

  • Marilyn Rhames

    Marilyn Rhames

    Marilyn Rhames is a middle grades teacher at a charter school in Chicago and runs a nonprofit called Teachers Who Pray. Her Ed Week blog called "Ch...

  • Larry Ferlazzo

    Larry Ferlazzo

    An award-winning English and Social Studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., Larry Ferlazzo is the author of Helping St...

  • Lori Nazareno

    Lori Nazareno

    Lori Nazareno is a dually certified National Board Certified Teacher who is serving as teacher-in residence for the Center for Teaching Quality. A ...

  • Renee Moore

    Renee Moore

    Renee has taught English and journalism for 20 years in the Mississippi Delta region at both high school and community college levels. She is Natio...

  • Carrie Kamm

    Carrie Kamm

    Carrie Kamm is a mentor-resident coach with the Academy for Urban School Leadership's Chicago Teacher Residency Program. She is also a co-author o...

  • Dave Orphal

    Dave Orphal

    Dave Orphal is a teacher and small learning communities coordinator at Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif. In his free time, he serves as a mem...

  • Noah Zeichner

    Noah Zeichner

    Noah Zeichner is a National Board-certified teacher at Chief Sealth International School in Seattle, Wash. He also spends part of his day supportin...

  • Noah Patel

    Noah Patel

    Noah Patel is a 7th-year middle school math teacher in the Boston Public School District and a National Board-certified teacher. He received his ba...

  • Jessica Hahn

    Jessica Hahn

    Jessica Hahn has taught elementary grade children for six years in Phoenix and New York City. She has a master's degree in literacy from Teachers C...

  • Rebecca Schmidt

    Rebecca Schmidt

    Rebecca Schmidt is in her fifth year of teaching in D.C. Public Schools. She is team leader of the 3rd grade at Bancroft Elementary, and also runs ...

  • Bill Farmer

    Bill Farmer

    Bill Farmer has been teaching biology and chemistry for nine years at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill. He is currently serving his t...

  • Ryan Kinser

    Ryan Kinser

    Ryan Kinser is a 2012-13 teacherpreneur at the Center for Teaching Quality. He divides his time between teaching English to sixth graders at Walker...

  • Dan Brown

    Dan Brown

    Dan Brown teaches high school English in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Ju...

  • Sarah Henchey

    Sarah Henchey

    Sarah Henchey is a National Board Certified Teacher and a 2012-13 Teacher in Residence at the Center for Teaching Quality. Sarah has taught middle ...

  • Marsha Ratzel

    Marsha Ratzel

    Marsha Ratzel is a National Board-certified teacher in the Blue Valley School District in Kansas, where she teaches middle school math and science....

  • Jessica Keigan

    Jessica Keigan

    As a teacherpreneur, Jessica divides her time evenly between teaching English at Horizon High School in Denver and supporting results-oriented effo...

  • Michael Moran

    Michael Moran

    Michael Moran is a former sixth grade teacher currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Washington's Evans S...

  • Ryan Niman

    Ryan Niman

    Ryan Niman teaches English and Social Studies in the Edmonds School District north of Seattle, Washington. Ryan is a member of the Washington New M...

  • Megan Allen

    Megan Allen

    Megan M. Allen is a National Board-certified Teacher in Tampa, Fla. As a 2012-13 teacherpreneur, Megan spends half of her week teaching 5th graders...

  • Ilana Garon

    Ilana Garon

    Ilana Garon has been teaching high school English in the Bronx since she graduated from Barnard College in 2003. Her writing has appeared in The Gu...

  • Anna Martin

    Anna Martin

    Anna L. Martin is the resource teacher at Lee Mathson Middle School, a public school in an urban high-needs district in San Jose, Calif. A National...

  • Kate Mulcahy

    Kate Mulcahy

    Kate Mulcahy, a Boettcher Teachers Program graduate, has taught for five years as an English & English Language Learner teacher at Northglenn High ...

  • Ariel Sacks

    Ariel Sacks

    Ariel Sacks teaches 8th grade English at a middle school in Brooklyn, N.Y. An alumna of Bank Street College of Education, she is a co-author of TEA...

  • Linda Yaron

    Linda Yaron

    As an English teacher in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles, Linda Yaron has spent the last nine years working to increase opportunities for ...

  • Bill Ferriter

    Bill Ferriter

    Bill Ferriter (@plugusin on Twitter) carries about a dozen different titles around with him each day. He's a member of the Teacher Leaders Network,...

  • Robert Pronovost

    Robert Pronovost

    Robert Pronovost is a 2nd grade teacher and MOUSE Squad student tech advisor at Belle Haven Elementary in Menlo Park, CA. Robert has been a teacher...

  • Nancy S. Gardner

    Nancy S. Gardner

    A renewed National Board Certified Teacher, Nancy Gardner teaches senior English at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C. She is also chair ...

  • Karl Ochsner

    Karl Ochsner

    Karl Ochsner is a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Blessed Pope John XXIII Catholic School in Scottsdale, Arizona, and teaches classes on K-12 ...

  • Joel Malley

    Joel Malley

    Joel Malley teaches AP literature, along with mass media and film production, at Cheektowaga Central High School outside Buffalo, NY. He is an acti...

  • Jennie Magiera

    Jennie Magiera

    Jennie Magiera is a 4th and 5th grade math teacher and a technology and mathematics curriculum coach in Chicago Public Schools. A Teacher Leaders N...

  • Lauren Hill

    Lauren Hill

    Lauren Hill teaches AP Language and Composition and 9th grade English at Western Hills High School in Frankfort, Kentucky. A National Board Certif...

  • Todd Rackowitz

    Todd Rackowitz

    Todd Rackowitz has been teaching math for 21 years in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in North Carolina. A National Board-certified teacher...

  • Alison Wright

    Alison Wright

    Ali Wright teaches Algebra 2 and AP Calculus at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Ky. A National Board-certified teacher with 11 years of experie...

  • David Ruenzel

    David Ruenzel

    David Ruenzel is an English teacher at the Athenian School in Danville, Calif. From 1992-2001 he was a senior writer at Teacher Magazine and contri...

  • Bill Ivey

    Bill Ivey

    Bill Ivey teaches 7th grade Humanities, French, and music at Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Western Massachusetts. He is a member of the Teacher Lead...

  • Cheryl Suliteanu

    Cheryl Suliteanu

    Cheryl Suliteanu has taught elementary school students in Oceanside, Calif. for 15 years. She is a National Board-certified teacher with certificat...

  • José Vilson

    José Vilson

    Jos Vilson is a math teacher, coach, and data analyst for a middle school in the Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. A poet, web d...

  • Jennifer Barnett

    Jennifer Barnett

    Jennifer Barnett is an English and social studies teacher and technology specialist in Talladega County, Ala. She is a co-author of Teaching 2030: ...

  • Delonna Halliday

    Delonna Halliday

    Delonna Halliday is a Literacy Coach at First Creek Middle School in Tacoma, Wash. She has a background in TV/movie production, spent a year teachi...

  • Meenoo Rami

    Meenoo Rami

    Meenoo Rami, founder of the #engchat weekly Twitter chat for English teachers, teaches her students English at Science Leadership Academy in Philad...

  • Sarah Brown Wessling

    Sarah Brown Wessling

    Sarah Brown Wessling is a high school English teacher at Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa. She is also serving as TCHr Laureate for the Teac...

  • Paul Barnwell

    Paul Barnwell

    Paul Barnwell teaches English and digital media at Fern Creek Traditional High School in Louisville, Ky. In his spare time, he enjoys bow hunting, ...

  • Dedy Fauntleroy

    Dedy Fauntleroy

    Dedy Fauntleroy is an ELL instructional coach in Seattle Public Schools. In her previous life, she served as an ELD specialist, mentor teacher, and...

  • Shannon C'de Baca

    Shannon C'de Baca

    Shannon C'de Baca has been a science teacher for the last 34 years. She currently teaches a blended online chemistry course. Shannon has written le...

  • Mark Sass

    Mark Sass

    Mark Sass has been teaching high school social sciences for 16 years, for the past 12 years at Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colorado. Mark is ...

  • Brooke Peters

    Brooke Peters

    Brooke Peters has taught kindergarten and 1st grade in Los Angeles and New York City for 10 years. As co-founder of The Odyssey Initiative, Brooke ...

  • Lillie Marshall

    Lillie Marshall

    Lillie Marshall (@WorldLillie on Twitter) has been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools since 2003, and is passionate about creative forms of tea...

  • Jessica Cuthbertson

    Jessica Cuthbertson

    Jessica Cuthbertson, a Colorado educator with 10 years' experience, teaches middle school literacy and has served as a literacy instructional coach...

  • Justin Minkel

    Justin Minkel

    Justin Minkel teaches second and third grade in northwest Arkansas at Jones Elementary, where 97 percent of students live in poverty and 85 percent...

  • Jane Fung

    Jane Fung

    Jane Fung is a National Board-certified teacher in urban Los Angeles, where she currently teaches 1st grade. She serves on the board of the Nationa...

  • Sandy Merz

    Sandy Merz

    August (Sandy) Merz III, a National Board-certified teacher in Career and Technical Education, teaches engineering and algebra at Safford K-8 Inter...

  • Silvestre Arcos

    Silvestre Arcos

    Silvestre Arcos is the founding 5th grade math teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School in New York City. He studied human development and...

  • Matthew Holland

    Matthew Holland

    Matthew Holland is a native of Alexandria, Va., and a product of the city's public school system, where he is currently an elementary school teache...

  • Jody Passanisi

    Jody Passanisi

    Jody Passanisi is a middle school teacher at an independent school in the Los Angeles area and a clinical educator for DeLeT's teacher induction pr...

  • Bud Hunt

    Bud Hunt

    Bud Hunt is an instructional technology coordinator for the St. Vrain Valley Schools in northern Colorado. He works with teachers and technologists...

  • Elizabeth Duffey

    Elizabeth Duffey

    After 37 years as a high school English teacher, Elizabeth Duffey took a position as facilitator of instruction in literacy in the Tacoma Public Sc...

  • Lhisa Almashy

    Lhisa Almashy

    Lhisa Almashy is an ESOL teacher at Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Fla. A 2012 winner of Teaching Tolerance's Cultural Responsive Teaching A...

  • Darnell Fine

    Darnell Fine

    Darnell Fine is a multicultural thinker who facilitates education and creative writing seminars, as well as social justice workshops, around the co...

  • Ben Curran

    Ben Curran

    Ben Curran is a K-5 instructional coach at a charter school in Detroit. He is also co-founder of Engaging Educators, co-author of Learning in the 2...

  • Jennifer Martin

    Jennifer Martin

    Jennifer Martin is an English teacher at Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. During her 12 years in the classroom, Jennifer has taught nearly eve...

  • Casie Jones

    Casie Jones

    Casie Jones is an English teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Student Transition Academy in Memphis. She is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow and a...

  • Ryan Prosser

    Ryan Prosser

    Ryan Prosser is an National Board-certified teacher in early adolescent english language arts and currently works as an instructional facilitator i...

  • Rod Powell

    Rod Powell

    Rod Powell, a National Board-certified teacher (social studies), has been teaching for 26 years. A CTQ Collaboratory member, Rod loves the challeng...

  • Pernille Ripp

    Pernille Ripp

    Pernille Ripp (@PernilleRipp) is a 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, a proud techy geek, creator of the GlobalRead Aloud Project, co-founder of EdCam...

  • Elizabeth Stein

    Elizabeth Stein

    Elizabeth Stein has been teaching more than 20 years and is currently a middle school special education teacher and mentor-teacher program coordina...

  • Brianna Crowley

    Brianna Crowley

    Brianna Crowley teaches high school English in Hershey, Pa. She also serves an instructional-technology coach to implement her district's BYOD poli...

  • Julie Hiltz

    Julie Hiltz

    Julie Hiltz is a 2013-2014 CTQ teacherpreneur who helps Florida teachers personalize their leadership roles and works as an educational-media speci...

  • Carl Finer

    Carl Finer

    Carl Finer has taught in South Los Angeles for ten years, currently teaching English and journalism at Animo Jefferson Charter Middle School. He is...

  • Tim Walker

    Tim Walker

  • Margit Timakov

    Margit Timakov

  • Meredith Kohl

    Meredith Kohl

    Meredith Kohl is special projects manager for Project Tomorrow and lower elementary education director for Bridges Reading and Writing Institute, b...

  • Hillary Greene

    Hillary Greene

  • Brad Clark

    Brad Clark

  • William Tolley

    William Tolley

  • Kristina Holzweiss

    Kristina Holzweiss

  • Laura Thomas

    Laura Thomas

  • Kathleen Melville

    Kathleen Melville

  • Cindi Rigsbee

    Cindi Rigsbee

  • Jackson Barnett

    Jackson Barnett

  • James Mann

    James Mann

  • Isabel Song

    Isabel Song

  • Garrett deGraffenreid

    Garrett deGraffenreid

  • Fatima Khan and Muniba Siddiqui

    Fatima Khan and Muniba Siddiqui

  • Amani Bey

    Amani Bey

  • Scarlett Gaddy

    Scarlett Gaddy

    Scarlett Gaddy is a high school social studies educator of 24 years in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She is a past recipient of the Williams College George Olms...

  • Val Brown

    Val Brown

    Val Brown is a 10-year educator who supports elementary school teachers as a teacher on assignment in Seminole County Public Schools in Florida. Sh...

  • Kim Ursetta

    Kim Ursetta

  • Carrie Bakken

    Carrie Bakken

  • Ayla Gavins

    Ayla Gavins

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