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.

Follow This Blog

Project Partner

Looking to learn and lead? Join the CTQ Collaboratory, a virtual community where forward-thinking teachers are connecting, learning, and innovating.

Teaching Ahead is inspired by the vision of teaching and learning set out in Teaching 2030, co-authored by 12 teachers and Barnett Berry. Join @teachingquality for a #teaching2030 chat every 3rd Thursday, 8:30-9:30 p.m. ET.

Recent Comments

Past Discussions

Most Viewed On Teacher

Advertisement