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What Are the Best Strategies for Effective Teacher Professional Development?

29-TeacherPD-Coaches-Teach-social.jpgForty-two percent of teachers have little or no input on their professional development, a new Education Week Research Center survey found. 

That might be one reason why teacher PD has long been criticized for being expensive and ineffective. But as Education Week explores in a new special report, districts and states are taking steps to reconsider and revamp their efforts to improve teacher practice. That is helped through the passage of the new K-12 federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which defines high-quality professional learning as sustained, intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused.

Here are some other efforts to improve professional development:

  • At least three states and several individual school districts are piloting microcredentials, in which teachers work to prove mastery of single competencies. Microcredentials can be a lot of work, but many teachers like being able to tailor their learning and work at their own pace.
  • Early-childhood educators are often left out of receiving professional development. But school districts and early-childhood providers, including Head Start, are offering more PD to preschool teachers, especially for math.
  • Instructional coaches can help teachers improve their practice. But for coaching to be truly effective, the coach needs his or her own PD. More districts are starting to provide professional development for coaches to help them develop the skill set to work with adult learners.
  • One Colorado district has merged its professional-development courses with its teacher evaluation system. Now, a teacher can take a PD course in an area in which he or she needs help.
  • There are so few male educators of color that the job can be isolating, exhausting, and frustrating when they are pigeonholed in a disciplinarian role. One Boston program offers coaching to male teachers who are black, Latino, Asian, or Native American.

Still, some PD is just bad. We asked readers to tell us their worst PD experience, and, boy, did they deliver. Assistant Editor Christina Samuels and I read some of the most outlandish examples on video.

Make sure you check out the full report, Smart Strategies for Teacher Professional Development.

Photo by Liz Martin, for Education Week

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