Recently, Education Week hosted a chat on “Using Professional Development to Create Effective Teachers.”
A key concern that emerged questioned the impact of professional development (PD) on student achievement. PD has a cost in terms of funding, resources, time, and energy in any school. It is critical to make sure that it is effective – or teachers and principals get frustrated and tired of it.
BUT, most PD is offered with little measure of its cost or its effect.
I submit that part of the reason for this is the fact that school and their professionals are busy, and professional training companies are often specialized in just that – the training piece. Measuring professional growth is not always obvious and direct unless you make it a priority.
Professional capacity in the classroom is the key to delivering better instruction and assessment that leads to increases in student learning and achievement. Given that the nature of teaching is behind a closed door, it is critical to create a way for teachers to access support that is directly related to their needs in the classroom. Work-embedded capacity building programs where teachers have the professional community of support talking about what happens in their classroom is critical for making a change that has an impact on student learning.
Any kind of improvement in teaching will only become part of school practices when teachers are using new materials, engaging in new practices, and incorporating new beliefs in their classrooms. When we deliver PD programs, if we don’t also support teachers with monitoring progress and offering feedback, then it is a guessing game on how much will and does improve.
When data becomes part of the conversation between teachers, then teachers can start to take a real look at their practices and understand how to improve their actual teaching practices.