How Can Traditional Professional Development Strategies Be Enhanced To Benefit Teachers?

Check Out the New Blog teamworkProfessional development has been part of a teacher’s life for several decades. However, modern research and the availability of digital tools have changed the face of professional development today. And yet, the traditional strategies like workshops, seminars and classroom visitation are still effective and have an important role to play. Previous studies have established that workshops and seminars that take place outside of a work day rarely lead to any improvement in learning and teaching. It is a known fact that in order for professional development to be effective, it must be job-embedded. Thus, it is very important to link all professional learning activities with ongoing day-to-day practice. This is the only way teachers can develop, grow and influence students.

In this article, let us consider some traditional Professional Development activities, and how learning through these activities can be enhanced, while incorporating what we have learned through modern research.

  • School/Classroom Visitation: Visiting other schools and classrooms enables teachers to increase their personal knowledge and understand the classroom situation in a new perspective. Teachers may visit other classrooms on a normal work day to observe different teaching practices and obtain new ideas. Following the observation session the teachers may discuss issues with the class teacher and make a plan for their own classroom. They may then implement this new plan in their classroom in order to enhance student learning and performance.

Conferences and Seminars: Conferences and seminars can be very effective for teachers’ professional development when they are aligned with an ongoing everyday development plan. The conferences mustaddress practical classroom issues and give teachers an opportunity to apply what they have learned. Teachers must gather together after the conference to discuss ideas and strategies shared in the conference. For learning to be job-embedded, one teacher may volunteer to implement a particular idea in her classroom first while the others observe. Based on the observations, the teachers may adjust their lesson plans accordingly and then implement new ideas in their own classrooms.

Learning Study: Learning study is a systematic activity carried out by teachers to carefullyassess and improve teaching practice. Groups of teachers get together to discuss, teach, and review different classroom lessons (e.g. helping students to understand a difficult mathematics lesson). As part of the group study, teachers may formulate goals and develop research questions they want to analyze. They also collectively make a lesson plan. One teacher from the group then delivers the lesson in his/her classroom, while the others observe and record what they see and hear. Upon completion of the lesson, the teachers gather together again to review the lesson and suggest improvements. Once the lesson is revised, it may be presented again in the classroom.

Examining Student Work: By examining student work in the classroom, teachers are able to critically evaluate how a student is performing, acquiring and applying knowledge, and developing in the classroom. Systematically analyzing each student’s work enables the teachers to gain insight into their teaching practices and student learning.

Workshops: Workshops can be held on the school campus as well as off-campus. However, workshops held outside of the context of a school or classroom rarely benefit the teacher. All workshops must be linked to day to day classroom practice. All the information and training obtained in a workshop must be applied in the classroom by the teacher. The lesson may be observed by the workshop facilitator, who may later bring to the teacher’s attention, any improvements that need to be made in the lesson. This ensures effective job-embedded professional development.

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