Despite deep concerns with current professional development, I regard it as an instrument to assist me in planning and improving instruction. However, I consider the ideal professional learning experience to be:
Personalized professional development should take different forms in each setting and be tailored to the needs of the individual.
Sustained Over Time
Professional development should be an ongoing process, not a one-shot deal. It should allow for reflection and adjustments based on what’s been learned.
Working with colleagues is essential to help turn new ideas into effective practice.
The best way to learn is by doing, so professional development should be closely linked to the day-to-day realities of the classroom.
Focuses on Student Learning
The ultimate goal of any professional development should be to improve student achievement.
While teachers generally agree on the key features of effective professional development, they find it difficult to put these into practice. Barriers include:
Lack Of Time
Many teachers feel they don’t have enough time to engage in quality professional learning.
Lack Of Money
Districts and schools are often strapped for cash when it comes to professional development.
Lack of Support From Administrators
Some teachers feel that their administrators don’t see the value in professional development or simply don’t have the bandwidth to help organize it.
Poorly Designed Professional Development
Too often, professional development is not well-conceived or aligned with what teachers are trying to do in the classroom. This can lead to frustration and a feeling that it’s a waste of time.
Despite these challenges, teachers remain hopeful about the potential of professional development to help them improve student learning. They see it as a way to get the support and resources they need to be successful in the classroom. Many teachers have sought professional development on their own through the use of social networks such as Twitter.
Others have found ways to work around the barriers by collaborating with colleagues or using technology to create their own learning experiences. There are many examples of innovative and effective professional development happening in schools and districts across the country. It’s important that we continue to learn from these examples so that all teachers have access to the quality professional learning they deserve.
Alfonso Mendoza Jr., M.Ed. is an Instructional Technologist, Instructional Designer, Doctoral Student, Podcaster, and Google Innovator that is passionate about education.