What are the biggest problems with common teacher professional development practices and how can they be fixed?
Aristotle said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Sometimes I feel like our leaders miss this target when planning and facilitating professional development for educators. We are individuals. We learn differently from each other. We have feelings, thoughts, and opinions. How come teachers have (so many!) horror stories about sitting through bland, Powerpoint-led, sit-and-get training during their professional development days? We wouldn’t and shouldn’t expect our students to tolerate this type of non-learning atmosphere. WHY would we apply different rules to our educators’ learning experiences?
I have narrowed down my thoughts (and solutions) to three problematic common teacher professional development practices. They are as follows:
- Ineffective Delivery
- Consider the “6 Trumps of Learning” and ask your staff the following questions: Which of these are we doing well on? Which of these might need some work?
- Lack of Differentiation
- There needs to be thoughtful consideration of the audience, their current teaching situations, the investment in the particular professional learning and avenue in which they can have a reflective voice. Here is a (re)design discussion protocol, Trudacot, that allows educators to think about, in this case, technology integration steeped in important disciplinary concepts.
- One Size Does NOT Fit All
- Design the learning experience with a low floor & high ceiling. Are the activities/processes going to challenge the audience but not overwhelm them? Are you considering those that might have prior knowledge of the information? Or those who might have less information than the majority (new teacher, substitute, etc.). Let’s say you’re facilitating a PD training on an education technology tool. Instead of standing in front of the group going through things step-by-step, grant them access to something like this They can start on any tab they feel comfortable with, in pairs/groups/individuals and they can go back at any time to pick up where they left off or access resources that are linked.
- Missing the Art of Heart
- A few kind words can elevate, inspire and foster a sense of belonging and nurture a learning environment. Start by spreading the love and creating a space for an appreciation wall…educators (…most humans!) like to hear when they are doing a good job. And when leaders showcase their educators, they get to witness those grins, eye twinkles and “Oh shucks.” Who doesn’t enjoy that?!
Leading is hard, facilitating learning is maybe even harder but try to remember: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Another fantastic (and very true) quote from the wise Aristotle.
Look for “Planning Soundtrap PD in the Fall? Part II” with Soundtrap specific resources for introducing & inspiring your staff to use in early August!
Meredith Allen (@msmeredithallen) is an educator and an international presenter. She currently works as an Education Specialist for Soundtrap. Meredith taught instrumental music, K-7 technology and virtual reality at a rural school in Iowa. She has a Master’s of Science in Technology for Education and Training. This piece was also featured in Response: Too Many Professional Development ‘Horror Stories’ found here.