A few thoughts occur in the minds of teachers when they sit down at any professional development session. Will this information be relevant to my content area? Can I take away something to use with my students tomorrow? Would my time be used more effectively in my classroom for grading and lesson planning? Teachers are a demanding audience, and they should be. Time is a precious resource for educators. That’s why arranging worthwhile professional development is so important.
Here are five tips that'll have teachers asking for more when you return to school!
Survey your staff. While some sessions may have to be mandatory because of new curriculum and school or district-wide information, remember, teachers of different content areas don’t have the same needs. There’s no reason to have a librarian spend an hour learning about the new math series. Include your staff in the decision-making process for PD. Find commonalities between teachers through advanced questioning, then plan sessions that relate to those desires and concerns.
Provide a clear vision. Respect the time away from tasks waiting on the teachers’ desks. Don’t waste it with fluff or information that could have been emailed. If recertifications are required for staff members, build that into your PD schedule rather than asking the team to complete them after the school day. When a session finishes early, give your staff the gift of time. It’s guaranteed that every teacher has something else to do in the classroom.
Don’t ask them to do unnecessary tasks. If introductory training about a new technology tool isn’t necessary for some teachers who already know and use the resource, provide another level of training for them. Make sure that the assignments given during the sessions are relevant and classroom-ready when teachers leave. And think about the need for those icebreaker activities. Is this a group with new members or a staff that spends every day together? If it’s not going to benefit the crowd, skip the icebreaker.
Consider the presentation. SMART goal setting is a great way to set the focus for PD. Encourage presenters to get to the heart of the matter but switch things up in meetings. No one wants to sit for a full day of lectures. Include sessions that are interactive and invite discussion among participants. Break-out sessions allow teachers to explore and reflect with colleagues. Build in time for questions and answers as well as feedback.
Provide follow-up suggestions. Some teachers may use professional development topics for growth plans. Others may choose additional training on the subject to dig deeper. Offer ideas for those ready for the next steps, such as podcasts, articles, blog entries, or videos. Encourage your teachers to become experts by working with them to expand on the learning and teach future sessions to your staff.
Administrators want to fill the time with as much beneficial information as possible when planning for professional development. It’s just as important to provide the space for teachers to absorb everything, which means experimentation and conversation should be part of the plan. Allow time for your staff to breathe and refocus between sessions. And you can never go wrong with snacks on the tables!
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Incite curiosity and invite interactions in STEM for students 3-12.