Professional development is intended to help improve the professional knowledge, effectiveness, competence, and skills of educators through a variety of training and education. Professional development training can take the form of half day/all day workshops given by a speaker(s) you may or may not know; take place before or after school; or take place during the school day. Regardless of the format the professional development training utilizes it is critical that it is effective. How do we accomplish that, you ask?
Let’s look at some things we may have experienced in these trainings that cause them to be ineffective. First, unrealistic expectations of the time it will take to implement goals. How many times have you attended training and returned to your school with the expectation of immediate implementation and results? Second, the goals and priorities become to numerous and distracting. There are so many goals that your attention is split in several directions, whew! School districts, with teacher input, can establish one or two instructional practices its teachers can focus on to learn or improve. Third, there is a lack of ongoing support to implement newly acquired instructional practices. How many times have you attended training and left without any implementation support for what you learned? By providing teachers with the necessary support during the implementation stage, new practices can be effectively used in the classroom.
District leaders can ensure effective professional development by keeping instructional priorities simple, ensure available district support for implementation, encourage teacher feedback on implementation, encourage continual professional development, and allow time for results.