When you boil it down, the American teacher tends to have one of 6 different PD experiences. None of them are significant. Most suffer from being one-time training while others just lack the "stickiness" for sustained instructional change.
- Planning Period PD's: These are just too much, and they need to die a quick death. It's incredibly difficult for someone to put aside the concerns of a day in their classroom and get the energy to learn something new. They also don't have enough time to formulate it into their practice
- District PD days: These could be good as they are the most equitable, and they take the teacher out of the everyday concerns of their classroom. The issue is districts tend to waste these on one-time presentations with little time to put things into practice.
- Conferences: Conferences are just not equitable. They can be great avenues for high flyers to find ideas, but they will never lead to sustained instructional change for a wide variety of teachers
- Saturday "Camps": This category includes things like Ed Camps and Summits. They again struggle with the fact that they are not equitable. Many with families just can not give up that time.
- Coaching: Coaching is the most likely to provide sustained change, but it's so hard to build a quality relationship with every staff member in a school building. For coaching to be successful, I think you need something to start the process and spark a flame in teachers, and you need the opportunity to make it consistent.
- Digital Platforms: Is it possible these can be good? Yes, but it's tough. You have to have engaging work with some type of motivation to make them work, and even then it's difficult to get every teacher on board with this as a learning experience.
My thought is this could all start with a district PD day. What if we turned them into goal setting sessions? They could start off with an inspiring keynote that shows what some are doing and what they could strive for. Teachers would then move into a work session. Each work session is aligned with broad goals that are proven improvements to the class experience and are run by a facilitator who is an expert in the area. These aren't presentations. Teachers are given a vast library of resources and time to work on what works for them, their class, and their content. The facilitator is a coach to help them over any bumps they might encounter.
Those could include things like:
- Student Creation
- Giving Students Choice
- Making Real World Connections
- Student Advocacy and Voice
- Presentation of Content
The digital platform can be used to learn the nuts and bolts of tools and resources that can help reach that goal. The digital platform can include but not be limited to district-based tools such as devices, learning management systems, and office suites. The digital platform also becomes your touchstone before the next district PD day as it will be issuing micro credentials for every training finished and goal accomplished.
When teachers get to the next district PD day, it becomes a goal check-in. If they reached their goal, it's time to do the process again with a new goal. If they did it, but they were not consistent, a coach is there to support them in any way to move to consistent. If they did nothing to get to that goal, a coach is there to see if a new goal can be set or if they figure out the pain points that stopped them.
Think about what this would do. If we are consistently moving every teacher just one positive step forward, educational change will happen quickly. It gives teachers ownership which can help bring back the creativity that is everything to the learning experience. It also simplifies the job of administration. A teacher would have one goal that they set, and if they are not even trying to get there, administrators know there is a problem.
In the end, this is all about moving teaching forward. What we are doing now isn't working. Let's simplify and personalize!