After 20+ years, I’ve attended a LOT of professional development, some chosen for me and some chosen by me. I would like to hear about your best professional development experiences in order to begin to think about some principles of what makes effective professional development. I’m going to throw out a few ideas in a minute.
We all have examples of bad professional development. I remember being asked to dance out a math problem. But what makes for effective professional development? Do the principles depend on whether the program is chosen for me or by me?
- Focus – What are the goals for the year? A colleague once asked why he needed new professional goals each year. He was still working on the same ones. Fair point. I know it’s always tempting to define by the negative, so I’ll fall prey to it here – don’t do professional development in a dozen different subjects. Better to go deep.
- Choice- Everyone loves choice. I used to be a regular at NCTE, where there were / are almost too many options. In general, I’d rather have the requirement and the money and be able to make my own choices (subject to an adminstrator’s approval).
- Experts – Some are good. I’m on a break from a session right now. The presenter is focused, incredibly patient and helpful. Would I have chosen this if I had the opportunity? Probably not. I think the principle I want to develop here is when it’s better to use in-house expertise. And then how do you do that.
- Administrative support – Does the admin attend sessions? Is the admin expected to model what is being presented? What is the support provided for follow-up? Are the expectations clear for the teachers?
- Involvement – Some people are good lecturers, but they are few and far between. I want to do things. Computers make this harder; are teachers (who notoriously make the worst students) paying attention? And this doesn’t mean I need to be treated like a student, though I’m okay with it on a short-term basis. But why is professional development so often delivered in a way that we would never allow in a classroom?
- Relevant – I always worry about the singletons – the one music teacher. Is the session relevant for him? (And our music teacher is a him.)