Sessions. Days. Meetings. Trainings. Modules. No matter how it’s framed, PD—that is, professional development—doesn’t always inspire the type of excitement that educators might like it to.
Recently, we asked our community to share their reflections about PD: what it looks like at their schools or districts, what works, what doesn’t, and what they want to see. To nobody’s surprise, the initial reaction wasn’t generally positive. “Our PD needs a facelift,” one teacher observed. “Frequently endured, rather than enjoyed…” commented another. Both teachers and administrators felt that traditional PD at their schools and districts was lacking on a number of fronts, leading to experiences that ranged from unproductive to painful.
But we also heard about efforts to change the mindset around pedagogy. Principals told us about new formats that invited staff members to select topics they’d like to explore or present, and teachers described EdCamp-style experiences that included group discussion, hands-on practice, and topics that were relevant to what they were currently teaching and thinking about.
Our survey responses gave us some valuable food for thought. As it turns out, what educators want from PD sounds a lot like what they want from the other tools and resources they use: an experience that’s flexible and personalized.
Here’s a little more about what we learned.
8 Ways to Improve PD
1. Encourage teachers to take the stage.
“PD is the most successful when sessions are taught by teachers or coaches who have classroom experience and can speak to whatever it is they’re presenting.”
“Our district has changed PD formats in the past few years. Staff members have the opportunity to attend quick meetings and share ideas that they’d like to present during PD time, and our curriculum director creates sessions from the ideas that staff members facilitate.”
2. Get hands-on with interactive activities.
“PD needs to allow time for hands-on practice or application. Smaller chunks with time for implementation and feedback has worked best for us.”
“Hands-on activities make for better PD, rather than listening to a lecture or reading through a presentation.”
3. Promote collaboration with small groups and breakout sessions.
“Teachers love best-practice sharing sessions. At our school, much of our PD happens in small cohorts or peer-to-peer in organic moments of whimsy!”
4. Feature topics that relate to real needs in the classroom.
“PD should relate to what we’e currently teaching. A kindergarten teacher shouldn’t sit through a 5th grade math training or vice versa, for example. And our school needs more PD on apathetic learners, whereas another school in a more funded school zone might not see the same type of learner as frequently.”
5. Invite teachers to choose what they want to learn.
“It’s imperative that we get away from the ‘one size fits all’ format. PD should be ongoing, relevant, and timely.”
“When we design PD, we take into account the specific needs of our staff and regularly ask for suggestions and feedback from a school leadership team made up of teachers and support staff.”
6. Offer flexible formats for busy teachers.
“I would love for our PD to be more technology-based and not necessarily require physical attendance. Online sessions would be more beneficial.”
7. Provide follow-up and support for implementation.
“Teachers want PD with follow-up and/or classroom assistance to plan, integrate, and practice with feedback.”
8. Make it easy to meet the right requirements.
“Teacher evaluation instruments require PD hours, so teachers are often looking for quality training opportunities that count toward their required hours.”
“Nobody submits PD follow-up paperwork in order to get full points for participating. It’s become too much of a hassle with too many requirements!”
The takeaway from our survey? We’ll let our community summarize:
“We have found teacher choice and teacher voice to be extremely powerful.”
Speaking of Which…
We offer educator resources as part of our work to make Remind as simple and easy to use as possible, but these insights showed us that there’s a lot of room for improvement. So we started at the most logical point: updating the materials we provide for introducing Remind to other educators.
Our new PD Kit includes a short, customizable presentation that explains what Remind is and how it works. We incorporated an interactive demo and guided notes to help participants follow along. And, based on feedback, we added examples of how real educators use Remind to reach their communities.
This is a first step in a larger project to make our resources more useful and engaging, and we’re looking forward to the changes ahead. Stay tuned!
Want More Resources?
We’ve featured some great posts on this blog about how educators can use Remind to facilitate PD opportunities, including Steve Figuerelli’s thoughtful advice on using Remind as a professional development tool and how his school successfully introduced a Remind class for daily PD messages.
Lately, we’ve also heard from educators who model how Remind works for them. One of our favorite ideas comes from Bill Ferriter, who’s shared how he uses Remind to share nonfiction texts with his sixth grade science students (Using Remind to Share Nonfiction Reading With Students, with Update 1 and Update 2). In Larry Ferlazzo’s recent EdWeek blog, Anabel Gonzalez also describes how she uses Remind as a way to build relationships with ELL families.
And, of course, educators on Twitter share actionable suggestions every day.
— Chris Zuccaro (@chriszuccaro) February 4, 2016
Share Your Experience
What’s been your experience with PD? Tell us about what changes you’d make—or what your school and district do to make PD something to be enjoyed, not endured. And let us know what you think about our PD Kit and how we can make it more useful. We’d love to hear from you!