Monday, March 21, 2016

Thoughts on PD

A fellow blogger and participant in the Two Writing Teachers "Slice of Life" writing challenge posted questions on the topic of Professional Development.  I feel inclined to answer them to help her gather input for a blog she will be posting later and...they're just really good questions that made me really think about PD, especially the rights and responsibilities.  My responses to those two questions are brief but I am still rolling thoughts around in my head about them.
~What was your best experience with PD and why? A few summers ago my school district hosted a week long PD to get us started using the Lucy Calkins writing program.  The facilitators from the Teachers' College at Columbia University guided participants through the workshop model and helped us get our feet under us as we prepared to "go live" with this program when school started in a  handful of weeks.  Putting myself in my students' shoes, as a learner in the writing workshop and as a reluctant writer, allowed me to see the effectiveness of this teaching model.  I was engaged and stimulated consistently throughout the entire week.  The fact that my colleagues attended with me was an added bonus.  We were able to chat during breaks and lunch which enriched the experience.  The best PD includes opportunities to interact, engage, actively participate with other equally invested teachers.
~What was your worst PD experience and why? A large handful of years ago I sat at a table in my school cafeteria, listening to someone talk to us about best practices in classroom instruction.  One key point was that direct instruction should last no longer than 15 minutes in order to keep students engaged.  Basically, after 15 minutes students will start tuning out.  Ironically, we sat for 2 solid hours with no break and no opportunity to turn and talk or process in any way.  If the intention was to prove that direct instruction should not last more than 15 minutes at a time, then it was a very successful PD.
~What are the ingredients or components to an effective PD session? Interesting, relevant content.  Opportunities for teachers to actively participate.  Time for teachers to process content when a lot is presented.
~What are some rights of classroom teachers when it comes to PD? Teachers should get to choose the PD opportunities in which they participate.
~What are some responsibilities of classroom teachers when it comes to PD? Teachers should share what they gain from PD, especially if they are one of few teachers in their school who attended.  What is gained from the PD experience should be implemented when the teacher is ready.  There is little point in attending PD if you're not going to use what you learn.  A teacher is also responsible for selecting appropriate PD that will improve student learning.
~Should all teachers experience the same PD or should it be differentiated based on where teachers are in their understanding and practice? We differentiate for our students because they are at different places in their learning.  Why wouldn't we do the same for teachers?  I see no reason to have skilled teachers sit through PD that doesn't lift their learning and improve their practice.  Just like I see no reason to have new teachers try to implement new strategies without having foundational understanding of the content.  Differentiation is an effective way to engage learners and increase knowledge and skills.  It doesn't make sense to teach teachers using something other than the best practices we use to teach students.

1 comment:

  1. These questions seem very familiar, as we have asked those same questions in our district. Your thoughtful, concise answers were very informative!