Alternatives to Professional Development Workshops for Teachers

Teachers and administrators know that life is BUSY during the school year. It can be very difficult to carve out time for a whole staff professional development workshop. So what other alternatives can instructional coaches and administrators use to help their teachers grow?

Individual Coaching Cycles

During an individual coaching cycle a teacher is paired with a mentor (an administrator, instructional coach or veteran teacher). The pair works together to set a goal that the teacher wants to work on. Coaching cycles usually last around 6 weeks. The mentor works with the teacher to plan and deliver lessons. Sometimes the mentor might coteach with the teacher. Other times the mentor might observe the teacher’s lessons and provide feedback related to the goal. At the end of the coaching cycle you evaluate to see if the goal was reached. Buzzing with Mrs B has some create tips on maximizing this professional development strategy.

Peer Observations/Instructional Rounds

I like to encourage a culture of learning from one another and an open door policy for the classrooms in our school. While you can learn things in a PD or online course, any learning needs to be applied. Seeing an instructional strategy, curriculum or classroom management strategy practically being applied in a classroom is going to be far more impactful to a teacher than just listening to how it is done.

Before a peer observation:

Peer observations involve teachers going into another teacher’s room to observe them with a particular focus. How I do this is each month I choose 2-3 focus areas. I look for teachers in the building who do these things very well and I ask them if it’s ok for me to bring a few teachers to observe this area in their class. Sometimes teachers are hesitant or shy to accept but I always encourage them that they do well in this area already and all they need to do is be themselves. Next, I send out a sign up sheet with the month’s focus areas, the teacher too be observed and the time. Teachers sign up if they want to participate. I only allow 3 teachers to sign up for each area because I don’t want to overwhelm the teacher being observed or the students.

During a peer observation:

A few minutes before the scheduled observation I meet with the teachers who sign up. I remind them of what our focus is and give them a sheet of paper with guiding questions and “look fors” related to the focus area. We go in and observe the classroom for about 15-20 mins.

After a peer observation:

Afterwards I meet with the teachers who observed and reflect on what they have seen. We discuss what we saw the teacher do, what the students did, how the learners behavior and academics were effected by what we observed. Then we talk about how the teachers can apply what they saw back in their own classroom. I keep the discussion focused on the positives, it is a not a time to evaluate the teacher and how that teacher could have done better.

Professional Development in a Box

PD’s in a box are basically as it sounds. It is a box that contains everything a teacher would need to learn about and apply a new tip or trick. Each month I create a PD in a box for our teachers. I tell them the topic a few days ahead of time and let them sign up if they are interested in the month’s topic. Some topics have been:

Student created board games

Ways teachers can get organized

Google Jamboard in the classroom

My favorite classroom management strategies

In each box I include a 1-2 page summary of the topic. Then I include templates, examples and an unique resource teachers would need to apply the topic (for example I include dice and some fun game pieces in the box on student created board games). Teachers have all month to learn about and apply the topic from the box. At the end of the month, I follow up to see how the teacher’s experience was and if they have any questions. Some teachers find it difficult to learn this way but other teachers absolutely love it!!

If a teacher is having a difficult time understanding the topic of the box I might go into their classroom and model it for them.

You can’t always wait for a professional development day to invest in your teacher’s growth. Use these ideas to provide them choice and agency in their own learning. Comment below if you have any other strategies!

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