Professional development is essential for educators to stay current with research, best practices, and emerging trends in education. Professional development allows teachers to explore new ideas, strategies, and technologies that can enhance their teaching effectiveness and student outcomes. However, over time, results have shown that offering teacher’s some degree of choice in the topics and ways they learn new information has a number of benefits. By empowering teachers to take control of their own learning, choice promotes a culture of continuous improvement and lifelong learning within the school community. Below are three more reasons why teacher choice is so important.
Not all teachers in your school have the same experience or strengths. Just as our students need different types of support, so do teachers. Offering choices allows teachers to tailor their professional development to their individual needs, interests, and learning styles. This personalized approach can lead to more engaged and effective learning experiences, as teachers are more likely to invest time and effort into topics that are relevant and meaningful to them.
Increased Motivation and Learning
When teachers have a say in their professional development, they feel a greater sense of ownership over their learning journey. This autonomy can boost motivation and commitment, as teachers are more likely to be invested in and accountable for their growth and development.
Providing choices in professional development encourages teachers to explore a variety of topics, methods, and approaches. This exposure to diverse perspectives can spark creativity, innovation, and collaboration within the school community. Teachers may discover new ideas, strategies, and best practices that they can integrate into their teaching, ultimately benefiting both themselves and their students.
Strategies for Incorporating Teacher Choice
PD in a Box
PD’s in a box are basically as it sounds. It is a box or envelope 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. I put all materials inside the box and deliver it to their classroom. They have the whole month to read through the strategy and try to apply it. I follow up at the end of the month to see if they have any questions and what their experience was like using the tip or trick in the classroom.
Multiple Side-By-Side Professional Development Sessions
We all know that it can be really hard to find time to deliver a whole school professional development session. Why not offer several different PD sessions at the same time and allow teachers to choose the topic they want to hear most about? For example, you might have a PD day set in the calendar on a Friday before the Winter break. Perhaps you select 3-4 different people (outside presenters, veteran teachers, leaders in the building, or your instructional coach) to each create a PD. Teachers select one to go to that day based on their interest.
In my school I’m lucky enough to have numerous leaders who are available to coach. We have grade level leaders, department heads and an instructional coach. I’ve trained these leaders how to go through an individual coaching cycle and supported them in coaching of specific teachers in the building. You may not have as many available leaders as I have but there are probably a few veteran teachers you could empower. Or your school may have an instructional coach or other professional in place for that. When teachers have the option to receive one on one coaching it allows them the freedom to work on strengthening an area they really want to work on. Coaches can identify areas for improvement and offer targeted strategies and resources to help teachers enhance their instructional practices. There are different types of coaching based on the amount of support a teacher might need. Each one can be used for different situations.
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