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6 Effective Teacher Professional Development Models & Strategies to Try This Year

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Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ~ Nelson Mandela

Effective teacher professional development is a must for every school district regardless of its size. Professional learning for teachers can be linked directly to positive student outcomes and thus, to the performance of school districts.

The key to creating a successful professional development environment is to choose models and strategies that are both effective and engaging. With high teacher engagement, students will be more engaged too – and as a result, students will be more successful. With that in mind, here are six effective teacher professional development models and strategies to try this year.

Table of Contents

  1. What Are the Hallmarks of Effective Professional Learning for Teachers?
  2. Model 1: Individually Guided Development
  3. Model 2: Development and Improvement
  4. Model 3: Observation & Assessment
  5. Model 4: Inquiry
  6. Model 5: Tracking Progress and Incentivizing Professional Learning
  7. Model 6: The Pandemic Model
  8. Find the Teacher Development Model That Works for You

What Are the Hallmarks of Effective Professional Learning for Teachers?

Before we get into the professional development models and strategies for teachers that we feel are most effective, let’s review the characteristics that are the hallmarks of effective professional learning for teachers.

Effective Professional Learning

According to research conducted by the Learning Policy Institute, there are several elements that must be present for meaningful professional development:

  • Relevance. Professional learning must be directly relevant to educational goals by using proven models and modeling effective practices.
  • Feedback/Opportunities for Growth. Participating teachers and learners at every level must receive direct feedback through a system of continual learning. Feedback should be goal-directed and include coaching and expert support.
  • Individual Teacher Engagement. Professional learning should be designed with the goal of keeping teachers engaged and interested in what they’re learning. Active learning, with clearly identified goals and measures of progress, is ideal.
  • New Tools to Connect with Students. New tools and techniques should be taught in job-embedded contexts to emphasize their real-world applications and benefits.
  • Measurable Progress. The system must allow for teachers to measure their own progress and for district leaders to track their progress and adjust curricula as needed.
  • Encouragement of Critical Thinking. The best effective professional development for teachers encourages critical thinking about everything from educational theories and models to classroom engagement.

The Alludo model incorporates these hallmarks with a learner-centered approach that improves engagement and performance at every level. Now, let’s look at six professional teacher development models and strategies to try this year.

PD Teacher Models

Model 1: Individually Guided Development

Individually Guided Development, or IGD, is a model that many school districts have adopted to increase teacher engagement and get educators excited about a professional development activity. As its name suggests, this model of professional development allows teachers and administrators to choose which areas of professional learning are most important to them and direct their studies accordingly.

The theory behind individually guided development is that learners are more likely to stay engaged if they can select their own learning goals and the means they use to achieve those goals. By permitting teachers to select areas of improvement and take control of their professional development opportunities, this model fosters an atmosphere of constant improvement and professionalism.

It should be noted that the IGD model may be used on its own or in conjunction with other models. For example, some school districts assign areas of professional development to teachers, creating goals and guidelines. Teachers can then add to their learning with electives to meet the district requirements. The Alludo model is designed to work with Individually Guided Development with district-wide requirements.

The bottom line is that IGD allows teachers to do the following things:

  • Adhere to school and district requirements
  • Choose what to learn to meet those requirements
  • Set and achieve individual goals in their teaching practice
  • Empower themselves to succeed and grow

Adopting individually guided development is a great way to encourage teacher learning and engagement and improve participation in professional learning.

Model 2: Development and Improvement

The Development and Improvement Model is designed to get teachers involved on the planning level of professional development. Instead of having improvement and development goals dictated to them, teachers have a voice in both stages of professional development.

The first stage involves identifying potential problems and areas of improvement. One method that we’ve seen school districts use is to have teachers complete a self-assessment. Typically, it starts with teachers filming themselves in the classroom. Watching their own recordings can help teachers to see themselves as students see them. They can use the footage to note areas where they could be more informative or engaging. They can also pay attention to student learning and engagement and when they may be losing students’ attention and focus.

The second stage involves developing or choosing professional learning curricula to help them improve in the areas they’ve identified. Some modules may be useful for all teachers, while others might be ideal for individual improvement when teachers identify their areas of growth and set goals to achieve them.

The primary benefit of the Development and Improvement Model is that teachers are more likely to be engaged in professional development if they have a say in what they learn and how they learn it. The Alludo model makes it easy to track learners’ progress toward individual, school, and district goals. This model is often tied to student achievement and student learning, which is why it’s essential to track everything.

Learner-Centered PD

Model 3: Observation & Assessment

The Observation & Assessment Model is a form of peer-supported feedback and evaluation that can help teachers help one another to improve. It is most commonly described as a master teacher observing a fellow teacher in the classroom, either on a one-time basis or during multiple sessions. The master teacher makes notes and evaluates the observed teacher’s performance based on a predetermined rubric.

After the observation and assessment has been completed, the teacher receives feedback from the observer. This method may be used alone or (most commonly) in conjunction with other forms of professional learning. For example, a teacher might complete a module of professional learning, and then be observed and evaluated to determine how well they have incorporated what they learned into classroom practice.

The Observation and Assessment model is a two-way street because both the teacher acting as the observer and the one being observed can learn from one another. The emphasis is on constructive criticism, giving teachers a fresh perspective on their classroom performance.

Model 4: Inquiry

Like the Development & Improvement Model, the Inquiry Model is inclusive of teachers, offering them an opportunity to be reflective and identify ways in which they can improve their performance in the classroom and their engagement with students. With this model, teachers go through these steps: 

  • Formulate questions about their own instructional practice, both in and out of the classroom
  • Pursue answers to the questions they identify by doing the following things:
    • Collecting data based on research literature and classroom performance
    • Analyze the data to pinpoint areas for improvement
  • Implement changes in the teachers’ classroom practices based on the data collected
  • Collect additional data to measure their results and modify their classroom practices when needed

Here again, the ability to track metrics related to teacher performance, student outcomes, and teacher professional development is key. With Alludo, it’s easy for districts, school leaders, and instructional leaders to follow along with the progress made by teachers, educators, and administrators at every level.

Model 5: Tracking Progress and Incentivizing Professional Learning

The Alludo Model is designed to incentivize teachers, special education teachers, paraeducators, administrators, and staff at every level to take part in professional learning. We’ve accomplished this goal in three ways:

  1. Engaging lessons. To drive teacher engagement, lessons should be short and engaging, with regular progress reports and rewards to keep teachers motivated to participate. The Alludo Catalog has thousands of micro-learning activities and credentials spanning hundreds of core topics that learning leaders and teachers themselves can shape into personalized learning pathways that ignite engagement.
  2. Gamification of learning. Gamification involves creating progressive learning modules where participants can easily track their progress while earning points and badges. A good example of this in popular culture is the DuoLingo app for learning foreign languages. The Alludo system has been extremely successful in inspiring educators to take part, with engagement rates between 70% and 90%!
  3. Flexibility. The Alludo platform offers a learner-centered environment by incorporating Individually Guided Development, allowing learners to comply with school and district requirements while selecting areas of professional growth that appeal to them and meet them where they are in terms of skill-level.

PD Model IncentivizingWith Alludo, districts can combine IGD with gamification to keep teachers motivated and engaged.

Model 6: The Pandemic Model

The COVID-19 pandemic caused upheaval in nearly every area of society including classrooms. Faced with a public health threat greater than anything in most of our lifetimes, superintendents, districts, teachers, staff, and students all had to adapt to a new model of learning. That includes professional learning for teachers.

Unlike the other models discussed here, the pandemic model was created out of a sense of urgency and necessity as educators scrambled to find ways to reach students in their homes using technology that was, in many cases, new to them. The pandemic model meets the following criteria:

  • Adaptive
  • Remote
  • Practical and skill-oriented
  • Geared toward delivering results under difficult circumstances
  • Prioritization of social/emotional needs of teachers and students

COVID-19 was a crisis that turned into an opportunity for administrators and educators to transform their classrooms with technology and applications that fuel learning. While remote student learning is unlikely to become the new norm, the pandemic model does point to a direction for professional development that is agile enough to address needs and challenges as they arise with input from teachers, students, and administrators. This model is one Alludo was fostering pre-pandemic, and one we think shouldn’t go away.

Val Verde Case Study

Find the Teacher Development Model That Works for You

While every school district is unique, they all share some common professional development goals – most importantly, engaging teachers and educators in their journey to improve professionally and supporting them to deliver the best outcomes for their students.

Are you ready to revamp your professional development program for teachers? Click here to schedule a personalized, interactive session that covers the latest strategies to achieve learner-centered PD.