The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another. ~ Marva Collins
Teaching is one of the world’s oldest and most important professions. We are constantly learning how to improve education at every level and one way we do that is by requiring teacher professional development.
In the abstract, it can be difficult to understand how professional development improves teaching. However, at Alludo, we believe that effective and engaging professional development is at the heart of good teaching – and of good student outcomes. So, how does professional development improve teaching? Keep reading to find out.
Table of Contents
- What is Effective Professional Development for Teachers?
- What Do Teachers Really Want from Professional Development Opportunities?
- How Does Professional Development Affect Teaching Performance?
- How Does Professional Development for Teachers Affect Student Outcomes?
- Alludo’s Take
What is Effective Professional Development for Teachers?
Professional development is required in many careers but nowhere is its impact more meaningful than in education. The Learning Policy Institute conducted a review of professional development plans for teachers and identified seven key elements of effective professional learning environments to improve student and teacher performance:
- Requires active and interactive learning. The best way for an educator to learn a new teaching style or pedagogy is to experience it themselves. Effective PD should immerse teachers in their work and require them to put themselves in the place of a student learning.
- Models effective practices. For professional development to be truly effective, it must model effective practices in both style of teaching and in instructional materials. For example, teachers will benefit from seeing sample lesson plans, written teaching cases, and other material directly related to their time in the classroom.
- Encourages collaboration. Not every aspect of professional learning needs to be collaborative, but ideally, it should encourage teachers to discuss what they’ve learned and collaborate to impact student achievement.
- Offers feedback and reflection. Teachers need both active learning and feedback about their performance in professional development. Constructive criticism (and time to absorb it) will ensure teachers have the ability to bring what they learn back to the classroom.
- Includes personal coaching and support. Adding some form of mentoring into your PD will allow more experienced teachers to share their knowledge and for newer teachers to absorb it.
- Is sustained over time. Just like any student, teachers need time to absorb what they’ve learned and build on it.
- Linked to curriculum content. Professional learning is most effective when it has direct relevance to the curricula and content being taught. While there are some general areas of PD that are undeniably beneficial, direct relevance to the subject matter being taught is an essential component.
Your professional development may not include every one of these seven hallmarks at every level, but having at least five or six will improve teachers’ experiences with professional learning and garner positive results in the classroom.
What Do Teachers Really Want from Professional Development Opportunities?
Fortunately for district and school leaders, many of the things that teachers want from a professional development program align with the elements of effective professional development we reviewed in the previous section. Let’s talk about what that means.
Teachers dislike it when professional development wastes their time or feels irrelevant to their time in the classroom and their students’ needs. They want and need fresh and engaging professional learning that respects their work and gives them the tools they need to connect with students and help them learn.
Teachers prefer professional development courses that give them some input on what they learn and how they learn it. For example, the Alludo model allows school districts to set requirements to be used in combination with teacher choice.
There are some other things that can help to get teachers onboard with professional development. You should collect data about students in your district and provide PD that will help teachers assist them in areas where they’re struggling. You should also keep PD interactive and take teachers’ varied learning styles into consideration.
Teachers have a lot on their plates and ultimately, it is better for them to be excited about professional development than it is for them to be resentful. By making professional learning engaging, fun, interactive, and highly relevant to the work that teachers do in and out of the classroom, Alludo is helping to drive learner engagement (upwards of 70-90%!) and improve student outcomes at the same time.
How Does Professional Development Affect Teaching Performance?
Every teacher faces challenges in the classroom that may be overcome with the help of professional development. Some of the most common areas where teacher development can help include the following:
- Communicating curriculum content to students in a way they can understand
- Keeping students engaged and interested during classroom activities
- Effective classroom management strategies
- Identifying where students need help understanding concepts
- Social and emotional learning and inclusion
Effective teacher professional development can help them address these areas through prescriptions and strategies, as well as by giving teachers insights into how students learn and where they might need help.
Because no one teaching style or strategy works for every student, engaging in an ongoing program of professional learning can help teachers adapt to different student learning styles and engage with them in ways that will improve their classroom performance.
Carlsbad Unified School District’s experience with their Chromebook rollout illustrates how professional development can improve teaching. By providing middle school students with Chromebooks to use for their schoolwork, they hoped to encourage students’ technical proficiency. With Alludo’s help, they designed a PD curriculum to get teachers up to speed on the new technology and incorporate it into the classroom.
How Does Professional Development for Teachers Affect Student Outcomes?
If you ask teachers what is most important to them, the answer is always going to be student outcomes. Teachers want to know that the work they do in the classroom helps students to better prepare for standardized tests, get into college if that’s what they want to do, and generally excel in life.
The good news is that professional development has a direct correlation to student outcomes. A review of studies from the Institute for Education Sciences found that students’ math scores improved by an average of 21 points when their teachers participated in professional development. The teachers in the studies that were included in the review completed, on average, 49 hours of professional development.
A study called Beginning Literacy: Links Among Teacher Knowledge, Teacher Practice, and Student Learning was published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities in 2002. It looked at the performance of kindergarten and first grade students in reading and related subjects. The study group of teachers completed professional development related to their knowledge of word sounds and structure while the control group received no special training. Kindergarten students in classes led by teachers who participated in PD performed better in tests of word reading and spelling, and first grade students scored higher in reading comprehension, than students who were in classes where the teacher did not participate in PD.
One of the key differences in teaching was that teachers who participated in professional development spent more time teaching core concepts and the increased classroom instruction led directly to higher student scores.
The takeaway here is that when PD is effective and well-designed, with an emphasis on giving teachers tools and strategies that relate directly to the subjects they teach and the students in their classes, teachers communicate ideas and information more effectively. Students on the receiving end of their instruction go on to receive higher grades and perform better on standardized tests than students in classrooms where the teachers did not participate in professional development or where PD curricula were not designed with teacher input and student outcomes in mind.
At Alludo, we believe that professional development for teachers should be relevant, engaging, and fun. That’s why we’ve designed a professional learning platform that uses digital badges and gamification to engage teachers and keep them interested in learning new classroom strategies and teaching models to use with their students.
School districts should take multiple factors into account when designing a professional learning environment for all levels and types of employees. Effective professional development should include the following:
- Teacher input about what tools and strategies will be most helpful in the classroom.
- State professional development and licensing requirements for teachers.
- District-wide goals and objectives for teachers.
- Curricula designed to address students’ issues in the classroom and with standardized tests.
- Interactive lessons and engaging activities to keep faculty and staff interested in professional learning and excited to participate.
- Tracking and measurement so that district and school leaders can monitor learners’ participation and results.
- Easy-to-use metrics that allow for adjustments to professional development as needed.
Alludo partners with school districts across the country to combine our proven PD platform and learning modules with district requirements to design a unique environment that learners love. It’s our goal to turn professional learning into something that employees enjoy while still providing school districts with the metrics they need to keep faculty and staff on track and deliver the student outcomes they want.
Improve Teaching in Your School District with Effective Professional Development
Professional development for teachers should reflect up-to-date research and understanding of what educators need and why they need it – and how their participation and embrace of professional development translates into better outcomes for students. It’s impossible to separate one from the other, so why not give your district’s faculty and staff the option of participating in professional development that delivers results?
If you’re ready to transform your professional learning environment into something teachers will love, Alludo is here to help! Click here to schedule a custom demo of our platform today.
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