Although we know professional development (PD) is the lifeblood of any educator’s success in the classroom, the challenge comes in identifying the most effective forms of PD for our individual teachers. How many of us have ever had to sit through some of the most boring information as a part of our PD? Or what about very engaging content, but something you are never going to actually use? So many forms of PD do not meet the standards for effective teaching.
Leaders in the field of professional development, Darling-Hammond, Hyler, and Gardner (2017) defined effective professional development as “structured professional learning that results in changes in teacher practices and improvements in student learning outcomes.” Surveying literature over the last three decades, they highlighted feature elements found in effective PD. They are as follows:
- Active learning
- Models effective practice
- Provides coaching/expert support
- Feedback and reflection
- Sustained duration
When designing professional development experiences, we first need to focus on the needs of our educators. Many school districts opt for online learning services to meet the demands of their teachers’ busy lives. Not all professional development looks the same. Here is one example of professional development that appears to tick all the boxes:
“iTeach Professional Learning courses are designed for educators and administrators at all levels. Each four-week iTeach Professional Learning course is interactive and engaging, delivered completely online, and facilitated by an expert in the field.”
- Content-focused: Each course focuses on relevant topics such as Search Skills and Strategies for Research and Learning, Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, Creating Interactive Digital Narratives, Project-Based Learning (K-5, 6-12), and Game-Based Learning.
- Active Learning: iTeach courses are not pre-recorded webinars that encourage passive participation. In fact, they are facilitated by experts in the field and involve numerous opportunities to actively engage with material that is very relevant to each participant’s classroom.
- Collaboration: Of course, we know that learners learn best by sharing what they have learned with others, but do we understand the value of this when it comes to educating teachers? In each iTeach course, learners have the opportunity to work with each other through community discussion boards, group assignments, and even peer reviews. Many participants commented on how interactions with their peers throughout the course kept them highly engaged.
- Models effective practice: Each course involves various ways to engage in the material. At times, participants will read about best practices and then apply those best practices as they engage in an interactive or create a digital production they will use as a part of a lesson.
- Provides coaching/expert support: One of the most distinguishing features of iTeach courses is that each is led by an expert in the field who can demonstrate effective practice.
- Feedback and reflection: Timeliness is everything when it comes to online learning. iTeach facilitators must be visible within each course. Our facilitators are committed to responding to participants’ submissions and questions within a 24-48 hour window. They utilize a rubric and provide in-depth feedback. Reflection is supported through facilitator-participant interaction.
- Sustained duration: The PD sessions that are over in an hour or two often do not allow enough time to really dig into the material. This is one of the reasons we designed our iTeach courses to take place over four weeks. It enables participants to take ample time to try things out in the classroom and reflect on what works with the assistance of a facilitator.
Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M.E., Gardner, M. (June 5, 2017). Effective teacher professional development. Retrieved at https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-professional-development-report.
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