The Ugly Truth About Teacher Training: Learn How To Make Your PD Effective and Affordable

This is the third in a series of blog posts about using evidence-based practices to truly make your educator professional development meaningful and effective…and affordable!  

In the first blog post I talked about how the one-and-done model of teacher professional development just doesn’t work.

In the second blog post, we talked about one of the most powerful examples of the challenges of effective teacher professional development–implementing screening and early intervention for struggling readers.

WHAT’S NEEDED FOR EFFECTIVE PD?

I’ve come up with a model I use with school teams that adheres to the Center for Public Information  Four Top Practices for effective professional development (http://bit.ly/2tAydde)

  • The duration of professional development must be significant and ongoing to allow time for teachers to learn a new strategy and grapple with the implementation problem.
  • There must be support for a teacher during the implementation stage that addresses the specific challenges of changing classroom practice.
  • Teachers’ initial exposure to a concept should not be passive, but rather should engage teachers through varied approaches so they can participate actively in making sense of a new practice.
  • Modeling has been found to be a highly effective way to introduce a new concept and help teachers understand a new practice.

HOW CAN WE AFFORD THIS TYPE OF TEACHER TRAINING?

As we all know, a one-and-done day of PD could be $1500, $2000 or even $5000 or more…for one day.  Then the trainer leaves, the team is left hanging and no change occurs in actual teaching in the classroom.  Over time the educator teams just get increasingly more jaded and fed up.  And rightly so.

My solution is this:  Why not use technology to “spread out” the time frame of the training so that the duration, level of support, teacher exposure and opportunity for modeling reflects what the research is telling us about effective PD?  

LET ME GIVE YOU A VERY COMMON EXAMPLE

Last spring I received an email from a school district in the western part of the US.  The district was in the process of trying to figure out how to implement proper early dyslexia screening and intervention within the RTI model.  

There were several issues.  First, the school teams weren’t even sure what the definition of dyslexia was.  

Many of the school psychologists needed help regarding how to do a proper evaluation for dyslexia.

There wasn’t consistency across the district regarding screening protocols, survey level assessments and intervention approaches.  A dyslexia intervention product was purchased by the administration but many teachers were never trained on how to implement the curriculum in their classrooms.  

They also really struggled with multidisciplinary team building.

In the meantime, angry parents were hiring sophisticated consultants and suing the district left and right.  (Just think of the amount of money spent on lawyers that could have gone to teacher support and training!)

So this is what I did…For the equivalent of the cost of one day of traditional professional development, I offered:

  • One month of consultation that included specific webinars and online courses specifically tailored to their needs.  In this case:
    • An update on the status of neuroscience and clinical literature regarding dyslexia
    • Map clearer and more consistent screening protocols, survey level assessments and intervention approaches
  • The option of regularly scheduled group or individual consultations by phone or Skype/Zoom as needed during that month.  In this case:
    • Help the school psychologists map out the components to a full psychoeducational evaluation, e.g., dyslexia, AD/HD, etc.
    • Help the school team interpret the results of the assessments and plan remediation (whether the student was eligible for special ed or not)
    • Help the leadership work on team building, scheduling and prioritizing meaningful teacher support
  • Access to my bibliography of resources that I’ve spent years developing

I will note that, in some cases, in-person periodic school visits are important and the travel expenses must be included in the budget.  But the way time is used during those school visits are based on explicit requests by the school team and usually very tactical in nature.  There is no need to travel to a school to provide a lecture that could just as easily been delivered online (either in real time or recorded).  

Ideally, this sort of contract should be extended throughout the year.  In other words, budget planning should take into account a flat fee per month for ongoing support structured in a way that meets your team’s need.  

The specific content of the arrangement may differ by district or school but the process needs to reflect best practices in PD.  

Skype, Zoom, Google Docs, online courses and webinars, video, text and email, Facebook pages are all simple and essentially free digital tools that can be employed in this model.  Many other free apps and tools can be incorporated as well.  The goal is to create ongoing connectivity and community to support real change in the teachers’ work in the classroom that ultimately benefits our students.  

THE BOTTOM LINE

There are many of you who are struggling with these same types of issues with screening and treating our struggling readers.  So much work needs to be done.  But the good news is that we know what to do…We just need to cross the chasm and get the right information and right processes in place with the right people.

Let’s work together to get you started on your “crossing of chasm.”  

Stay tuned for details!  


Who is Michael Hart?

Michael Hart, Ph.D. trained as a psychologist and served in a clinical capacity for many years. Currently, he is the founder/owner of www.drmichaelhart.com and provides webinars, online courses and onsite presentations/training for parents, educators and specialists regarding the proper educational care of our dyslexic students.

Michael is also the co-chair of the UNESCO MGIEP advisory committee for a large-scale literacy training and professional development project in India.  The Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) was established by the Government of India. MGIEP is an integral part of UNESCO and the organization’s specialist institute on education for peace and sustainable development to foster global citizenship.

In addition, Dr. Hart also serves as a subject matter expert for Understood.org, one of the largest repositories of information about learning disabilities in the world.

Prior to his current role, Dr. Hart served as a clinical psychologist, educational administrator and expert witness for learning disabled students in various settings including pediatric inpatient psychiatry, outpatient psychiatry, private practice and K-12 school settings.