The Ugly Truth About Teacher Professional Development
Effective teacher professional development should result in positive changes in teachers’ practices in the classroom. The one-and-done model of teacher professional development doesn’t work. It’s amazing that we’re all educators and we all know this and yet it remains one of the most common models for teacher training in schools.
Most of us know, or at least intuit, that it takes about 20 instances of practice to master a new skill–even longer when the new skills are complex.
So how do we change our processes?
Here’s what the Center for Public Information says about the 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.
Let’s take it another step. More specifically, the table below from a classic 2002 study by Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers reveals some pretty amazing data about what’s needed to transfer knowledge to action in our daily practice in the classroom.
This chart speaks for itself. Without implementation of coaching and administrative support all the time and energy that goes into traditional models of professional development is essentially wasted.
So it obviously begs the question: How, with all we have on our plates as educators today, do we shift gears so we can start doing the right thing?
- First, to be clear, I’m not talking about adding to the school’s responsibilities. I’m talking about changing the existing structure of time and support. In future postings, I’m going to discuss models of other school districts who have made this work.
- Second, implicit in all of our discussions is the absolutely critical importance of leadership buy-in. Buy-in includes changing how our days are structured, tweaking how our teams are built, how we institutionalize ongoing support for our teachers and staff and how we allocate our financial resources.
- Third, never in our history have we been able to leverage the Internet tools available to us to save time, save money and build powerful communities for coaching and support. This might be my most critical point. In the last several years, I have been able to use webinars, online courses, Skype-based consulting and social media to train educators, learning specialists and parents both nationally and internationally. Technology has been the key to opening up new opportunities to change how we support our teachers and their students.
My area of expertise is dyslexia. Pretty complicated from a professional development perspective. But in light of the fact that upwards of two-thirds of our US fourth graders are below proficiency in reading, we need to attack this problem. We need to provide our educators with training, support and resources necessary to deal with this crisis. We have a large body of knowledge about how to most effectively teach reading but we are not “crossing the chasm” and getting that information into the hands of our teachers. More on that later.
In the next several posts, I will talk about how to structure changes in your professional development processes specifically with regard to screening and remediation for struggling readers. We’ll be discussing both the content of what we need to do but also the process by which we can get this started.
I hope you join me.
Michael Hart, Ph.D. is a child psychologist with almost 30 years of experience in teacher training, change management and diagnostic assessment of a full range of learning differences, including dyslexia.
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.