Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Making your own Professional Development Day

With the new school year starting up this year in BC with summer professional development, many teachers are complaining that their Pro D day is not what they want to learn, or study.  They want something different.  And although the Professional Development committee spent days planning not everyone in a school can be satisfied.  So what does the school do?  Who can develop the best plan for the teachers?  The teachers themselves.  

Teachers should create their own professional development based upon an identified need in their own classrooms, be it what the teacher needs or what the students need. For example, a teacher might struggle with assessment in their classroom, or they may have an interested in this area.   This teacher could attend a different school working in this area. But if there is not one available, he or she might also choose to work with a coaching model (if another teacher would volunteer to share some of their assessment methods, or model some of the tools they use), work with another teacher on  a book study (I strongly recommend Barry Bennett's Graphic organizers for assessment for learning), they could watch videos of conferences of the subject they are interested in on the internet, off of YouTube, or Educators' PLN, or  TeacherTube.   One more option for Twitter chat on the subject.  I recommend the hashtags #bced or #edchat, educators engaging other educators in discussions and exchanging ideas that lead to the best sources in order to access the specific PD or the teacher's interest. The chat on #Edchat is self-determined ahead of time, with teachers wanting to be a part of the discussion.  Even if you are too shy to be a part of the discussion, you can still follow along, and later chat privately with a member of the discussion who show great understanding in the area of your interest. 

Research & Development are closely tied to risk-taking. As an educator, we should constantly challenge ourselves to push ourselves into the 21st Century Skill of risk-taking, an area where students need to excel.  Risk-taking helps students push themselves beyond their security, hopefully forcing students to achieve beyond what they are comfortable with.  As we all know there is no such thing as failure.  If the students fall during risk-taking, turn the experience to the positive, ask students what have they learned from their mistake, making it a success in the end.  As another teacher once said (sorry, I forgot who)  "Risk-taking is one way of showing the students the floor and not the ceiling: show students the ceiling of expectations and some heads may bump the fan; show students only the floor and some will touch the clouds."  This can also be said for teachers.  Let the educators take responsibility for their own learning (as we preach for students to do), delving into areas of interest and growth.  

Each teacher should make up a professional growth plan that they could share with their administrator or a colleague. Alberta has mandated this process with a number of different PDF files to help you on this journey.  In British Columbia, this process is not mandatory, but I am suggesting that perhaps we as individuals should try this to help us all become 21st Century learners and force ourselves to continue to grow (if you make a plan you follow through with it).   

The plan could take many forms (mind map, visual graphic, word document) but it should include the following things:

  • Name
  • Dates
  • Goal(s)
  • Strategies
  • Timeline
  • Indicators or measures of success
  • Exemplars of what you've done
  • Reflections and implications

The goals should be meaningful to the teacher, asking the teacher to go beyond their comfort zone a bit and try new things, yet the goals should be attainable, and  have deadlines that help ensure success,  Each goal needs to be measurable to understand when you reached it.
A common technique for writing goals is to think about SMART goals.
S—specific and contextual
M—meaningful measures
A—achievable within the resources
T—time targeted
Action Words for Developing SMART goals:
  • Apply
  • Attend
  • Contribute
  • Discuss
  • Enrol
  • Conduct
  • Implement
  • Integrate
  • Investigate
  • Join
  • Maintain
  • Mentor
  • Organize
  • Participate
  • Pilot
  • Publish/blog
  • Tweet
  • Read
  • Serve
  • Share 

In the end teachers need to reflect on the what they have accomplished and what they need to continue on developing.  Most people are their own worst critics, so it would also be wise to have a friend, colleague, a department head or the entire department (a great way to celebrate success in a department)  or even an administrator, to share this process with, to reflect with (showcase your learning) and contemplate what their next steps should be.  As educators we understand that learning is a life-time commitment.  Ruminate with others will help the teacher continue on with their journey of learning.

There are many examples of Professional Development plans online, so take a look or have a look at a copy of one I developed.   Have fun with your learning.

Teacher Initiative for Professional Success – One Step at a Time
Individual Professional Development Plan

A brief list of my current strengths and assets:

Based on your self-assessment, a mentor’s  or friend’s input, and/or any school or district initiatives you are interested in, what goal have you identified?  What is an area of knowledge or skill that you would like to strengthen?

Describe the connection between this goal and your teaching assignment.

What would success on this goal look like?  How will you know when you have achieved it?  What would count as evidence of success?

Describe the activities you will do to work towards your goal and their timelines.


What resources will you need to better achieve your goal? (aide from colleague, helping teacher, books, materials, technology equipment

What will happen to show you that you have achieved your goal.

What evidence of growth will you share with a friend, a colleague, your department, you admin, or the entire staff (if it your choice of who you share it with).

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