Teacher Professional Development (TPD) is a tool that distributes vital information and provides guidance to teachers. Successful TPD begins with knowing what teachers need in their schools and classrooms. It is then combined with a “range of techniques to promote learning; provides teachers with the support they need; engages school leadership; and makes use of evaluation to increase an impact. Essential techniques include mentoring, teamwork, observation, reflection, and assessment.” There are many forms of professional development. For example, teachers prepare activities together; experienced teachers observe young teachers and provide feedback; and teachers observe lessons, make a reflection, and then discuss the lesson. These are only a few examples; however, there are three common models of professional development.
Standardized TPD is the most centralized approach that is used to broadcast information and skills among large populations of educators. This TPD includes the Cascade model, where selected educators attend a workshop, obtain important information, and then return to their home school to instruct and engage their fellow colleagues. Rigorous learning by clusters of teachers in a school or district that promotes insightful and lasting changes in instructional methods is called site-based TPD. “Since this method addresses locally based needs and reflects local conditions, it should be the cornerstone of teacher development across the education system.” Self-directed TPD is where independent learning takes place, sometimes initiated at the learner’s discretion, using accessible resources that may include computers and the Internet.
Of the three most popular models, standardized TPD is the most common professional development being used in my school. “Standardized models rely on training-based approaches, in which presenters share skills and knowledge with large groups of educators via face-to-face, broadcast, or online means.” These professional development courses were beneficial; however did not fulfill the needs of the teachers in my building.
The biggest roadblock that educators face in my school is lack of time. There is not enough time in the school day to correspond with teachers about curriculum, technology, or even student needs. Our eight-period day consists of a homeroom, planning period, duty period, five periods of teaching, and lunch. There is hardly time to breathe or say hello to a fellow colleague, let alone talk about what lesson you are currently teaching! Effective professional development that addresses the core areas of teaching (content, curriculum, assessment, instruction) would benefit the educators in my building. During the first Wednesday of every month there is an hour long faculty meeting after school. This would be a great time to “provide teachers opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills, reflect on changes in their teaching practice,” address student needs, and learn about the newest technology trend.
Of the three models previously stated, the most appropriate professional development that would meet the needs of the teachers in my school would be the site-based TPD. This school-centered approach would be “learner-centered, enabling teachers to experience the types of instruction that they are asked to provide to their students.” “Within learner-centered TPD, the voices and actions of teachers themselves should be the focus, and teachers should engage interactively and collaboratively in activities that reflect their curricula. Like their students, teachers learn by doing! By collaborating with peers, reflecting, planning classroom activities, not by sitting and listening to a facilitator or following along in directed technology instruction.” This form of professional development would benefit the educators at my school not only during our monthly one-hour meetings, but during our sporadic in-service days as well!
Gaible, E., and Burns, M. 2005. Models and Best Practices in Teacher Professional Development. In Using Technology to Train Teachers: Appropriates uses of ICT for Teacher Professional Development in Developing Countries (pp. 15-24). Washington, DC: Infodev/World Bank.