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Resource: Effective PD

by Sue Nichols | 1 | 0 Comments

Remember the last time you learned something new, like playing tennis or bridge?  You probably spoke to an expert, took lessons, practiced, took more lessons, tried again, made mistakes, and sought more help.  It likely took a long time to garner the skills you needed to be proficient, and you could only learn with practice and assistance from someone more knowledgeable.

When teachers attend professional development on an unfamiliar topic, they too, need help before they can fully implement the new instructional practices in the classroom.  Not only do they need to fully understand the new concept, but they must be given time and support to change their practices.

They need effective, practical professional development that goes beyond the one time workshop to change teacher practice and, ultimately, student learning.  The Center for Public Education recently published a research paper titled Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability, where they review what research says about successful PD:

  • It must be ongoing and last long enough for teachers to become comfortable with a new skill and grapple with the implementation issues. Research shows some teachers might need up to 50 hours of practice and coaching before mastering a new skill.
  • Teachers must be supported after initial training as they adopt new instructional practices in their classrooms. Their greatest challenge comes when they try to use their new skills with students, and their initial attempts are often unsuccessful.  They need to practice, be observed, given feedback, and encouraged not to give up if students don’t readily embrace the strategies.
  • Educators should be challenged in various ways to connect with the PD strategies. A few suggested activities include readings, open ended discussions about the PD, modeling and observing others.
  • Modeling provided by an expert is highly effective when introducing a new classroom practice.

Ultimately, the goal of professional development is to improve student results, and this can only be accomplished by giving teachers the knowledge, time to experiment, and support they need to change their instructional practices.

Sue Nichols

Sue Nichols Sue is the Client Service Director at Keys to Literacy. She is an expert in crafting school and district wide professional development strategies that result in long lasting and sustainable change.

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