Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tackling the Difference Between the PD Teachers Want and What They Need Via the Professional Development Plan

This is a topic I have been hesitant to tackle.  The reason being is that I never want to discourage a teacher from learning new things, or putting new items in their "toolbox;" however, I have found many times that teachers prefer to learn things that are catchy or sound cool, rather than learn about things they actually need to improve on as a classroom teacher to be more effective with their students.  For example, I have tons of teachers that flock to learning about project based learning or tech tools, or flipped education.  

While I adore their passion, I find that many of the teachers with this passion towards newer educational models, often need a firm foundation in classroom management and their own disciplines first.  I find teachers that are excellent in classroom management and perhaps weak in differentiation flocking to workshops about research or flipped education.  While I want them to learn this too, I really want all my teachers to focus on their own areas of weakness before really focusing on alternative areas of growth.  

Hence the professional development plan comes into play.  In public schools, this is required in most states as a condition for a teacher's employment.  However, in private schools and yeshivot, this becomes an increasingly difficult area to regulate.   I recommend this be remedied easily by every school by simply requiring every teacher in every building in every school to have a professional development plan and utilizing that plan to effectively monitor what teachers do to work on improving their given areas of weakness and what they can do to contribute to the school community in their areas of strength by teaching others.  

While creating a Professional development plan for all teachers is vital, you may be asking how to do assess teachers to know what areas of weakness they have to determine which plan to use?  I utilize an adapted version of the Silver and Strong Model I have tweaked for our high school.  The actual model is one of many approved by NY state to use to evaluate teachers.  It is based on the seminal work by Silver and Strong called, "The Thoughtful Teacher."  I highly recommend this model because it is a good balance between Danielson and Marzano and incorporates many of the aspects of Bloom's Taxonomy.  In addition to evaluating the teachers three times annually and then working with them and their department heads to craft an appropriate PDP, I give teachers the self assessment rubric as a survey before the school year even begins.  This enables them to reflect on their practice.  When I observe teachers, I literally take a "running record" of the class recording everything that occurs in the class when I observe them and then go back and fill out the Silver and Strong like form.

Here is a copy of the entire database of NY approved Assessment Tools for teachers:

Here is the Silver and Strong Model:

Here is a copy of the Magen David Yeshivah High School Professional Development Plan I require all of our teachers to fill out.  It is largely based on the Silver and Strong Observation Model, and neatly works with observations conducted using that rubric: 

Now once they have the plan, you are probably wondering what stops them from ignoring the areas of growth or keeps them focused on those areas?  Well, I meet with the teachers regularly before and after observations to remind them of their areas of growth and encourage them to attend workshops, read books, and come work with me and other teachers on those areas.  At the end of the year, I expect all my teachers to have documentation supporting how they personally dedicated themselves towards this growth.  It is part of their spring evaluation.  This encourages them to participate in meaningful activities and learning opportunities (both formal and informal) to dedicate themselves towards this growth.  Can they continue to sign up for workshops on areas they want to grow in rather than need to?  Yes, but they know that's only in addition to the core requirements for them that year.