Friday, February 28, 2014

Redesigning PD for the 21st Century School: Creating A More "Voice and Choice" Approach

For the past six months, I've been working intensely on organizing PD both at my school and at my daughter's school.   I've surrounded much of the year working on training teachers in many of the latest and best practices ranging from unit planning, classroom management, blended learning, PBL, to assessment for feedback, flipped education, and effective group work.  I've recently spent some time at the NAIS conference speaking with Heads of School and Directors of Curriculum from other schools who say they've gotten lots of push back from teachers about their PD. I think this is an issue in all schools.   Many are well meaning, critiquing what could have been done differently at each PD session.  Some offering insights that are particularly helpful.  The main problem was the insights were so diverse because our teachers needs were so diverse.  This is true at all schools.  Customized PD is certainly something that needs to be accomplished.

I've come to a conclusion.  Most schools are going about doing PD all wrong.  Rather than organizing half days around what we think (based even on polling faculty) they want in PD or what we perceive they need (based on data we have gathered on their performance), we need to instead carve into their schedule time they will be able to take upon themselves learning opportunities within a framework of what they need to work on within their professional development plans.  How will they get there?  That is their choice.  We need to put the learner, in this case the teacher, in the driver seat.  We need to redesign PD like we are redesigning our students learning.  We need to allow teachers the choice of what workshops to take, what books to read, what learning communities to tap into in order to accomplish their goals.  We can provide them an outline of what we want them to work on based on observations, but we need to allow teachers to choose the method to do this.  The learner, especially a teacher, has a profound understand of how they learn best.  We need to trust their instinct.  This does not mean divorcing the situation of accountability.  Quite the reverse, this means giving them the opportunity to document their growth, their "work product" in their own way.  

This is what I propose, and since this is a work in progress, I would love to hear feedback.  I propose giving them a half day once a month to work in teams with others in similar areas of weakness and come up with a plan of action themselves of how they want to work on this.  I propose giving every teacher a budget (this does not have to be large) to buy books, take an online course, etc.  I propose having them each create a portfolio (could even be on  Schoology, Canvas or another LMS) demonstrating what they did to get to their goal at the end of the year.  

I propose starting out the year with the teachers Professional development plan going over it with a teacher, working it out with both teacher and department head and then having them step back with others and create a plan of action.  Administrators, like myself, could then check up on faculty mid year to see their progress and provide suggestions and help along the way.  

To this end, I propose adapting the Silver and Strong Model of observation and creating a PDP template like the one I created here:  Picking two areas in consultation with the teacher and department head on what you want the teacher to focus on for that year.  Having teachers use their professional development time, both the monthly half day and other time built into their schedule, to work on these two areas in group in ways they learn best.