Pondering the Future of Professional Development

This post is also published at Magistra’s Musings and has been co-written by Danja Mahoney (MagistraM) and I.

Here are two professional development possibilities that are in the works. Which policy appeals to you the most? If you could write the PD policy for your district, what would you look for?
Policy A:
All teachers will attain certain goals each year of their employment. They will attend prescribed workshops (e.g. blogging, podcasting) with specific targets to be met at the end of every two years. By the end of 6 years in the district, all teachers will be expected to have met all of the PD goals by attending the predetermined workshops. Teachers will be evaluated on their successful completion of the workshops and having demonstrated mastery of the material covered in each workshop. Continued employment is contingent on regularly meeting the goals detailed in the district plan. 
Policy B:
As a benefit of employment, all employees will be given the opportunity to further their professional knowledge through participation in workshops designed to increase knowledge and understanding of technologies. These life skills workshops will be offered regularly with a variety of topics to be presented during each workshop period. Workshops will include podcasting, blogging, building a PLN, etc. During each session, educators will have the opportunity to choose which workshop best meets his/her current needs. Each two years the educator will list the workshops attended and reflect on how those tools/skills have improved his teaching/learning. At the end of 6 years all teachers will have had the opportunity to attend all of the district’s workshops.
Which plan would you vote for? Things to add or subtract? Pros/cons?

5 thoughts on “Pondering the Future of Professional Development

  1. I would say I am more inclined to like Policy B. Policy B allows teachers to focus the instruction on the kids whereas Policy A seems more focused on the teacher’s proficiency at certain aspects of technology and sounds like I am back being an undergraduate student.

    At the end of the day, it’s about giving teachers the resources to educate the students the best ways. Policy A forgets to empower the teachers to explore their interests in technology and let them run with their passion.

  2. There certainly is a lot to talk about in these two paragraphs… Here are some things that strike me right away.

    Will PD be limited strictly to technology? Is there any room for content specific or other types of instructional practice PD?

    There are a number of teachers in the district that are already proficient in all of the areas that are mentioned. What will their next 6 years of PD be? I hope they will not be simply going through the motions just to sign off on a piece of paper.

    “Continued employment is contingent on regularly meeting the goals detailed in the district plan.” This is a bold statement. Will someone actually be let go because he or she cannot make a podcast?

    Have we determined what these “life skills” will be? And, more importantly, have we determined if they are truly essential to delivering high quality instruction? A year ago, I might have said Twitter was essential. Now, not so much.

    Who will run these workshops? I assume they will be teacher led from inside the district, rather than expert-run from the outside. Don’t get me wrong. I love presenting, but I also love to learn new things. When do these teacher leaders get the time to learn and expand their knowledge?

    All that aside, I tend to lean toward things that are less restrictive and prescribed, and of these two choices, Policy B seems like the best option. Anything that allows me to choose what best suits my own learning needs gets my vote.

  3. We often here educators today speak critically about how the strict adherence to standards and uniform assessments are creating a generation of students who are cookie-cutter in some respects. In a way I believe this mentality represents option A, with all teachers expected to achieve the following minimum requirements while the district makes sure there are plenty of opportunities for teachers to reach them. Like Steve Olivo, I wonder if this will result in less opportunities to share and learn for those who are or wish to stretch beyond those minimum requirements.

    Option B lends itself to a bit more ‘genetic variety’ so to speak amongst the district’s faculty. Giving educators the opportunity to choose their paths toward tech literacy will provide those striving to reach the minimal requirements to reach those as illustrated in option A. The significant difference here is the written commitment to support those teachers who are experimenting with newer tools and staying on the cutting edge of education and technology progress.

    One teacher I discussed this with even noted that a policy like option B allows the district to market itself to prospective employees as a place of professional development driven by the employees professional interests. Professional development policies such as these will spread word of mouth among educators, ideally leading more highly-driven educators to work in the district.

  4. I strongly prefer Option B.

    There is a monetary incentive to complete 36 hours of professional development in my district. The teacher must announce their intention to “go” for the incentive in October and outline in general what kind of classes he/she will be taking. Then throughout the school year the teacher takes courses that match their original plan. At the end of the school year, the teacher writes a brief summary of how the PD has impacted student learning. The principal signs off on this. All PD must be “approved” by the District or the school based planning team.

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