Tutoring Strategies: Professional Development for Educators
We all know there are benefits to attending professional development for educators, but recent research, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, shows that high-quality professional development for educators also positively impacts student test scores. “Researchers examined the impact of high quality, ongoing professional development that included face-to-face and online workshops, peer coaching and mentoring, and site visits,” writes education blogger Kathy Baron in a recent Edutopia article on the benefits of quality professional development. “In the end, it was a daily double of improvement for both teachers and students in the experimental group. Both tested significantly higher in math knowledge than peers in the control group, even though teachers all started at the same level.”
As an educator, you have a vast array of professional development options available to you. But knowing how to access the highest quality opportunities — and then figuring out how to gain the most from these daylong or weekend-long opportunities can be confusing. We’ve pulled the following guide together to help you navigate some of the most promising professional development for educators.
FINDING QUALITY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR EDUCATORS
- Researchers involved in the Maine study mentioned above have compiled a list of what constitutes “high-quality professional development for educators.” Included in this list:
- Fosters a deepening of subject-matter knowledge, a greater understanding of learning, and a greater appreciation of students’ needs.
- Centers around the critical activities of teaching and learning – planning lessons, evaluating student work, developing curriculum, improving classroom practices, and increasing student learning — rather than in abstractions and generalities.
- Focuses on the curriculum standards for students and the alignment of teaching, curriculum, and assessment with those standards.
- One of the most thorough lists of professional development for educators comes from Education Week magazine. This complete, interactive directory of K-12 professional development resources includes hundreds of opportunities divided by topic categories. Some topics include:
- Professional development for educators has exploded thanks to new technology that makes it possible for educators to stay at home and still attend professional development conferences. A few good places to look for online opportunities include Teacher Talk, which offers online teacher-to-teacher trainings every Thursday at 9 a.m. EST, and WizIQ, which offers a broad array of online courses, the prices of which vary from free to $5 to more than $300 depending on the scope and intensity of the course.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
We sifted through dozens of articles and blogs and advice columns written by educators with several years’ worth of professional development under their belts to come up with the following tips for making the most of your professional development opportunities:
- Know your own strengths as an educator before selecting a professional development course. “Find PDs that further those skills so that you can get the most out of them to support areas where you’re not so incredible,” advises a recent Edudemic article titled, “6 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Next Professional Development.”
- Find a professional development opportunity that has clear, well-defined goals and objectives. “Too many goals will overwhelm educators … too few goals will prevent growth,” cautions one educator in his blog article, “10 Tips for Effective Professional Development.”
- Get inspired — Before you attend your next professional development session, visit the TED site and watch a few inspiring videos on extraordinary educators and/or students. Check out this article, “When Education is Not a Given: 8 Inspiring TED Talks” for a few ideas.
- Share what you’ve learned with other educators. “There are so many social networking places to share your lesson ideas and materials,” says one educator who recently wrote an article titled, “50 Professional Development Ideas for the New Year.” Take the skills you learn at your professional development session and share those with your colleagues or with the general public via your own blog or social media site.
What is your experience with professional development for educators? Have you found some high-quality options? Were they in-person or online or a combination of the two? What advice would you give other educators hoping to make the most of their professional development? Share your thoughts and opinions with us in our Comments section below.