Summer is the perfect time for school districts to restructure their professional development plan. A successful strategy incorporates all of the district stakeholders: administrators, teachers, technology coaches and curriculum directors. The first step in crafting a PD program is identifying goals for next year; be that expanding technology tools, offering support for a specific department, or focusing on a particular curriculum component. Next, research tools and resources that will help your district reach these goals. Finally, review the existing PD plan and expenses, and consider allocating funds in a new way. If a majority of the budget last year was spent on conference attendance, consider using it this year for an on-site workshop, or a blended learning PD platform. This week, we'll focus on creating a plan outline. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on finding PD resources and budget restructuring.
Start by identifying instructional goals. Your PD program may be dictated by your district's strategic plan, or you may choose to take a more flexible, democratic approach by surveying stakeholders about what they feel is important in next year's PD program. Here are a few ways you can engage others in outlining PD goals:
- E-mail survey. Summer is a busy time for teachers, who may beenjoying time off or working a seasonal job. Send a brief, three-to-five question survey. You could have teacher's rank issues on importance on a scale of one to five, or answer true-false questions about the state ofPD at the district. For example: True or false? I feel that our existing PD program supports my individual teaching goals. A benefit of this strategy is that collecting and aggregating data is simple.
- Connect with advocates. Reach out to teachers who are known for being vocal and honest. This might be a person who has (respectfully) challenged district protocols in the past. Ask them for their honest opinion on the current state of professional development in the district, and be prepared for constructive feedback.
If you don't already have one, consider asking interested teachers in participating in a professional development committee. While they might not be able to meet before the start of the school year, they can be instrumental in crafting and adapting PD plans in the future.
Using the information you gathered, identify the top two or three areas for improvement. How do these points align (or not align) with your district's strategic plan? Have these areas been the focus of professional development in the past?
You should also identify whether or not these topics apply to the district as a whole. If you got a lot of feedback about issues with standardized testing from the math department, but not from any other departments, this may not be an area you choose to focus on in the overall, district-wide PD plan. That's not to say it's not important -- be sure to address any and all concerns shared by your teachers in one way or another. (Like calling a meeting with a specific group to problem solve.) In order for a PD plan to be successful, teachers should feel that their voices are heard, and their voluntary feedback is being taken seriously.
Breadth vs. depth
Decide how specific you'd like your PD objectives to be. For example, a district with a large Hispanic population might identify "improving outcomes for Spanish language students," as an area of focus, and could provide teachers with tools to connect specifically with those students and their parents (ie. bilingual learning materials). Alternatively, your goal might be "improving outcomes for ESL students." Here, you would take a broader approach, offering workshops on general ESL strategies (ie. using visuals in presentations, modifying assignments).
How you decide to frame your objectives is up to you and your stakeholders. Regardless of the objective you choose, make sure you'll be able to measure the outcome of the program at the end of the year. Next week, we'll take a look at different ways schools across the nation structure their PD plans.
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