Professional Development of teachers involves the acquisition of skills and knowledge both for personal development and for career advancement. As we know, educators are the heart of students’ education, spending time and money in their professional development is always an investment as it benefits the organization a lot.
In today’s education system, being an administrator or decision maker is one of the challenging jobs as it involves numerous tasks to lead an organization in the path of success. Sometimes principals need to spend lot of money and time on professional development programs of educators as it’s very necessary to tackle the challenges in current education system. What administrators do traditionally is to decide a specific schedule, hire trainers and conduct training programs. This approach appears to be effective but still there are many drawbacks. Let me share some views of educators regarding professional development programs:
Professional Training programs shouldn’t be occasional:
“Professional learning shouldn’t happen just one or two days a year” , said Anne Reardon , MASD K-12 Instructional Coach focused on helping teachers and students use technology to learn, share and grow. According to Anne, educational institutions shouldn’t conduct PD programs just occasionally. They don’t give effective results and at the same time they can’t make teachers interested in learning. What administrators need to focus on is the quality of learning and not the quantity of hours spent.
Training should be hands-on, engaging and applicable:
Another educator Michele Ramsey added a supportive statement which stated that institutions should focus on learning and what educators need is a professional development that is hands-on, engaging and applicable.
Why many educators vote against the current approach?
Having Trainers and a specific schedule to conduct the training programs is the current approach our education system is following. It has the following drawbacks.
Knowing how to use technology is a way different from knowing how to teach with technology in a classroom. Generally trainers are the professionals who know about the technical usage of educational technologies, they can’t help educators use such approaches effectively in a classroom.
Most of the educators believe that professional development is an ongoing learning process that goes on every day. They can’t accept that a 2-3 days training helps them develop professionally.
“Spending Hours of PD for teachers is like seat time for kids. We need to focus on the learning”, said Anne Reardon.
Having trainers from outside can’t offer flexibility for educators as they may not be available when educators need them to clarify their queries.
In addition to the above mentioned ones, there are many drawbacks of conventional professional training approach. It’s difficult for administrators to lead the organization in the path of success with this approach. Many educators and administrators worked on this challenge and came up with a creative way to overcome it. Let’s learn about it.
Using Peers to model and train other teachers:
“Peers” means “people from a same group”. Here in the education system, “Peers” are referred as “teachers within the organization”. As we know, every institution has rock star teachers who are highly experienced and talented, capable of quickly adopting technical teaching methods and willing to share their knowledge with other educators. Those educators are called star teachers or rock star teachers. They use to develop themselves professionally through the usage of many online platforms. Administrators find a creative way of utilizing those teachers to train their remaining educators. Let’s learn about its advantages briefly.
Only a teacher knows how other educators think. Educators respond better to a teacher who shares the similar attitude and situation. They can’t collaborate with a tech professional as their perceptions are different. Trust plays a key role here. Educators accept to learn from a teacher only when they truly believe in his abilities. Administrators must recognize the fact that effective professional and personal development happens when educators within an organization start working together towards a common goal.
The absolute way to make educators feel comfortable to seek help in using technologies is to have a leader educator who does not assess their teaching. According to human psychology, if a person feels that he is being assessed or judged, he eventually avoids seeking advice. So, what administrators should make sure of is selecting a key educator who wins the trust and admiration of his peers. This helps the key educator to become a true leader and other educators learn comfortably under his guidance.
It’s difficult to train all the teachers at one pace. So, investing in those educators who are quick learners and utilizing them further in helping the rest of the teachers is undoubtedly a cost effective and creative way.
Though the trainer teachers are always available in the institution, educators don’t need to wait if they have any problem in implementing a tech approach or using a technological device, product, app or resource in a classroom. Educators within an institution develop a positive relationamong them, with the peer-to-peer modeling and teaching, they work collaboratively to reach the goals.
Continuous ongoing process, not limited to a specific period or time:
If administrators hire special trainers for training the teachers, the professional development programs will be limited to a specific schedule. But in the new approach, both trainers and trainees share the same place of work so that the learning becomes continuous process.
Cultivates teacher leadership in a district:
As we know, there is no shortage for expert educators in any organization as every institution has at least one highly experienced educator. But ironically, districts look outside before looking inside their own walls for professional development support.
“When we think of teacher leadership, a lot of times, we think that they must want to be a principal or that they aspire to not be in the classroom anymore and nothing can be farther from the truth”, said Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, A former classroom teacher and district administrator, who works to help build communities for educators.
According to Sheryl, all an educator looks for is a chance to lead on his own, in an authentic environment, without stifling amounts of administrative oversight or hand-holding.
All administrators must encourage their staff to co-ordinate and lead their professional development instead of getting trained under a person from outside. This is one of the great advantages of using peers to model and train other teachers.
Provides staff with an opportunity to design their own learning:
Having expert teachers train other educators in an organization is a great way to utilize them for professional growth. If teachers involve right from the design process of their own learning, they’ll eventually know their value and become responsible for what they learn.
Inspires other teachers:
We can take star or rock star teachers as an example to express to other educators about their ways of teaching and utilizing educational technologies to teach, connect and collaborate with students, teachers, etc., within the organization as well as globally.
The above mentioned are the benefits of using peers to help other educators in their professional growth. We’d like to have your views of using this approach as well as your ideas of cost effective and innovative professional development training methods. Please feel free to share with us on the comment box.
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