Teaching is a cyclical process that involves knowing and understanding the current research and best practices for teaching and learning. Today’s teachers are expected to use grade level content standards, research-based best practices and blended learning strategies. This means they must narrow down what should be taught and what students need to learn in bite-sized chunks based on the time allotted per class period.
After the content has been taught, teachers reflect on what students have learned and a new set of questions arise about the effectiveness of their teaching and impact on student achievement. Teachers begin to realize that there are three distinct phases that influence the process of teaching and learning. The first one is the planning phase which includes curriculum and instruction, teaching and learning. The second is the implementation of what was planned. Third is the process of reflection after, and sometimes during class.
Where is the Accountability?
Teachers are being held accountable for student achievement which means they must assess what went well, who learned and didn’t learn, what they learned and why, how to improve the teaching and learning process for the next class, and what should be reviewed, retaught and reinforced. When we think about this process (which includes standards, research and educational decision making) you must consider the importance of each of these phases: Planning, Implementation and Reflection. Within these three phases there are so many variables that must be considered and quite often teachers need professional development and coaching supports to sharpen their skills.
In order to be an effective educator, or further, to run an effective school, it’s important to provide yourself and your staff with opportunities to develop professionally. Schools that are on the forefront of the best evidence based teaching practices are the ones that maintain excellent reputations.
Some people are simply intuitive teachers, luckily born with a distinct ability to know how best to instruct each student. Intuition may have served well enough in the past, but research and technology are developing exponentially, exceeding the reach of basic intuition. History has shown the rate of educational change was extremely slow until the mid-twentieth century.
Up until that point, methods may have been adjusted every few decades, and the material being taught was picked out of stuffy old books and journals. Many student textbooks were falling apart due to old age, there simply wasn’t any advancement in the availability of new information.
Now, new information is constantly being published and distributed. Expansive research on educational practice is putting forth insights and recommendations on how to run a more effective class. Additionally, the technology used in classrooms is developing at equally high rates. Chalkboards are being replaced with Smart boards, pen and paper being replaced by stylus and iPad.
Further education is often needed to fully understand and operate this innovative technology. Because of this, teachers who want to provide an excellent education must seek professional development.
Effective Teaching and High Student Achievement
Research shows that 50% of student achievement comes from student ability. The remaining factors are variations of home life, personal difficulties, teacher ability, and peer impact. Not surprisingly, 30% of that remainder is based on the teacher’s ability. The truth: an astonishing 80% of student achievement is directly influenced by student and teacher ability alone.
The difficulty here is implementing a real, consistent change in your own performance as a teacher. This change can only come with continued professional development, coaching supports and a partnership for professional growth over time. This professional learning community process is further bolstered by a group effort to implement change.
Schools that show interest in giving their teachers opportunities for professional development show higher rates of student success. Additionally, low-income schools that push professional development have fewer opportunity gaps.
In order for students to benefit, professional development should be implemented in areas that need it. This requires a solid analysis of teacher behavior, student achievement, and strengths and weaknesses before a professional development plan is adopted school-wide.
In this way, data can help administrators truly realize what areas need attention. Analyzing data before and after professional development has allowed researchers to confirm that this sort of continued teacher education does, in fact, benefit students greatly.
There are a few clear qualities that professional development requires to be effective. These are generally true among all schools, but could be amended if a specific situation calls for unique changes.
Firstly, professional development should be carefully planned in advance. This refers to the ideas discussed above, which allow for a calculated method of identifying and acting on weaknesses in the school.
Secondly, these programs should also be concise and strict. Some college courses allow for leniency and wiggle room, but in programs where particular students are directly affected, courses should be clear and rigid in their grading and practice.
Next, in all cases, data should be the driving force behind the programs that you choose to implement. Using data allows these programs to collect direct evidence as to why specific actions do or do not benefit your students. The last thing you want is to waste money on learning something that will have no direct benefit for your students.
Finally, the investment in continued education should have an effect on the school community and bring the district closer together in sharing and implementing positive change.
How Schools Can Provide Professional Development
There are a number of ways that schools can provide their staff with opportunities for professional development. While some continued education programs can get a little pricey, there are plenty of others that provide useful services to teachers without causing major financial hardship.
Communities of Learning
Organizing forums for teachers around the district to gather and discuss their practices can be a good way to develop professionally. It is possible that neighboring schools are experiencing success and are willing to share their secrets with you. In any case, collaboration is likely to benefit all those involved.
Odds are if you’re working near other schools, they are experiencing the same issues you are. They may have something to offer you, or you may have something to offer them. They may also have tips and tricks regarding new technology, ways to use applications, or emerging research. You won’t know unless you carve out the time to brainstorm together.
Professional Development Grants
Unless your school has some unfathomable pit of wealth, you’re going to need funding to provide your teachers with continued education. You have a couple of options, the main one being to apply for grants. Depending on the funder, you could receive an incredible amount of money to send your teachers back to school. YES – teachers need to go back to school, too!
You’ll be able to find viable options for funding after doing a brief search online for continued education funders. The real trick to grants is being able to make your application and proposal stand out from the competition. You may think that you’re an excellent writer, you know how to follow instructions, and you have the ability to make your work stand out from the crowd.
The thing is, every other person who has graduated college feels pretty much the same way. You may have a gift for flashy writing, and that’s great! But in order to win a grant, you need to focus on concision and attention to minute detail.
Grant funders have a few things in mind. Primarily, they want to put their money in a place that will benefit them in the long run. It’s nice to think that big companies give hundreds of thousands of dollars to do good, but ultimately, they are a business and they want to see a return on their investments.
So, write the grant request using language that reflects a benefit to the company you’re writing to.
Additionally, most of the sections in a grant application are clear-cut and have definite expectations. You’ll stand miles ahead of the competition if you browse the company’s website and use language that mirrors the wording they use on their site.
If you’re looking to further your students’ achievement outcomes and provide an overall better experience for your school, strongly consider pursuing professional development for your staff. Not sure where to start, wanting to learn more about encouraging your teacher’s professional development? Visit our website to gather more background information on how we can help and feel free to reach out via our contact page. The supports you need are out there, you simply need to seek them out.
Authored by: Dr.