Professional Development – Is it worth it?

Just recently, all staff at my school received an email from our Professional Development (PD) coordinator  indicating that the budgets were already stretched half-way through the school year and that further PD would only be approved if it was essential. After reading a blog by Dr Ash Casey,  I’ve been thinking about how useful PD is and how much of what we actually do at these events is actually put into action?

I know from my own experiences with PD that you often come away with a handful of great ideas but once you get back to work the next day, you have a mountain of emails to sort through, lesson notes etc stacked on your desk and by the time the dust has cleared the things you have learned have already been stored away and you slip back into what is comfortable.

It has lead me to believing that if we head to these days and just come away with a good feed (and sometimes not even that) and a nice cruisy day away from students, and we never change our teaching methods to introduce what we’ve learned, we are in essence wasting money that could be spent better on other things.

So, as head teacher of a department, what can I do to make sure that my staff are using what they’ve learned at a PD course to not only improve their teaching but more importantly, improve the learning of the students we teach. As a result, I’ve decided to create a document that staff will fill out when they return to school that will assess what they learned at the course as well as how and where they can implement it into their teaching. This can then be followed by a review of their practices in say 3 months time to see whether they have used what they learned.

But what should I include exactly? My starting questions are:

  • Identify the practices/ideas from the PD course that you attended that you feel you could/would be helpful to introduce to your teaching
  • For each practice you have listed, identify areas/topics/units that they could be employ

The follow up will probably include questions such a:

  • How well do you feel that you have integrated the information learned at the PD course into you teaching?
  • Indicate, which of the practices/ideas you have tried, which unit it was in, how effectively it worked and how you could alter it so that it would be more effective.

I’m interested to hear what people think. What else could I include? Do you use anything similar? How successful is it?

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2 thoughts on “Professional Development – Is it worth it?

  1. Great thinking, Jay!
    I couldn’t agree more, that by the time you’ve settled back into things, it’s so easy to have forgotten what you have learnt.

    What about videoing the new technique in action in the classroom?

    or perhaps other faculty members being given release time to observe the new technique(s) in action?

  2. Feedback and critique is key to any process. The business world (my background) is built on it. You set the plan, implement it, review it and then alter accordingly.

    Really like your thoughts on this Jay. As head teacher you have the ability to set the tone for your staff and my encouragement would be twofold:

    1) Ensure that your questions are a combination of both open ended qualitative responses along with quantitative data. That way you can track past performance and identify trends across time. (i.e. do I keep ploughing money into PD if I can prove that no benefit is coming from it over time)

    2) Ensure that all staff are aware of the process well in advance and set an official meeting with them to discuss their PD experience. In my opinion, it must never be done on the fly or in a staffroom with others.

    As a head teacher, I would encourage you also to take some of their learnings from the PD and try your best to integrate them into your classroom to see if you have the same experience as your staff. Could set you up for a helpful discussion at your meeting with the staff member.

    When it all comes down to it, you are the pace setter in your department and PD is only as good as its leader.

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