Here are my notes from Tuesday’s Professional Development Roundtable sponsored by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). This was an EXCELLENT conversation.
Effective professional development for educators
- Peer-to-peer training is particularly effective for teachers and administrators. Training also should be job-embedded. The focus should be the project or task, not the technology.
- Alabama has found that the graduates of their Gates grant initiative constitute the bulk of the innovative school- and district-level technology leaders in the state.
- Dr. Mary Ann Wolf, Executive Director of SETDA, asked me to talk about CASTLE! Administrators need dedicated funding, training, and TIME to learn.
- Coaching models for professional development (PD) work extremely well.
- New York City has a comprehensive PD model that includes principals, teachers, etc. Principals want to see best practices and what’s working in other schools. In contrast, teachers want people to come to their classroom, to discuss ‘what works here.’ Having an in-school professional developer works really well for teachers. It’s important to have both the in-class and the off-campus components.
- A lot of people don’t really know what high-quality PD looks like.
- Brenda Williams, West Virginia Department of Education: If you get professional development right, student learning will improve.
- Steve Andrews, Intel: The politics of cost is incredible. EDC has found that If you can get one PD coach per building, the results and progress are amazing.
- Project-based administrator training needs to involve the team, not just individuals. The principals need their assistant principals, teacher leaders, etc.
- We need to get teachers into other classroom via learning walks, observations, lesson study, etc.
- Principals need to have an actionable theory of change.
- There are a number of strong PD models in existence. SETDA is going to try to collect and then disseminate some of these models.
Barriers to effective, scalable professional development
- Lack of adequate, large-scale Internet access in training facilities. The West Virginia Department of Education forced state hotels to step up or risk losing all of its workshops!
- IT people still aren’t talking to curriculum people, assessment people, etc.
- There is a fairly large number of obstructionist teachers.
- Time, perceptions of endurance, perceptions of efficiency. Teachers wonder if it’s worth investing in a technology because it is changing so fast. Teachers have seen a number of technologies come and go [and they have resisted all of them!].
- Lack of exposure to effective models for technology-related PD.
- Many teachers view technology as a classroom distraction rather than as a meaningful learning tool.
- We don’t bring IT people into the process soon enough. They need more lead time and more involvement.
- Statewide programs have trouble ensuring consistency and implementation fidelity.
- Intentionality is important. Technology training that’s driven by subject learning goals (e.g., we need to get our math scores up) is more successful. Dedicated time and focused assessment also are necessary.
- Leadership turnover and program sustainability are issues.
- Leaders need help translating models of effective PD and time reallocation to their local implementation context.
- Content area people need to be involved in the tech training. Instruction first.
- Tom Carroll, NCTAF: Are we applying the right treatment to the right teachers? One technology PD model does not fit the learning needs of all teachers (just like students).
- Students need to be the ultimate focus of teacher PD efforts. It’s not about the tools, it’s about how it benefits the students. Having students demonstrate and discuss can be a powerful motivator to teachers. Clayton Christenson: The disruptive innovation in education is not charter schools or online schools. It’s student-centered learning.
- New teachers are effective users of personal technologies and are comfortable with instructional technologies. However, they have few models of good technology integration in their schools and they also probably had instructional technology courses in their pre-service program that were separate from their content methods courses.
- Preservice teachers do not come out of college as instructional designers.
- Steve Andrews, Intel: One of the most incredible opportunities of our lifetimes is before us.
- We need to use pride, greed, hope, love, and guilt to get teachers moving.
- Schools’ poor use of technology is having negative impacts on the retention of young teachers.
Policy and practice recommendations
- Specific guidelines of 1 instructional coach per 1,000 students.
- Concrete strategies for changing how we do business (at all levels), maybe differentiated by setting, size, and locale.
- Strategies for informing and engaging parents / community members.
- A comprehensive K-20 vision and agenda – state level and/or national level – that drives forward movement.
- Mandatory interactions between K-12 and higher education. [NCATE requires that colleges work with schools?]
- We need to pay more attention to our leaders!
- Colleges of education are not going to accept any responsibility (for technology training, outreach, service, PD) until legislatures, departments of education, and/or accrediting agencies make them do so. [U. Minnesota performance review: ‘Dr. McLeod’s work with schools is exemplary but inappropriate.’]
- We need to follow up statements of ‘It’s so expensive to do this’ with the reply ‘What is the cost of not doing this?’ We need to think more in terms of investment (not cost) and return on investment.
- We have to figure out what to take off educators’ plates (the idea of prioritized abandonment).
- Most high-functioning companies spend about 4% of their budgets on employee training. We come nowhere close to this in K-12 education.
- We need to remember the interconnectedness of the success of the whole. We don’t want others to cherry pick components of what should be a comprehensive approach to systemic school reform.
Thanks for this post. It was very interesting to read the benefits and the barriers to good professional learning for teachers. I am to begin a peer coaching program for my region. I can see how this round table discussion would have been thought provoking and relevant.
What a great conversation starter for educators interested in supporting the development of eLearning in the classroom. Recognising the importance of coaching at the coalface (I like the term, job-embedded) means that we recognise that supporting the PD of teachers within the context of their daily work. Hopefully this then means that they see this as simply part of the work they do and not as an intrusive add on.
Thank you for posting your notes–I plan to share them with the IT person at my new (and former) school