At our 2016 InterAct CLASS Summit, we asked a group of educators to share their biggest difficulties in implementing professional development within their organizations. Despite the group’s diverse backgrounds, they reported similar challenges:
We're excited to introduce the third post in our four-post series discussing strategies to help with these common challenges.
Starting up a new professional development (PD) program is always exciting, but it also presents many challenges to overcome. In the last post we talked about obtaining teacher buy-in, and while this is incredibly important, we’ve also learned that buy-in is only one piece of the PD puzzle. To have a meaningful impact on children’s learning and outcomes, a well developed plan for PD that supports all teachers and achieves organizational goals is essential.
But, before creating a plan, you must first take a few things into consideration. First, it is critical that you understand all your barriers such as: time, resource limitations, and logistical complications—and then brainstorm creative solutions. By intentionally looking at data and learning from your previous and current PD plan, you can make informed decisions. Reflecting on the answers to the questions below will help you build success in your new initiative.
Start by reviewing classroom and student outcomes data and identifying available resources (e.g., money, materials, staff time) that support professional development. Reflect on your current efforts and think creatively about the way in which PD is provided. Not all PD has to be facilitated by a coach or an outside expert, nor does it have to be expensive. For example, chances are good that you have some master teachers who can provide support to other staff members, stretching your PD budget while creating valuable leadership opportunities.
Reflect on questions such as:
Highlight the components of your current program that are having a positive impact on teachers’ growth and children’s outcomes. Try to determine not just what works, but why and how it works. Tease out components that are not producing the desired impact, especially when compared to the time, resources, and finances you invest in them. Again, contemplate why components of the current program not working and consider trying possible modifications.
Reflect on questions such as:
Work with a small group (that includes teachers) to brainstorm creative solutions. Think of new ways to overcome time and resource challenges by considering ideas such as coaching in collaborative teacher groups, utilizing online learning opportunities, cultivating leadership, supporting mentorships, encouraging reflective practice, and reallocating resources. Think about a reasonable timeline for your professional development plan. Determine how and when classroom observations and child outcomes will be measured in order to best evaluate the impact of your PD program.
Reflect on questions such as:
"One-size-fits-all" professional development plans may be tempting, but is seldom (if ever!) successful. The challenge is truly finding the right mix for each organization that balances needs with assets. We hope you find our suggestions and questions helpful and we welcome your comments below sharing what works in your organization and what has been problematic.
Thinking outside the PD box is so much easier when we all help each other brainstorm creative solutions!
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
As an educator, you’re busy. Your time is being split by competing priorities, from managing students’ needs, meeting your program’s goals, and communicating with parents. While you’re juggling your work, it can be difficult to keep learning about important ways to improve your daily teaching practice. Teachstone is here to help!