Tweet from Dean Shareski: "I think 2 things are true: Teachers are overwhelmed and tired and teachers still need and want to learn. To that end, how do we design professional learning that equally honors both of those truths?"

Dean Shareski shared the above tweet in October 2021 that sparked robust debate, with educators of all levels sharing opinions on the topic. Learning Forward is keenly interested in Shareski’s question, so we reshared his tweet and posed this question to teachers earlier this year. We received more than 100 responses across Twitter and LinkedIn, making it our most engaging post, generating more than 2,500 likes and shares.

This blog post includes a sample of the 100+ responses, organized by six themes that emerged — professional learning should be:

  1. job-embedded
  2. solution-oriented
  3. teacher-led
  4. personalized/differentiated
  5. paid time or paid for
  6. considerate of educators’ emotional and mental health

 

For further exploration of these concepts, Learning Forward resources are listed below each theme.

Professional learning should be job-embedded.

 

Derek Porter: "I think the professional learning must be embedded in the teachers' workday. Are teachers given feedback and opportunities to reflect and grow based on the lessons we are teaching daily, real-time with student? Getting beyond sparing observation to regular, cyclical iteration would be far less overwhelming and exhausting."

Gopal Midha: "I am a teacher-ed researcher and PD facilitator and what you say is right. Most teachers feel overwhelmed and they need to learn. What I find useful is to conduct professional development in the everyday things teachers do- such as meetings and lesson planning- instead of creating separate PD seminars. Faculty meetings can be powerful routines of professional development where teachers make sense of new and old reading policies, discuss books/curriculum, share bits of student writing and good (and efficient) practices of writing report cards. We must break the eggs-in-a-crate and isolating model of teacher functioning in the school."

In Why Professional Development Matters, Hayes Mizell wrote, “professional development is most effective when it occurs in the context of educators’ daily work.”

In 2010, Learning Forward co-produced a brief on job-embedded professional development to educate the public of its importance.

Professional learning should provide immediate solutions.

 

Andrea Roberson: "I think the key is to make sure each PD/PLC is providing a solution to an immediate need. Teachers should leave each session empowered with tools to help them complete everyday tasks in a more efficient manner. The problem with a lot of our PD now is that it is information-heavy. So... teachers leave with an additional responsibility rather than an immediate solution."

Amy Mckenna: "Yes! This. I think that we, as teachers, are life-long learners, but are heavy now with so many roles to fulfill. If a PD happens to be information heavy it should also be solution-driven to this new information. Therefore, teachers should walk away with a handful of resources that are easy to take back to the classroom and ready to implement without further preparation and very little planning."

Kenyata Dean Bacon: "I attended a PD with James Feger with GLEC this week and it fed my teaching soul to hear about the needs of my students who have experienced trauma, how it affects their brains, and how they interact with the world. Although some of it I have heard before it gives me a renewed sense of how to help my kids, give them what they need and hence decrease how overwhelmed I am on a daily basis. I don't know if it's my why or the need for more strategy but nothing takes the place of good pd with someone who understands, cares, and has solutions that make sense. Give us what we need to serve our kids and less of the fluff. Thanks for asking."

Kenisha Taylor: " It should be something that provides an immediate solution to needs in the classroom and they should be easily and quickly implemented in the classroom."

Explore Learning Forward webinars and tools for immediate solutions that can be applied the same or next day.

Professional learning should be teacher-led.

 

Jannalee Moles: "They should start by learning from each other to bring cohesiveness practices to instruction. Belongingness develops among the staff and ownership in the school is true. Once trust is developed, research based practices can be introduced by the teacher leadership."

Sarah Webb: "Teachers are often given no option when it comes to professional development during the school year. They are told "when and where." In my last year of teaching, they seemed to be evolving in the direction of giving teachers input on what was valuable to them. I hope that has continued because that's really key—the teacher needs to believe in the value because so much of what is required of them is a waste of time. Allow them to make decisions for themselves to further their growth. As long as the teacher has a "growth mindset," micromanaging the growth shouldn't be necessary."

Noelani Mussman: "PD needs to be empowering and allow teachers to grow. For me that means engaging in problems of practice and providing opportunities for teachers to facilitate and guide each other. It is about honoring the innovations coming out of our classrooms and creating conversations across classrooms."

Shiela Escamilla: "Thanks, Noelani, innovations that are powered by conversations help teachers feel empowered through this shared experience."

The Culture of Collaborative Inquiry standard states, “When educators at every role, grade level, and content area collaborate for continuous improvement and support their colleagues’ ongoing learning and development, they increase learning opportunities for each student.”

Our services help maximize the impact of professional learning in schools by ensuring that teacher learning teams engage in a cycle of continuous improvement focused on meeting their students’ unique learning needs.

The recently released Action Guide for Teachers lists key roles and responsibilities to help teachers drive critical actions to achieve school goals and priorities. Included in this guide are reflection questions that teachers can use (with their colleagues) to determine action steps they will prioritize to develop, strengthen, transform, and sustain professional learning.

Professional learning should be personalized/differentiated.

 

Amelia Massey Gottselig: " Differentiated! We tell teachers to differentiate for their students, yet entire staffs of 60+ need the same professional development? Doubtful. I tried this at my most recent Department Meeting by breaking it up into three groups based on need - it was much more appreciated and felt like it honored time and experience better."

Mary-Adele Allison: "I think PDs should be differentiated developed based on: student needs as discovered through ongoing assessment, teacher’s struggles/needs, &!program gaps as discovered through school needs assessments. Re: School needs: Some administrators decide the kids need help with reading (due to scores) and automatically change the entire program. In truth, that decision should be based on a more comprehensive analysis: Are the kids struggling with decoding, phonemic awareness, comprehension, vocabulary…? What are the strengths of the present reading program? From this, you may find there is a need for a tweek with strategies or a small addition to the program - not a complete replacement. For example: adding a differentiated phonics program based on ongoing formative assessments or instruction in the thinking strategies/active reading,… The same could be true with Math. It may not be a complete overhaul or change in program, but an addition or change in the delivery. Our systems for PD should be constantly building on strengths. The power in a whole school focus is found when it is determined with the teachers - it creates a more powerful change and positive impact. Empowered teachers=empowered learners."

Savannah Libassi: "My district gives us some unstructured time with job-alike faculty for a few hours when we have a PD day and its absolutely wonderful being able to meet and talk without a mundane task to complete. I always leave feeling good."

The Learning Designs standard addresses the importance of setting relevant and contextualized goals.

Learning Forward has spent more than 50 years learning, listening, and working with districts to craft customized professional learning solutions where educators feel seen, valued, understood, and supported in their efforts to meet students’ needs.

Professional learning should be paid time or paid for.

 

Dave Leach: " Pay the teachers when they Learn. Often times, Teachers have to pay their own money so that they can take classes to develop professionally."

Amanda Schroth: "As a an ECE Director, I often assign time for staff to step out of rooms to do learning. We provide time for them and share links to free trainings and offer to pay for others. We do monthly staff meetings where we shorten our day so that the staff aren't taking on extra hours for their training. For me, most educators want to learn and be better so as their leader, I need to be aware of how I can incorporate opportunities throughout their time with me. I also help support the staff in finding free programs for their learning/education if they wish to seek degrees."

Tammy Appell: "Our school division is now offering Ts pay in lieu of release time. This eases the strain of an ongoing sub shortage and gives those who have time/energy to engage in PD after hours the $ that would normally go to sub coverage. It may not work for everyone but it’s something."

Learn more about our advocacy efforts, Title II funds, and how you can advocate for these funds at poweredbytitleii.com.

Professional learning should address educators’ emotional and mental health.

 

Kimberly Hansel: " Always have self-care activities at professional development sessions."

Chris Pugliese: " Provide real-time, relational skills coaching that will strengthen teacher-student relationships and improve teacher wellbeing."

This year, we’ve dedicated one column in each issue of our journal to educator wellness.

As stated in “8 dimensions of wellness for educators,” teacher wellness influences school culture and climate, instruction, and students’ academic, personal, and emotional development.

Stacey Winslow’s popular blog post “Professional learning is self-care” makes the case that professional learning is a form of self-care for educators, and that engaging in inquiry-based learning focused on areas of interest can invigorate and re-energize them.

Educator health and wellbeing: Put on your own oxygen mask first webinar features a panel of educators who share how they focus on strengthening and caring for their own needs so that they are healthier and better able to help those who count on them.

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to participate in more timely conversations with educators presenting a range of diverse viewpoints.

Learning Forward’s database of more than 4,000 professional learning articles, tools, webinars, data graphics, and full issues of The Learning Professional, is an online hub of actionable resources. Click here to explore this collection of public and members-only content. To access all resources anytime, join Learning Forward now.

Teachers are overwhelmed and tired, but still want and need to learn and grow. How do we design professional learning that honors both of these truths? Educators weigh in. Click To Tweet
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Director, Digital Marketing at Learning Forward | + posts

Ariel Durham is the director of digital marketing at Learning Forward. Her work involves Learning Forward’s website, email, webinars, social media, and other marketing and communications to advance Learning Forward’s mission, vision, and strategic priorities. Her background is in media and public relations, writing, internal corporate communications, and digital marketing. Ariel received her bachelor’s degree in communications at The University of Louisiana at Monroe and received her master’s degree in marketing at The University of Texas at Dallas. A native of Dallas, Texas, but currently lives overseas with her husband most of the year, Ariel is passionate about using Learning Forward’s global reach to remove inequities in schools so all students experience meaningful learning.

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