The following blog post was created by the Reading Public School Elementary Principals
Why was my teacher out?
Throughout the school year, families may hear from their children that their teacher was out for part or all of the school day due to professional development, training, or attending workshops. Although we try to limit the amount of time our teachers are out of the classroom, this time is important learning time that directly benefits students and student achievement.
What’s the deal with Professional Development?
Over the course of the school year, district staff members participate in a variety of academic trainings that complement the work they are doing in their classrooms with students. Staff engage in professional development across various areas of their practice. This year alone, elementary teachers have participated in professional development opportunities around Writers Workshop, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), Restorative Practices, Just Words, Safety Care QBS training, Open Circle, Youth Mental Health First Aid, Lesley Trauma Sensitive Schools, Linda Mood Bell Training, and more. These efforts support our ongoing district and school improvement plan goals, which are tied directly to student performance.
Why do teachers need professional development?
The field of education is one that requires both seminal knowledge (influential foundational understanding that has been proven by research over time) as well as current and innovative practices (similar to the many other professional roles that require both core knowledge and ongoing trainings and certifications.) Over the course of the school year our district provides training opportunities for staff. The goal of the district is to ensure that our teachers are current and relevant and able to bring their learning right back to their classrooms.
Why can’t they do that all during the summer?
There are many professional development opportunities that occur during the summers for our staff, however that is not enough. What research shows about adult learning and development is that the best professional learning opportunities are ongoing, parallel the work of teacher Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), provide opportunities for collaboration, and are supported by coaches. In Reading, ongoing professional learning efforts are supported at the building-level, district-level (through PLCs), as well as through the work from the district Literacy, Math, and Data Instructional Coaches. The partnership between the professional development trainings and the ongoing learning collaboration helps all of our adults learn and strengthen their skill sets. Strategies that teachers learn are best implemented during the school year when they can authentically work with students. When a teacher can attend a professional learning day and return immediately to the classroom to implement, it is more likely to create growth and learning for both our staff and our students.
If your teachers are out for professional learning days – it’s good news! They’re continuing to grow in their practice in order to provide the best support for our learners.
We invite you to reach out to your principal.
Heather Leonard, Barrows Principal
Julia Hendrix, Birch Meadow Principal
Eric Sprung, Eaton Principal
Sarah Leveque, Killam Principal
Joanne King, Wood End Principal
Want to learn more?
Below are key points pulled from summary research collected by the Center for Public Education about effective professional learning;
- “Short,one-shot workshops often don’t change teacher practice and have no effect on student achievement(Yoon et al, 2007; Bush, 1984).
- In order to truly change practices,professional development should occur over time and preferably be ongoing.Studies show that effective professional development programs require anywhere from 50 to 80 hours of instruction, practice, and coaching before teachers arrive at mastery (French, 1997; Banilower, 2002; Yoon et al., 2007). \
- Coaches/mentors are found to be highly effective in helping teachers implement a new skill. In coaching, teachers work with a master educator before, during and after a lesson, getting feedback on their implementation of a newly learned teaching skill.Numerous studies have shown coaching to be successful at changing teacher practice and improving student learning (Showers, 1984; Slinger, 2004; Knight 2007; Batt, 2009; Stephens et al., 2007; Knight and Cornett, 2009). Before coaching, however, teachers need to get a solid foundation of knowledge about the teaching strategy. This presentation of knowledge should be active, not passive (Roy, 2005; Richardson, 1998). Further, modeling by the coaches has been shown to be very effective at helping teachers grasp a new teaching approach before they attempt implementation (Roy, 2005; Goldberg, 2002; Rice, 2001; Black, 1998; Licklider, 1997).
- Professional development is best delivered in the context of the teacher’s subject area. Regardless of whether teachers are working with coaches or in professional learning communities, teachers need to be working with the content they teach. Teachers don’t find professional development on generic topics useful (Peery, 2002; Redding and Kamm, 1999; Dunn and Dunn, 1998). However, professional development that focuses on teachers analyzing the specific skill and concept they’ll teach in their discipline is not only well-received by teachers, but has also been shown to improve both teacher practice and student learning (Bland de la Alas and Smith, 2007; Carpenter et al., 1989; Cohen and Hill, 2001; Lieberman and Wood, 2001; Merek and Methven, 1991; Saxe, Gearhart, and Nasir, 2001; Wenglinksky, 2000; McGill-Franzen et al., 1999; Darling-Hammond et al., 2009).”