Picture this. It's a Wednesday afternoon, the final bell has sounded, and the students have already loaded the buses.
You find yourself in the front of a colleague's classroom and read a message strewn across the smart board:
"How to assess communication in your classroom."
You are joined by several other colleagues who shuffle into the room and find empty seats. Mrs. Macky, the teacher facilitator rises from behind her desk and informs you that today, she will de-mystify the process of assessing 21st Century Skills with specific examples from her classroom.
Welcome to "Teachers teaching teachers," a new paradigm for professional development in 2016.
"Teachers teaching teachers" is a strategy for professional development that I had the pleasure of witnessing at my last school. It rests on the correct presupposition that some of the best resources for teacher development lie within your building.
The process is simple. A google form is sent out three weeks before the professional development date inquiring if teachers are interested in delivering a session. Teachers sign up to present, an ICT staff member collates the list, and then the list is redistributed for participant sign ups. Sessions range from assessing in the digital age to creating more authentic experiential learning opportunities.
Here are five other simple ways to offer professional development without ever leaving the building:
Strategy #1: Professional Digital Portfolio Development
Where do you keep track of your professional development? Chances are its stuffed away in a notebook or file- accumulating dust at the bottom of your desk. If as school leaders, we want to develop a culture of learning and growth, we have to make that learning visible. Create a shared digital environment for the celebration of learning at your school and invite teachers to post to it. Here is a comprehensive list of digital environments to get you started:
Online Portfolio Development
Strategy #2: Develop PLC's
PLC's are the one of the biggest buzzwords in education right now. These "professional learning communities" allow a small group of teachers to pursue learning on an educational topic of interest, and use student work to help guide the discussion. They typically work in 6 to 8 week cycles with clear outcomes attached. For example, if your PLC is focused on building reflective practices in students, a clear outcome might be that by the end of the cycle, students will have completed three reflections in a shared digital space. Forming these small PLC groups will allow your staff to improve instructional practices more rapidly than they would had they been part of one large teaching group. Find out more about the power of PLC's below:
Keys to Creating PLCs
Strategy #3: Assign Critical Friends
Do you have a critical friend in the building to turn to when your class seems impossible to manage, or your lessons aren't improving student learning? Having a critical friend will ensure you are connected to the resources you need to grow as an educator. A critical friend acts as a thought partner, coach, and resource provider. To establish critical friends at your school, conduct a preliminary survey with teachers to find out where they need the most support, and then partner teachers accordingly. Find out more about critical friends below:
Critical Friends Development
Strategy #4: Take a Mooc
A mooc is a course of study on the internet made available to a large number of people for a very little price. Moocs range from strategies to teach english language learners to programming and robotics. After a series of observations and goal setting sessions with teachers at your school, help them find a Mooc that best serves their needs. Find a comprehensive list of online Moocs below:
Improving your instructional practice doesn't have to involve costly flights, overcrowded conferences, and long weekends; instead, it can be cheap, personalized, and completely tailored towards your needs. The strategies above will help you begin your professional improvement journey and ensure you are doing everything you can to improve student learning.