Personalize Teacher PD by Modeling Teaching Practices
Vision for Meaningful Teacher Professional Development
The written mission statement for the Upper St. Clair School District’s teacher professional development program is to develop the fullest potential of the USC professional, in order to serve the whole child, by customizing learning and preparing students to be responsible and successful 21st century citizens. Recognizing that the mission is ambitious, the professional development programming in USC is multi-faceted and includes a formal professional development program and monthly curriculum development and collaboration time, as well as weekly grade level Professional Learning Community meetings which focus on student needs and instructional practices.
Planning for our five professional development days begins with the creation of a needs survey by a professional development work group. This group is comprised of staff members from a variety of areas. The survey is typically constructed around the District’s strategic planning goals as well as other District initiatives. After analysis, the survey results are presented to a larger Professional Development Committee that begins the planning process for the PD days in the upcoming school year. All levels of the organization provide input into the topics and scheduling.
In addition to the formal days, teachers are able to complete two days of individualized professional development during the summer. A catalog of offerings is created that includes sessions related to every level and departmental area. Teachers may also develop their own professional learning experiences for these summer flex days.
Modeling Teaching Practices for Personalized Learning
“Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” – Albert Bandura
When the end goal of your professional development is increased quantity and quality of customized/personalized learning experiences for students, it is essential to provide PD that models this type of experience. Without a modeled approach it would be understandable for teachers to walk away saying, “This instructional practice isn’t feasible for our 180-day year…if it was, they (administrators) would have incorporated it into this one-day training.”
To model personalized learning, nearly all formal in-service training has choice components. When appropriate, the PD experiences are also scaffolded to serve the needs of more and less proficient staff members on the various tasks that are being trained, especially in the case of technology-related initiatives in which some teachers have vastly more experience than others. In these situations, clear expectations are provided along with characteristics of the various proficiency levels to ensure that teachers attend the appropriate session. The result of this type of modeling is that teachers are more able to see at least one true example of effective and innovative classroom approaches in action.
Ongoing Teacher PD
In a related way, follow-up around skills developed and modeled during PD is consistently applied. A team of content and level-based curriculum leaders design an arc of scaffolded teacher support that spans 12+ after school meetings throughout the school year. Typically, these meetings address the intersection of a teacher’s specific content area and district-wide PD.
In addition, three technology learning facilitators (grades 5-6, 7-8, 9-12) receive a stipend in order to support the ongoing needs of staff related to content acquired during PD. The technology learning facilitators are utilized differently than curriculum leaders in that much of their work is 1:1 sessions held with teachers after school or optional “drop in” mini-PD sessions.
Teacher Supervision & Evaluation
Consequently, the consistent support that teachers receive allows administrators to use PD goals as either formal look-fors during observations or, at a minimum, areas to comment upon when providing classroom observation feedback. For instance, at the high school level, the third of fourth walk-through observations is intentionally scheduled for a time that teachers select. This flexibly scheduled walk-through is important in order that teachers may intentionally integrate previous feedback and, most importantly, highlight their progress toward a PD goal.
The connection among professional development planning that is shared, implementation that is customized, and follow-up that is ongoing and tightly linked to supervision and evaluation allows for a robust trajectory of individual growth and district progress.
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Dr. Timothy M. Wagner has served as an elementary and middle school teacher, secondary gifted coordinator, and middle school ELA curriculum leader. Currently he is the Associate High School Principal for Program Planning & Innovation and is an adjunct faculty member at Washington & Jefferson College.
Dr. Judy Bulazo has served as an elementary teacher, elementary resource teacher, and elementary ELA curriculum leader. Currently she is the Director of K-12 Curriculum & Professional Development. Mr. Brad Wilson has served as a middle school social studies teacher and customization/instructional technology curriculum leader. Currently she is the Supervisor of K-12 Customization & Online Learning.