Professional development has been a hot topic of late….and not before time. How many times in your career have you sat through a talk on a professional development day where someone talks through a PowerPoint presentation line by line to the whole staff? Or even worse, a presentation on how to engage students delivered in this way. When it comes to professional development, we seem to forget the golden rules that we go by in the classroom and think that it doesn’t apply to adults.
However, as a profession we are slowly beginning to make this a thing of the past. School leaders are now looking at far more innovative ways in which to deliver professional development – with the word ‘professional’ at the forefront of their thinking. This has been, in part, due to creative and innovative leaders as well as the work of organisations like the Teacher Development Trust who have been campaigning for a higher quality of teacher development in all schools.
It is extremely unlikely that every teacher in your school will have the same professional development needs. So how are you ensuring that, just like you would with a mixed ability class, that you are providing enough differentiation?
One way of doing this is to actively encourage and support teachers in taking part in professional development activities away from your school. As school leaders we need to start embracing the rising number of high-quality opportunities that are available for teachers in their own time. There once was a time that reading the TES supplement magazine on a Sunday morning was the height of cutting edge independent professional development.
But things have changed. With the explosion of free and easy-to-use technology, more and more current practitioners are writing their own blogs, producing their own videos and taking professional development to a new level. This has not only made high-quality educational material far more accessible for teachers, but also given rise to far more teachers speaking at conferences to packed halls. There had been a time when attending an education conference meant going to London to hear from the education minister, but this is slowly being over taken by festivals and events, run by teachers for teachers, with current serving practitioners being the big draw.
Many teachers now are beginning to recognise this as their default method of professional development, an approach that can be done when they want to and on the subjects and topics that they know they need to develop in. But how many schools are crediting these teachers for the hours and hours that they are undertaking outside of their school building? Are the teachers that have attended these amazing and inspirational events having to go back to their schools and sit through professional development sessions that don’t necessarily apply to them, just because the school say so?