Why Teacher Professional Development Often Falls Short

7070563247_94e4848a6b_bBy Nick McDaniels – Last week I had a great professional development experience facilitated by a colleague. But my colleague, a career and technology education teacher like myself, learned professional development delivery skills from a field outside of education. She understands adult learners. My experience, most years, is not so great.

More often than not, I, like half of America’s teachers, am dissatisfied with professional development. I am usually crowded into a room, in student-sized desks (one time in a primary art room for two six hour days), with other teachers who sort of teach the same thing I teach while a well-meaning teacher delivers professional development she had no part in designing and, quite obviously, doesn’t really believe in. I leave, often appreciating the comedy of how undeveloped I was, and lament the many ways this time could have been used in a more valuable way, in a way that might actually improve outcomes for students.

So what does professional development fall short so often?

Location, timing, and content are all extremely important, and PD often times appears not well thought out, not responsive to the needs of teachers and students, and appears to lack intentionality. Professional development, particularly in times that are built into the school calendar, must be valued and the time must be maximized. Time, personnel, and resources, must be devoted to this task. If that is not possible, then PD should be abandoned. Bad PD is not better than no PD at all.

Further, the amount of research out there explaining how adults learn differently than children is astounding, particularly when we consider how so much American PD ignores the research. Unless we train teachers to teach other teachers differently than they teach students, PD will never be successful.

Fortunately for me, I had a good one last week, so at least I will go into the next PD optimistic that I and everyone else will learn something that can help us make sure the students learn better.

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