Want to know how to improve professional development? Ask teachers.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently funded a survey on teacher learning. Teachers tell us one-size-fits-all professional development (PD) isn’t working. They perceive much of the current professional development to be of poor quality and not relevant. Often the content can’t be directly applied to the classroom because it’s repetitive, and it’s disorganized. One teacher from Jessamine County, KY, says,
“The districts are just trying to cover all of the bases for all the state requirements.”
Teachers tell us they want a broader range of professional development content with a particular focus on instructional strategies and classroom-specific programming. But their feedback also varies based on how long they’ve been teaching.
For example, new teachers say they want help with classroom management and maximizing class time. They want to know how to multiply their effectiveness across groups of students. More experienced teachers want alternative ways to teach specific concepts, tools to communicate the curriculum, and creative ideas for engaging students in deeper learning.
With more schools and districts implementing robust teacher feedback and evaluation programs, the demand for PD is higher than ever. But right now, teachers report data on their performance are rarely linked to the professional development they receive. It doesn’t seem fair to identify areas of improvement for teachers without providing them with the tools and resources to learn and grow in those areas.
Technology could help. It could personalize professional development for teachers (individually and in groups), just like it can personalize learning for students.
It doesn’t seem fair to identify areas of improvement for teachers without providing them with the tools and resources to learn and grow in those areas.
That’s why the foundation is investing in innovative professional development—to provide teachers with the learning opportunities they need to drive student success. We believe that cost-effective, personalized learning for teachers could deliver proven results for students without putting further pressure on already frayed district budgets. But it may require reallocating current PD dollars toward more innovative delivery models.
MyLivePD™, an on-demand coaching site for math teachers, is one such example. Developed by tutor.com, MyLivePD is a private, online PD site that provides personal coaches to work with teachers on specific content issues and learning challenges they’re experiencing with students. Results so far indicate that 90 percent of teachers are putting the skills they learn from their online coaches into classroom practice that same week. Read firsthand about one teacher’s MyLivePD experience here.
Another exciting investment is to the University of Central Florida’s College of Education, where they’ve developed TeachLivE. TeachLiveE combines classroom management, content, and pedagogy in a simulated teaching environment using avatars. Now used in 10 universities nationwide, TeachLivE allows pre-service and in-service teachers the chance to practice new teaching skills and build confidence without affecting actual students.
These tools, along with others, give me confidence that change is coming to the world of professional development. And it is terrific to see that teacher demand and feedback are driving that change. At the foundation, we are committed to continue working with teachers to co-develop, co-design, field test, and refine these tools so that all teachers have the support they need to provide each student with great teaching in every classroom, every day.