How can you effectively connect teachers to training that meets their individual needs?
Tincher has employed a differentiated approach to professional development with our goal being to differentiate instruction for teachers, much as we differentiate instruction for our students – based on their needs and interests. Some of the professional development needs to be done for the entire staff, while other professional development pertains only to certain sub-groups within our faculty. With differentiated professional development, teachers choose from a menu of PD offerings based on their identified skills and needs, usually taught by in-house experts. Professional Development Weeks are designed around single themes such as Technology, Special Educational/Additional Services, and Cross-Curricular Integration.
Each year teachers complete a self-assessment/interest inventory in regards to professional development they need or are interested in pursuing. From these results, we plan professional development for the year. The PD calendar includes district required trainings as well as grade level trainings.
Each year teachers complete a self-assessment/interest inventory in regards to professional development they need or are interested in pursuing. From these results, we plan professional development for the year. Differentiated instruction is offered during our professional development weeks, with teachers choosing the topics specific to their needs and interests. Individualized differentiation is offered at either grade level meetings or by the ETF when working with individual teachers.
The evidence of success is two-fold. First, teachers participate in an average of 3.2 sessions (2 are required). This represents an increase of 60%. Secondly, post-PD surveys indicate an average overall rating of 4.23/5 (approximately 85%). This is supported by trainers’ anecdotal observations. Teachers react positively to being offered a choice of classes and not having to attend trainings based on topics on which they rate themselves as competent. Additionally, teachers have risen to the challenge and in-house talent has conducted all our PD.
- Create a resource document of teachers and their respective fields of expertise that would be updated annually. This would facilitate the planning of the training.
- Poll the staff to see whom they view as the ‘experts’ on staff.
- Create a digital library of in-services that teachers could access on their own, at any time.
This strategy impacts the entire school as it applies to all faculty members. Teachers are able to tailor their schedule of training to their individual needs. Given the increasing amount of required district and school-wide trainings, it is a positive approach that is well received by staff. Occasionally, teachers in very specialized positions are offered the option to do independent research if they feel they are expert in all areas of that the training being offered is not applicable to their practice.
- Make sure that PD being offered is in line with staff and interests and needs. We accomplish this based on our annual self-assessment.
- Provide flexible scheduling options. Classes are offered before and after school.This allows teachers to fit training into their personal schedules.
- Identify the recognized leaders/experts on your staff. Often these colleagues are better received than a district support person that is unfamiliar to the staff.
- Keep the trainings short and offer them at different levels (beginning and intermediate/advanced) to increase teachers’ comfort levels.