Professional development is critical for teachers. They learn and develop strategies to bring into their classrooms that enhance their ability to teach, increase their understanding of new technology and how to effectively implement it in their curriculum, and grow the skills they already have by enhancing them through education. At least, that’s how it should be.However, all professional development isn’t equally beneficial. Many of the ideas presented during a workshop aren’t brought back into the classroom; therefore, they have little effect on teaching practices or student achievement. The Center for Public Education said teachers learning new methods isn’t the problem — it’s implementing them. Often times, a new approach will be uncomfortable for the teacher and the method will fail to produce results on the teacher's first try at using it, making them more likely to give up on the idea. However, the skill can be mastered with repetition. Having coaches or mentors to answer questions and give feedback increases the likelihood of success, but more teachers attend workshops for professional development than engage in one-on-one mentorships. This is why teachers teaching teachers is an important model for development.
Many schools, like Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, are already implementing this strategy. By bringing everyone together, the experience of veteran educators and the new ideas of novice teachers are harnessed to create a stronger, more supported faculty. A self-sustained environment of teamwork is constructed that promotes sharing and mentorships that benefit the whole group.
This idea can be introduced into your school is by asking faculty members who attend an outside professional development activity to come back and give their own workshop on what they learned. Not only does this encourage understanding and adoption of what they learned, but if it isn’t working, solutions could be brainstormed as a group, giving the teacher a better support system. Also, encourage all of the teachers to share what they have been doing in their classroom that is connecting with the students.
Another approach is to split the staff into smaller groups with a specific topic to focus on researching and introducing into their classrooms. After a set amount of time to gather knowledge and implement the group’s ideas in their own classrooms, each group can report on what worked and didn’t work to the rest of the faculty. The smaller group allows for individual teachers to bounce ideas off of peers who are working on the same problem, as them as well as find creative solutions together. This enables the school to focus on the topics best suited to their needs and develop an in-house strategy to implement the solution designed with their students in mind.
Give the faculty a voice in what topics they would like to learn and what is most relevant to their classrooms. By helping find practical and creative solutions in professional development, not only will faculty job satisfaction increase, but the students will benefit as well.