How to Manage and Effectively Utilize Professional Development
In-service can range from mind-numbingly boring, to the opposite end of the spectrum, with too much information. Either way, it reminds me of the 1980’s ads warning kids about the dangers of drugs, resulting in “your brain” as a fried egg. When we attend in-service, professional development workshops at our region service centers, or conferences, how can we organize and utilize the strategies so that our time has been well spent?
Research shows that retention of information from listening, reading and audiovisual presentations ranges from 5-20%. Additional research states that unless we immediately apply it, the little we remember will never actually be used in the classroom.
Rather than complaining about professional development, shrugging our shoulders and saying, “Well, I won’t remember all of this anyway”, how can we make the most of this time? These are our opportunities to grow and improve as teachers, to the benefit of our students. Try this approach next time you attend a training session:
- Find a central place to organize the information where it will be easy to refer to when planning lessons. Some teachers may prefer creating a 3-ring notebook where they place notes and hand-outs from professional development that they can physically manipulate. If you do this, use tabs to organize strategies based on classroom management, lesson planning, material presentation, assessment, or other. For those more tech savvy and attempting to go paper-less there are many options for virtual portfolios. One of my personal favorites is called tozzl.com, but even creating a professional development folder in the cloud/computer works well. Many resources in trainings are linked to websites, Google documents, etc. so simply copying and pasting a link into the appropriate classification can lead to an easy reference.
- Take time to reflect. After returning home and having a chance to rest and decompress, spend some time reviewing the material received. Incorporate the strategy in your planning, apply it specifically to a topic you will be covering within the next week. When you apply and practice within a short timeframe after being exposed to a new idea you are more likely to add it to your repertoire of teaching tools.
- Share methods that worked with other colleagues. We are more likely to try something new if we hear it from a trusted colleague that can attest to the veracity of its effectiveness in the classroom. By being willing to try something new, make it work with your subject area, identify problems (and their solutions), and be able to explain how it works to a colleague means you are acting as a teacher leader. Not only will you affect change in your classroom with your students, but also positively impact other students in your organization, even if you don’t have direct contact with them.
Professional development doesn’t have to be a wasted effort. With the correct mindset and personal responsibility it can be used to affect positive growth in our classroom and school. In-service, workshops, and conferences can be viewed as occasions enabling us to move closer to being the amazing teacher our students deserve. It may be necessary to sift through to find the “golden nuggets”, but after 15 years of teaching I feel like I have mined only a small portion of the mountain of research-based, high-yield teaching strategies and the variety of engaging resources available. Plus, we live in a technology explosion that is changing the dynamics of today’s classroom. “Just Say No” isn’t an option to state mandated teacher work-days, or 150 hours of professional learning, but keeping in mind that being a teacher means being a life-long learner we can strive to do it effectually, without succumbing to a “fried brain”- Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste.