3 Steps for Teacher-Directed Professional Growth

August 20, 2021  |  by Amanda Bhardwaj

The rate at which highly-skilled teachers are leaving the profession is astounding.  With so much focus on student learning, teacher learning can become an afterthought. But the two go hand-in-hand. How, you may be asking, can I help keep great teachers in the classroom? Start by taking a look at your professional development program.

 

A recent report from the Council of the Great City Schools explains that high-quality professional development centers around content, collaboration, feedback, reflection, and personalized coaching and support. The challenges to great PD cited were no differentiated options, insufficient support, and offerings that seemed inconsistent and arbitrary. If you’re facing any of these challenges, put the three actionable steps below into place to start the school year off right. Each of the below steps builds on the previous one to create a solid foundation for teacher-directed professional growth all year long.

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It’s no surprise that a focus on content made the list as a hallmark feature of high-quality professional learning. Teachers need to understand how to teach specific content, how students learn it, and how classroom materials support it’s transmission from content to knowledge. A great place to start is with an in-depth review of the instructional framework.

 

While you may think reviewing the instructional framework is best done on one’s own time, there is value in coming together to make meaning of it. For starters, it will help teachers and administrators develop a shared language of what good instruction looks like. It also leads to a better understanding of how the framework aligns to the broader vision of instruction and support.

 

When you review the framework, the floor is open to questions and concerns. Take this insight to design professional learning that helps teachers avoid potential roadblocks.

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After you’ve reviewed the framework, encourage all educators to engage in honest self-reflection. Using the framework as a guide, ask staff members to identify their strengths and areas to improve on in the upcoming year or coaching cycle. We encourage the use of videos and classroom artifacts to ground reflection in concrete evidence. Invite educators to share their reflections with peers to establish trust from the forefront. This will encourage ongoing, meaningful department- and grade-level collaboration on an ongoing basis.

 

Administrators should also take part in this reflection time. That’s right, you’re not exempt from this one! As a school leader, you need to understand what to look for when observing classrooms. What does quality instruction look like? How can you provide valuable input on student work? How can you address pressing needs while planning professional development? Earnest reflection on your own strengths and areas to grow in will help you give better support.

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In a previous blog post, we discussed how co-creating individual goals with teachers empowers them to reach higher levels of professional growth. Shortly after the school year begins, schedule one-on-one time with each of your teachers to establish goals and create an action plan. Discuss how professional development sessions, classroom observations, feedback, and coaching cycles will support teachers in achieving the goals for the year ahead. Agree on how often you will check in on goals throughout the year.

 

By approaching goal-setting in this way, you are inviting teachers to guide their journey of professional growth while taking you along. Identifying concrete goals focused on instruction and setting expectations upfront reduces ambiguity, creates agency, and makes coaching sessions more effective. All these factors help teachers meet their goals, and when that happens, students win.  But of course, it's all about continuous improvement. Revisit these conversations throughout the year to celebrate wins and course correct.

There you have it: three steps to inclusive, collaborative, and teacher-led professional development. When you follow these steps, the entire tone of classroom observation changes. Instead of an administrator-led compliance exercise, observation and feedback become outstanding teacher support. Learning should never be something that happens to teachers. It should be something they create.

 

We’re always happy to help and provide input where we can. If you have questions about your instructional support system, we’d love to talk to you. Schedule a complimentary strategy session with a Bullseye expert!

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Download Your Instructional Support Checklist Below

BULLSEYE FOR SCHOOLS

We know back-to-school planning as an instructional leader can be overwhelming. Download our top tips to make sure your instructional support plan for this upcoming school year is manageable, effective, and leaves teachers feeling valued, heard, and empowered to take charge of their professional learning journey.

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References
Grissom, Jason A., Anna J. Egalite, and Constance A. Lindsay. 2021. “How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research.” New York: The Wallace Foundation. Available at http://www.wallacefoundation.org/principalsynthesis.