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4 Ideas for Effective Teacher Professional Development

4 Ideas for Effective Teacher Professional Development

June 28, 2022

Ah, summer vacation. After 180 days of lesson plans, science experiments, grading papers, and bagged lunches, summer is finally here! Time for sleeping in, catching fireflies, dipping your toes in the water, and professional development. What? Professional development? 


Yes, professional development! Teachers do enjoy the respite that summer brings. But their minds are always turning, thinking about the upcoming school year.


Here are four ideas to elevate your professional development this summer.

1) Reflect

The close of the school year provides an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the year as a whole. What went well? What didn’t? As a teacher, you may consider…How did I support students as learners? Did my lessons encourage student engagement and higher-order thinking? Did my assessments allow students to truly apply their learning and demonstrate mastery in an authentic context?


As a school leader…. What three words or phrases would I use to describe this school year? What were the positives? What challenges did I face? How did I respond? How did I support my staff this year? 


Take a moment to celebrate your achievements! Too often, as teachers and leaders, we fail to take the opportunity to celebrate our successes. We deserve to step back and bask in the glow. After all, impacting students is the core of why we do what we do.


And yet, as educators, we aren’t happy with the status quo and seek growth opportunities to be better next year. In your reflection, when you wrestle with an experience that didn’t yield the desired result, set a professional learning goal. Then seek new resources and ideas to elevate the learning for the next school year.

2) Notate, Annotate, Record

In today’s digital world, information comes at us at a phenomenal pace. In fact, it can be overwhelming if we do not have a way to corral the information. Consider how you will manage the information you wish to save.


No doubt you will come across content as you are scrolling the internet, but not have time to read it 'in the moment.' Find an app that works for you to save the content to read later. 


Many social media apps such as Twitter and Facebook have bookmarking tools to save and revisit the post later. YouTube also has a WatchLater feature to curate all those videos you would like to save and revisit on a rainy day. There are also dedicated apps to save content for later, such as Pocket, Instapaper, and EmailThis if you prefer to have the article delivered to your inbox.


You will also want to have a way to make and keep notes and ideas. There are many digital applications to help you out. If you are a Google user, check out GoogleKeep. This simplistic application is available on the web with an app for your mobile device. And the best thing, it is free! Evernote is a very popular note-taking app that has been around for a long time. Along with organization and note-taking, Evernote allows you to take an entire webpage, using the web clipper feature, and save it to your account.


And of course, don’t overlook the obvious. Paper/pencil is the tried and true method to corral notes and ideas. Visit your favorite stationery store or online merchant and purchase a new notebook along with your favorite writing utensils, markers, and highlighters. There is nothing better to let the creative juices flow than to put pen to paper and record your ideas for the next school year!

3) Focus on Something You Enjoy

What is it that you would like to learn or a topic you would like to explore more deeply? Perhaps you would like to learn about some of the digital apps mentioned above. Or maybe you would like to explore the latest education research. Identify an area or topic that interests you and set a professional learning goal.

4) Dig in

Once you have a focus and learning goal in mind, dig in! There is a multitude of ways to learn and grow in your chosen topic. You can read books and articles, listen to podcasts, take an online course, and learn from others.

  • Read – What topic do you want to learn more about? What interests you? Pick up a book from your favorite educational researcher or practitioner. Scour the internet for articles on what’s working in education or an innovative idea. Check out sites such as Edutopia,  EdWeek, and Eduplanet21. Review sites from professional organizations such as ASCD, ISTE, AMLE, or ILA. Read some blog posts from educators such as Catlin Tucker, John Spencer, or Monica Burns.
  • Podcasts – If you prefer listening or want to spark your thinking during your daily workout, perhaps podcasts are for you. Here are several podcasts to consider:
    • Cult of Pedagogy Podcast – Jennifer Gonzalez provides actionable teaching strategies and ideas through guest interviews. 
    • Ten Minute Teacher Podcast – Hosted by The Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis, this podcast offers five different episodes weekly–Motivational Mondays, EdTech Tool Tuesdays, Wonderful Classroom Wednesdays, Thought Leader Thursdays, and Five Idea Fridays. 
    • Truth for Teachers Podcast – Released each Sunday, Angela Watson is designed to “get you informed and energized” for the week ahead.
    • SELinEDU –hosted by Eduplanet21 author Krista Leh, the podcast features stories and insights from teachers, administrators, leaders, and more on all things SEL.
    • Better Leaders Better Schools – features conversations with leadership experts, known as ‘ruckus makers’ who make change happen in their school or district. BLBS, the number one downloaded podcast for school leaders, is created and hosted by Daniel Bauer.
  • Virtual PD/Online Courses – If you want to dig deep into a new idea, consider participating in an online course. The options are endless – synchronous, asynchronous; one hour, fifteen hours; for credit, not for credit. Whatever your preference there is an option for you. Many of the bloggers and podcasters listed above offer online learning opportunities. 
  • Collaborate – Last, but certainly not least, is to collaborate with others! We become better educators when we share ideas and ask questions of others in the field. Seek out opportunities to collaborate with others through social media, a book study, or participating in a course or workshop TOGETHER!

For School Leaders

As school leaders, your summer PD focus is two-fold – your professional growth, as well as planning for teacher PD. As you consider effective professional development opportunities for the upcoming school year, remember one-size-doesn’t-fit-all! Just as we talk about personalizing learning for students, we must personalize learning for adults! 


To design more personalized learning experiences, consider participating in Eduplanet21’s Personalized Professional Learning Institute by author Allison Rodman. This institute, grounded in adult learning theory, will provide actionable ideas to design learning experiences that will empower educators to take a role in their growth. 


Eduplanet21’s PLUS Institutes are another great way to support professional learning and growth for your team. There are a plethora of professional learning opportunities included in the institutes from some of today’s most popular and influential educators. Your team can collaborate within the institutes, and they are designed for asynchronous learning, but easily adaptable for delivering in a hybrid approach. 


The chart below depicts the available topics from Eduplanet21, and our authors include Carol Tomlinson, Jay McTighe, Bena Kallick, Mike Anderson, and Krista Leh - just to name a few!


Eduplanet21 Institutes


Yes, summer vacation provides an opportunity for educators to rest and rejuvenate. But it is also the perfect time to reflect, explore, plan ahead, and learn something new!


About the Author

Dr. Lori Stollar has served as a Director of Curriculum & Technology, a Professional Development Specialist, adjunct professor, and high school social studies teacher. She recently retired after having served 35 years in public education.   


Lori is passionate about helping teachers and school leaders positively impact student learning. Her research interests are in professional learning communities, collective teacher efficacy, and classroom instruction.

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