In each school, district, and state, there are required professional development hours for educators - time dedicated to expanding knowledge and skills. While schools and districts offer professional learning opportunities that are required or recommended, teachers also have the opportunity to extend learning beyond those experiences.
In this article, we will explore five ways for educators to participate in professional learning.
1) Classroom & School Visitations
In a prior role, I provided instructional and technology integration coaching to educators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There were so many incredible instructional practices going on and I wanted educators to not only hear about it or read about it, I wanted them to experience it.
Over the years we set up many opportunities for teachers and administrators to visit classrooms outside their district. When they did this, they saw talented colleagues in action and often had the chance to speak with students. On many occasions, we were able to schedule a debrief after the visits for open dialogue. Hands down, teachers and administrators would walk away from these experiences and say “that was the best professional development opportunity I have ever had.”
With current health and safety concerns as well as a substitute shortage, visitations to other districts may not be possible. Think about how you might use this professional development model within your district.
- As an administrator, how can you help make this happen in your building or district?
- As a teacher, could you give up a “prep period” and go sit in on a lesson taught by a colleague?
- Would you invite colleagues into your classroom to see your classroom practice?
- Could you record yourself or a colleague and view the video at a later time?
Get creative, as this will be time well spent.
2) Education Conferences
According to Suzanne Capek Tingley, when you attend an education conference, “Not only will you learn about the latest innovations in your field, but you'll also have the chance to connect with other professionals from outside your school district or even your state.”
The conference learning model is one that educators have engaged in for years. Depending on the size and type of conference (regional, state, national), the topics and sessions may be very focused or broader - however - they almost always are under one themed umbrella.
Conferences are usually a mix of invited speakers and professionals who have applied to present based on their own experience and successes. They offer large keynote sessions and smaller breakout sessions.
When attending a conference, plan ahead. Be sure to download the app if they have one or review the agenda ahead of time. Note the sessions you are interested in and try to have a backup in case sessions are full.
Be sure to engage in networking opportunities as well - both formal and informal. And, if you are interested in new products, services, or collecting fun tchotchkes from vendors, be sure to walk around the exhibit area.
With the increased number of virtual conferences, opportunities to learn from others around the world abound. The benefit of these conferences is that you don’t always need to attend live to access the sessions - you can watch them at a later time. The drawback is you miss the live interaction and networking you receive from a more traditional in-person conference.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but according to Broemmel, Evans, Lester, Rigell, and Lochmiller “...the importance of teachers’ engagement in professional reading cannot be underestimated.” (Teacher Reading as Professional Development: Insights from a National Survey, 2019). There are many options for professional reading, each with its own benefits, including:
Blogs: These usually take 5-10 minutes to read, are focused on a specific topic, and provide additional resources for further exploration. You are reading one now! Here is a list of top education blogs from TeachThought to get you started. When you subscribe to a blog, you’ll get an email letting you know that new content is posted.
Books: Typically more in-depth, books are a way to dive into a topic you are interested in to further your knowledge and skills. Books for educators range from theoretical to practical, and some even have accompanying workbooks or work “pages.” Here is Amazon’s list of Best Sellers in Education and ASCD’s list of New and Featured Books. You’ll see many of Eduplanet21’s PLUS authors listed.
Journals and Articles: While blog writing and reading have increased significantly over the years, magazines, newspapers, and journals are still available. Most can be accessed through online subscriptions, and are delivered electronically. CT4ME put together a list of Education Journals, Magazines, Online Libraries, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries for your reference.
These resource lists provide a starting point. Remember your colleagues and mentors are great resources. Never be afraid to ask “what are you reading these days?”
4) Twitter Chats
With Twitter Chats, educators can experience interaction with colleagues around the globe. In a Twitter Chat, a facilitator poses questions on a specific topic, and participants respond with the associated hashtag and question number. This is not only an opportunity to learn from others but also to share your expertise.
Many educators enhance their professional learning networks through individuals they meet on Twitter Chats. These are pre-scheduled and offered weekly or monthly and usually last one hour. If you miss one, you can go back and search by the hashtag to see what you missed.
ISTE put together a list of recommended Twitter Chats for educators that you might find a great place to start.
5) Online/Asynchronous Professional Learning
Online professional development allows educators to learn what they want when they want. Ednewsdaily.com lists their top five benefits of online professional learning as 1. Opening New Learning Doors; 2. Flexibility; 3. Affordability; 4. Teachers as Learners; and 5. Engaging and Unique Offerings.
Online professional development is usually offered on-demand - participants can sign up and engage when they are interested and available. These learning opportunities range in types and levels of engagement, and understanding how you will interact with others is important when choosing asynchronous professional learning.
With Eduplanet21’s platform, you get the benefits of creating your own learning communities coupled with opportunities for more global engagement.
Our PLUS Professional Learning Institutes allow you to offer professional development from some of the biggest names in education, participate together as a learning community, and interact with other Eduplanet21 customers through global discussion boards.
Institute Builder allows you to customize the content so it works for your team, including providing a scheduled release of content, adding district resources, and more. Many schools create extended opportunities for their teams to engage live with one another around the Institute content - combining both asynchronous learning and live interaction.
Think about how far we have come in terms of professional learning opportunities. This list is by no means exhaustive, and new experiences will be available as time goes on.
The important things? Set goals for growth. Find professional development opportunities that target your goals. Expand your comfort zone, challenge yourself to learn a new skill or strategy, and take advantage of all the resources that are available to you.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can bring Eduplanet21’s Professional Learning Institutes to your school or district - request a demo today.