Being a leader in this era of educational change requires we critically look at how every aspect of education is addressed. We can no longer make grandiose assumptions that what we are doing educationally for all is actually good for the individual. Within the instructional ranks we address learning differences through differentiation. But what do we do for educators when it comes to their learning? Are we differentiating professional development? Are we helping individual educators focus on their own needs? Or, are we jamming as many of them in one room to hear a generalized message with no practical application to the classroom?

If we are truly serious about the changes that are occurring in our profession then we need to design our professional development in a way that focuses on 3 key aspects of educator learning:

1. Relevant Topics: If we want to get to the core of individual educator needs then the topics must be relevant to them. How do you do that? Ask educators what’s important to them. This means a regular in-service day that typically has about 10 to 12 activities may need double or triple the number of activities to address the needs of specific educators. But before professional development planners lose it over this statement, you need to understand that some of the most educated and informed presenters on topics relevant to your staff are actually part of your staff. Be sure to empower these experts and make them presenters.
2. Engaging and Innovative Presentations: Classroom instruction can no longer be sit and lecture for a class period. Our teachers need to develop the skills necessary to be engaging and innovative instructors. However, if their own professional development lacks any signs of engagement or innovation how can they be held to the opposite when it comes time for them to teach? Professional development for our educators needs to model what we expect them to do in the classroom. Demonstrations, modeling, and hands-on trainings will provide educators with an opportunity to see how what they are learning during a professional development session can translate into learning in their classroom the very next day.
3. Continual Learning: At the end of the standard professional development day educators will leave. The training has ended, the learning has ended, and so has most hope that what was taught today will be used tomorrow. That does not need to happen. Through a variety of social media sources the learning, discussion, and collaboration can continue long after the specific day of professional development. Effective professional development moving forward will take advantage of continual learning for educators to assure what was taught today is discussed tomorrow, and effectively implemented going forward. The day of the one and done is DONE!

Today’s educational leaders need to look critically at the professional development we are providing our educators and find ways to make it relevant, engaging and innovative, and the learning continual. How are you addressing any/all of these changes as an educational leader? Leave a comment to continue the conversation.

This is the third year I am participating in Scott McLeod’s Leadership Day and the above blog post is dedicated to his efforts on #LeadershipDay14

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