Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Embedded PD and Curriculum Writing is so Important

There are certain realities about professional development (PD) that we cannot ignore:
1. After-school hours and the regular school calendar do not provide schools with enough time to engage teachers in professional support (Fullan & Miles, 1992).

2. There are more and more requirements, codes, standards, and research-proven teaching strategies than ever before that require training (Corcoran, 1995).
3. Teachers are not nearly as professionally productive when they learn in isolation as they are when they have opportunities to work with their peers (Fine, 1994).
The most effective way to address these realities is to provide teachers with professional support during the school day so they can work together in grade level, content-area, or committee teams for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, the existing culture in some districts doesn’t easily allow for embedded PD (releasing teachers during the day to take part in professional development). Teachers may not readily understand the importance of taking time out of the classroom to develop curricula or collaboratively learn new instructional strategies. Chung Wei, Andree, and Darling-Hammond (2009) support this notion by pointing out, “…in most [high performing] European and Asian countries, less than half of a teacher’s working time is spent instructing students…15-20 hours per week is spent on tasks related to teaching, such as working with colleagues on preparing and analyzing lessons, developing and evaluating assessments, observing other classrooms…”
I always make sure teachers know how much I value their time with children. I start each PD experience by telling teachers that I recognize how difficult it is to write substitute plans, be away from their students and maintain continuity when they get back in the classroom. The most effective way to convince teachers that the time they are putting in engaging in professional growth during the school day is to provide them with the most meaningful and productive professional development that can be offered. Curriculum work is often perceived as this kind of experience. Teachers love knowing they are spending school-day time “fixing” program problems, making curricula more relevant to their practice, and having a real say in important decisions about textbook adoptions and the future of what they teach. Positive talk among faculty about great professional experiences and the natural passing of time will wear away the existing culture that likely does not support embedded professional development.

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