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Professional Development: It’s Not All Workshops and Conferences
posted by: Cindy Omlin | March 20, 2013, 08:25 PM   


When you talk to educators about professional development, there tends to be a mindset that favors events like conferences, workshops, and webinars. Even though studies have shown that these forms of professional development are limited in their success, teachers still cling to them as ways to connect with other educators and get new ideas. That's not to say that these forms of professional development are entirely without merit, just that by relying on these staples we close ourselves to other opportunities.

 
For example, a teacher looking for conferences may completely overlook the possibility of attending an edcamp. Edcamps are part of the unconference movement. They are free of charge, local, collaborative, and lack a central authority that dictates the agenda. Educators that attend will find edcamps full of discussions and sharing. If an attendee is filled with the sudden inspiration to lead a session, all they need do is sign up at the location and time they want. Because of the way edcamps are run and administered, they tend to be both spirited and able to quickly fill the needs of their attendees.

Every educator knows that you can learn so much by watching another educator in the classroom; however, this was a form of professional development that seemed difficult to fit into the cramped school day, whereas workshops and webinars can easily be done after hours. This is where the idea of video clubs come in. In a video club, a teacher videotapes their lesson and shares it with a small group of educators. The educators then discuss the lesson, noting both the things that went well (and taking new ideas back with them) and helpful criticism where improvements can be made. For this type of professional development, having a group of educators you can trust and meets regularly is important.

Coaching is one way that many schools try to implement meaningful professional development. Like the video clubs, educators work with a coach who gives them personal and timely feedback on how to improve their teaching and who works with them over an extended period of time. The problem with coaching is that the feedback often comes after the lesson is over. That's why one experiment attempted to provide real-time teaching feedback in the form of an in-ear Bluetooth device. This unique take on coaching saw overall improvement in an educator's abilities and in class outcomes.

These unique forms of professional development are nowhere near the only options for teachers looking to get out of the workshop/webinar/conference mold. Like all good forms of professional development, these programs are collaborative, allow professional exploration, and are tailored to the needs of the educators participating in them. Educators are encouraged to explore the many different forms of offerings out there and find a type of professional development that truly helps improve their craft.

 

Originally posted by Melissa at AAE.

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