Teacher Professional Development Models

One of the challenges we face as educators today is preparing children to be effective members of our society when our world is changing so quickly; we are preparing students for jobs that do not even yet exist. Effective teachers must reflect a relevant expression of current elements of our society. In order to stay relevant, teachers must continually update their body of knowledge through TPD, or Teacher Professional Development. TPD allows the distribution of broad policy direction, specific information, and general guidance to teachers. TPD can be delivered in a variety of models, all with the intent of demonstrating that learning is a life long process and filtering down to improving learning for students.

Three common delivery methods for TPD are: Standardized Models, best for delivering information to large groups of learners, Site Based Models, intense, long term design models localized in schools or districts, Self-Directed, learner driven development, initiated by the individual learner.

The Greater Victoria School District utilizes all three of the above models, with teachers entitled to six professional development days, four of which are school based, one tri-district, and one provincial. Teachers are also encouraged to apply to the local teacher association for funding to attend self-directed professional development such as workshops and conferences.

Unfortunately, the school based professional development climate in my school has largely become stagnant, consisting mostly of teachers in their own rooms catching up on marking. We are a successful, academically focused High School closely associated with the University of Victoria. Our teaching staff is predominately made up of veteran teachers, who are comfortable in their strategies and techniques and are largely resistant to change. Over the past year I have become increasingly aware of these circumstances as I have taken a leadership role in an initiative to improve the effectiveness of our school based professional development time. Our initiative is based on the concept of teachers learning from teachers. Our proposal is to have teachers observe other teachers within our school, and in some cases, across the district. The overriding intent is to make professional development relevant to all teachers and to provide professional autonomy in allowing teachers to have control over the content and the time in which TPD takes place. Another goal of our Pro-D initiative is to encourage an inter-departmental exchange of ideas and cross-curricular collaboration. This resistance to change extends itself to attitudes regarding the implementation of technology in the classroom.

Many staff members in our school are reluctant to embrace technology in their teaching. It is human nature to rely on comfortable techniques with a proven success record and without meaningful TPD in technology integration, teachers will continue to resist change. The question then is how to convince the reluctant and educate current practicing teachers in strategies and techniques for harnessing the capabilities of technology and producing quality, curriculum driven, lessons.
It is essential to teach the tools within a context; for example, using the Site Based TPD model, a small group of teachers could create a unit that explores the sounds of Shakespeare through the use of Garageband and iTunes with a sharing component to a class blog. Through the creation of the unit, the group of teachers will develop valuable technological skills in a meaningful, constructive environment. Teaching tech tools in a vacuum, without context is counterproductive and could possibly have long term negative consequences for the teacher and her students in terms of tech integration in her classroom.

It is important that our school strives to offer continuous technology based professional development opportunities for our staff, as well as technological support throughout the school year. I will also continue to work toward implementation of a meaningful teachers learning from teachers professional development initiative.

Gaible, Edmond and Burns, Mary (n.d.). Models and Best practices in Teacher Professional Development. Retrieved 2011-03-11, from http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.294.html.

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