21st Century teaching starts with professional development

Weekly ProTips

As educators, we are expected to accommodate multiple learning styles, differentiate our content, and engage our students, all in the course of one lesson.  But when we become the students during professional development sessions, we become a passive, sit-and-get audience. What’s up with that?
When did the rules change just because we are adults?  Does it really have to be this way?  Studies have shown that we lose our creative drive as we get older.  Typically, we peak in our 20s, and slowly decline in our creativity during our 30s and 40s.  Why?

As we age, we adapt to what we find works in life.  We develop habits that are acceptable by society, and those habits become who we are.  As we all know, habits are hard to break.  Does this sound familiar?  Are you a harbinger for change?  “Change” does not have to be a four-letter word.  Change in education must start at the top and work its way throughout the education system.

Change in the way you approach professional development is powerful—and easier than you think.

  1. Immersion: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines immersion as “instruction based on extensive exposure to surroundings or conditions that are native or pertinent to the object of study.”  So, how do you immerse your participants in professional development?  Instead of offering a lecture type of presentation, provide the presentation to your participants ahead of the actual meeting. Participants can study the material and be prepared to discuss it during the professional development session.  This “flipped” method of instruction allows for your group to apply the material learned outside of class to real-world simulations inside of class.  Now instead of the presenter being the center of instruction, the presenter becomes a facilitator of learning.
  2. Collaboration: Collaboration can be called by many names: teamwork, association, partnership, participation.  Collaboration is more than just talking to each other.  Collaborative activities support critical-thinking skills by having people work as a team to create, solve problems, and achieve a common goal.  Pair-and-share, jigsaw, and numbered heads together are just a few collaborative strategies that can be employed in professional development.  Need a platform to promote collaboration?  The Promethean ActivPanel allows for multiple users to collaborate on the actual flat panel.  Participants can access a simple whiteboard to brainstorm on a particular topic, obtain apps from the Google Play Store to help solve problems, and show real-world examples of content being discussed.
  3. Support: Do you want to see the fruits of your labor? Then, get out into the classrooms and support your professional development participants with their new skills.  Support can also be provided by meeting in small groups to discuss how things are going, or set up a video call with participants to field questions, suggestions, etc.  If participants know that you will support them in their new endeavors, change will not be as scary as it once was.

Changing how we approach professional development is easy as 1, 2, 3.  If our desire is for education to accommodate students of the 21st century, then professional development is the first change we should make.

Author: Sonya Gates comes to Promethean following a fifteen-year adventure in education in the classroom teaching primary aged students, teachers, and even college students. She began working with Promethean products in 2005 in the public school environment, and is now full-time with Promethean, training and supporting teachers in Mississippi, Alabama, West Tennessee, and Arkansas.