Across schools there is a consistent focus to maximize instructional time in the classroom. But the same value and priority is not always given when considering the learning and growth of teachers. Leaders should tap into their creative and flexible spirit to identify strategies and structures that curate authentic and valuable learning opportunities for educators. This is not a one size fits all approach to professional learning. It’s differentiated in nature, tapping into what we know has worked in the past and what is possible for the future.
Schools across the country are embracing flexible learning schedules for students, including 4 days of school per week, asynchronous learning Fridays, engaging students in 12 month in-school learning, and embracing online synchronous and asynchronous learning into the evenings and weekends. Similarly, schools and leaders can embody the value of flexibility in the way professional learning is scheduled for educators. In our work over the past 3 years, Innovageous has engaged over 75 schools in long-term, intentionally planned professional learning experiences with our team members. Our innovageous process for planning professional learning includes a collaborative approach to identifying modality, schedule, differentiated topics, and aligned resources as takeaway tools.
Modality and schedule have become a large part of our discussions with leaders and teachers, especially since the COVID pandemic. Schools adopted many new strategies for meetings, online collaboration, and professional learning that can continue to be enhanced. We have worked alongside leaders to identify ways to maximize adult learning time and to make professional learning accessible outside of the school day without having teachers stay after school to attend workshops. We’ve enjoyed building community with educators at home with the occasional guest appearance by a pet or child. We’ve held value in creating asynchronous learning with embedded engagement and collaboration tools that allow colleagues to share ideas in their own time that they can refer to. When and how we implement professional learning is important, as part of the learning is the context and the ability to give attention to the session. That may not happen during a planning period or directly after school or the Friday before a 3 day weekend. Leaders can think creatively and get input from their educators about what works best for them, gaining critical insight and buy-in to make informed decisions about planning.
Differentiated topics for various sub-groups of educators is an approach that can promote smaller group learning that connects directly to an educator's role and/or needs. Having a speaker for a 3 hour morning session for a full school’s staff will likely have less of an impact than a combination of large group sessions, small group learning, and individual reflection. Being thoughtful about the pathways of each sub-group’s learning will create an environment where every educator is connected to the sessions being offered. With several schools we partner with, there is an effort to plan year-long professional learning that meets the needs of all educators in the school. Common subgroups could include specialties, grade levels or departments. Subgroups could include educator choices or level/years of teaching. Many schools build in professional development days into the school year, giving plenty of time for intentionally planning for each sub-group that’s been identified.
Lastly, leaders have been eager to learn about how best to sustain professional development efforts through ongoing support and accountability. How can we ensure the learning does not end when the session is over and the actionable implementation starts immediately? Leaders should embrace tools and strategies to keep the conversion going and ensure high quality implementation of strategies introduced during professional learning. Later this month, Innovageous is going to share strategies and examples of how we promote long term impacts from our professional development sessions by building the capacity of leaders to monitor and improve actionable outcomes of professional development.
As you begin to think about your future professional development, start by asking yourself these 6 questions, and then use our PD planning template tool to get started:
Who will be engaged in PD?
What subgroups of staff need pathways during PD?
How does this PD support your organization's mission and/or vision?
When will you integrate wellness activities as an intentional aspect of the PD day?
Where will PD sessions take place that will meet the needs of participants and providers?
How will you build a community focused on a school/organization wide value or priority with the full staff?
Our team is ready to support your school/organization’s needs in professional development planning and facilitation. Schedule a time to chat with us about other strategies to customize your professional development via email at info@Innovageous.com or make an appointment at calendly.com/innovageous.