Supporting Teachers with Professional Learning Implementation

When considering the revamping of professional learning, merely hosting a dynamic workshop falls short. A systematic reflection on the processes of teacher training, professional development, and recertification is imperative. Time is a scarce resource in the field of education, hindering the implementation of new concepts. To foster innovation, educators require time, space, and support to cultivate novel ideas.

Many educators must accrue recertification hours to sustain their licensure. Leaders must evaluate whether teachers have the opportunity to experiment with fresh ideas or are just amassing certificates from workshops, following a mere seat time model.

Exploring the design of professional learning systems to integrate these hours seamlessly within the school year is worthwhile. Strategic planning in professional learning can simplify the process for teachers to concentrate on execution and innovation. The execution of ideas should not be an additional burden.

Translating New Concepts into Practice

While workshops disseminate new ideas effectively, implementing these ideas in the classroom requires significant effort. The district’s design plays a pivotal role in enabling or inhibiting innovation. By structuring programs or identifying opportunities for teachers to devote time to crafting and executing ideas, leaders can facilitate innovation and ensure the transformation reaches the classroom.

For instance, in Lakota Local School District, Butler County, Ohio, the district’s professional development team collaborates with innovation specialists from each school building to tailor pathways that suit the teachers’ needs in their respective buildings. Krista Heidenreich, the director of digital learning, strives to establish a system where professional learning is a continual process rather than a task confined to designated days.

The district team collaborates with innovation specialists to offer a vision and strategy for professional learning within the district, creating opportunities for teachers to enhance their practice and work on impactful ideas for students. Annually, they conduct a kickoff session to elucidate these opportunities to teachers and ensure their awareness of the existing prospects.

Recently, the district introduced Challenge Accepted, a blended model comprising synchronous and asynchronous programming enabling teachers to focus on areas aligned with district objectives, such as culture, instructional strategies, student ownership, and data-driven decisions. They developed a series of virtual innovation modules granting teachers badges, equivalent to recertification hours, for applying the innovation process and progressing towards goals.

Furthermore, a Personalized Learning Cohort was created for teachers seeking in-person connections while implementing new ideas. Teachers meet monthly to drive their professional learning by sharing experiences, effective strategies, and future plans. Additionally, teachers have access to one-on-one sessions with innovation specialists, ensuring continuous support from coaching to co-teaching.

While there isn’t a fixed model for fostering innovation and implementation, there are several strategies to establish supportive environments for teachers. Creating options like cohort programs, accelerators, incubators, or action research labs can enhance the impact and application of professional learning.

The Leysin American School integrated an in-house teacher-driven research lab to empower teachers to develop their projects. Each year, the PD team collaborates with the administration to define building goals. Staff members receive calls for projects, and selected initiatives are authorized to experiment with innovative practices.

Post-initiative launch, teachers receive coaching throughout the year, with the PD team actively sharing innovations via articles or talks that teachers can leverage to engage with colleagues, publish, or contribute to the broader educational community. Paul Magnuson, the research lab director, highlighted the importance of an environment that supports professional growth. “Teachers feel empowered knowing that the administration is supportive of their endeavors. This environment makes experimenting and implementing new ideas feel secure.”

Implementing These Concepts in Your Educational Environment

Every school and district has the potential to embed time for recognizing implementation as a crucial aspect of professional learning. The first step is to prioritize the professional learning journey for teachers, collaborating to address their needs and seamlessly integrate professional learning opportunities into their daily routine. Subsequently, observe the existing system and identify avenues to incorporate time effectively.

Begin with small initiatives during staff meetings and in-service days. Utilize a flipped classroom approach to deliver content beforehand, shifting the focus towards idea exchange, collaboration, and implementation during group gatherings. Ensure teachers have access to in-house coaching for sharing and testing ideas, fostering a culture where coaching is perceived as supportive rather than punitive.

Strategically aligning professional learning systems yields numerous benefits, allowing teachers to experience innovative pedagogy and apply it in classrooms. Personalized professional learning enables teachers to dedicate time to meaningful endeavors, enhancing student outcomes and valuing teachers’ contributions. Directing time towards implementation increases the likelihood of successful innovation.

To foster agency, innovation, implementation, and continuous improvement, pathways must be established to realize this vision. Rather than focusing solely on transformative workshops, the conversation around professional learning should shift towards designing a more cohesive system within schools and districts.

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