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What are teachers looking for when it comes to Professional Development? The majority of the time, professional development is something that is set up by the district or building leaders. It could deal with hot topic in education at the time or in response to data gathered on standardized tests or in the evaluation process. While these are great topics and definitely time should be spent in development with this, how often are teachers consulted on what they want and need for their development since this development is supposed to help them become better educators. Shouldn’t they have a say in what they are looking for? Refer to this case study by Leigh M. Parise, Carla Finkelstein and Emma Alterman from the MDRC entitled “We Always Want To Get Better” Teachers’ Voices on Professional Development. 

Through the iPD Challenge the MDRC evaluation of Professional development involved case studies and interviews with teachers regarding their beliefs about instructional improvement and useful learning. The team conducted teacher and principal surveys, interviews and case studies in five districts to gather the data on what teachers are looking for. 

The first component of what teachers were looking for when it comes to professional development was the ability to learn from or with other teachers. Teachers want the ability to collaborate and share ideas, especially within their own school and grade levels.  As one teacher stated “Even though the content that we receive in Professional Development is excellent, sometimes it takes a little bit more for us to realize how to implement it so collaboration has been the strongest factor in our development”. What is being shared in Professional Development is new to the teachers. They need the ability to discuss with each other how this is going to work in the classroom. They also need the time to reconvene to discuss and share what went right and what went wrong. This extra time also shows the importance placed on the professional development. 

Secondly, teachers want the ability and the time needed to do peer observations. Going into the classroom and observing gives them new insights on ideas to incorporate in their own classrooms. It is also helpful to have a peer come into your own classroom and give insight into what they saw. It helps make the needed changes to better their teaching process.  

The Professional Development relevance to their classroom instruction was the determining factor if the Professional Development activity was useful or not according to over 50% of the teacher in the study. Teachers want ideas that they can implement right away and see results. This idea was also tied to collaboration and the ability to create useful assessment and lesson plans.  Teachers also want Professional Development that directly relates to the subjects they taught. Finally the teachers want to see how the expectations of Professional Development connect to their work.  

What teachers were discouraged by with Professional Development were those experiences where they felt the development was not connected to their practice. Another issue was feeling unable to implement what they learned and also not enough time was spent with follow-up to the development through observations and productive feedback. Finally teachers were frustrated that time was not spent wisely during Professional Development sessions resulting in passive audience participation rather than collaboration. 

Teachers are looking to better themselves through Professional Development. What the teachers are looking for is an active, relevant session involving collaboration that results in observations and productive feedback when what is learned is applied in the classroom. Standard for Success is here to help you through that process to build better teachers, better students, and a better world. 


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