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Ongoing programs are key to teachers’ professional development

When it comes to investing in professional development for teachers, workshops clearly come out as the No. 1 choice for institutions throughout the nation. More than 90 percent of teachers engaged in workshop training sessions during the school year, according to one study. But are workshops doing the job? Apparently not.

According to another study, these short sessions do little to change teacher practices. Not only are they having little or no impact on helping teachers with their professional development, they’re not doing much to improve student achievement.

The problem with workshops is that they’re not consistent. The information learned is not typically put into practice — or there is little follow-through to determine whether the lessons are being incorporated in teaching styles.

To really be effective, professional development needs to be ongoing over an extended period of time, according to a report released by the Center for Public Education.

As with most professions, mastery of teaching practices are shown to improve through continuous practice. Here are 4 key strategies to boost the effectiveness of teacher professional growth plans.

1. Provide consistency.

Don’t think of teacher professional development as a one-time event, or even a sporadic series of events or programs. According to studies, effective professional development programs can require from 50 to 80 hours of instruction, feedback, and practice.

2. Adopt a system of coaching.

Mentorship has been shown to be particularly effective in the teaching profession. Peer observation combined with coaching have been shown to significantly help teachers move from merely having the knowledge of skills to effectively practicing the skills, according to the same report. This requires a dedication of staff members to the development.

3. Monitor results.

Ongoing evaluations also are key to the effectiveness of teacher professional development initiatives. Feedback from peer coaches, supervisors, and other staff members involved in a teacher’s training should be tracked to determine progress as well as to point out areas of concern. With teacher evaluation software, these details can be easily captured and reviewed regularly.

4. Motivate.

Encouraging participation may seem like a simple thing, but often is lacking with professional development programs — especially with short sessions like workshops. Recognize milestones with verbal and written feedback. If possible, tie in financial rewards, including bonuses or pay increases, with significant growth.

So, the lesson? Drop the workshops and invest in ongoing training to get the most effective teacher development results.