5 Strategies for Your Professional Development Initiatives

Vol. 15 No. 2

academicleadership eletter Vol16 No2 top5

It’s critical for Division Heads and other academic leaders to help faculty members increase their knowledge and sharpen their approaches through professional development. Your school’s professional development initiatives must be designed to show teachers how to navigate the rapidly evolving world of education to meet the needs of today’s students.

As you consider your school’s professional development program for the year, ask yourself: Am I doing everything I can to support my faculty members? If you aren’t sure, consider five strategies that effective professional development programs typically follow.

  1. Professional development should be mandatory. It’s not enough to make professional development encouraged or supported—set expectations that professional growth is a mandated, ongoing activity to support improved student learning. Ensure that professional development is part of a teacher's evaluation and they have the tools they need to help meet their goals.
  2. Professional development should be intentional. If a faculty member cannot articulate how his or her professional development relates to the students’ needs and the school’s mission, it isn’t the best use of time or resources. Every faculty member must create a plan for his or her own PD journey, identifying how each particular activity fits into the overall scheme. This plan should align with the school’s strategic academic plan and overall direction. While the plan is driven by the individual teacher, it is always within the context of the school’s learning community.
  3. Professional development should be individualized. Despite evidence that personalized professional development is best for helping teachers build on their strengths and improve their weaknesses, a one-size-fits-all approach is predominantly found in many schools. Events like in-service workshops, where an outside speaker is brought in for an hour, cannot be adapted to the individual circumstances of every teacher. Instead, use a “train the trainer” approach, hiring outside consultants to train lead teachers in particular areas so they can then share their knowledge with others. Ensure that Department Chairs and team leaders have time to mentor and coach. Use your math, language, and guidance specialists to improve the skills of the faculty. Rely on many different team members’ strengths to help build your overall capacity.
  4. Professional development should be connected. Professional development can often be episodic, such as “I did some professional development this summer.” But the best PD initiatives are ongoing, persistent, and relate to the school culture. Articulate and model that professional development is vital to great teaching and help your faculty members tie their initiatives to their larger career plan.
  5. Professional development should be in-depth. Approve investment of time and money for in-depth exploration of a topic. Explore how your faculty can discover new ways of learning and teaching over long periods of time. Require teachers who attend conferences or workshops to report back to appropriate faculty members, enhancing everyone’s understanding and capacity.

Professional growth and renewal is critical to sustaining excellence in every teacher’s practice, both inside and outside the classroom. Employ these strategies as you continue to refine your professional development program to benefit your faculty and, ultimately, your students.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 13 No. 10 Teach the Teachers: Four Flexible Professional Development Ideas for Summer
The Source for Private School News Vol. 15 No. 4 Report Shows Increased Spending, Emphasis on Professional Development
The Source for Private School News
Vol. 16 No. 5 Keep Your Professional Development Initiatives Fresh This Summer

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
Vol. 41 No. 12 A Renewed Perspective for Professional Development
Vol. 41 No. 16 Professional Development: Five Worst Practices

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