PMP:147 Providing Focused Professional Development

When you think about providing professional development, do you feel stressed or excited?

Photo by 1DayReview – Creative Commons Attribution License

For many principals, providing professional development can be a daunting task. The good news is that professional development can become something that is meaningful and enjoyable when you realize you no longer have to be the expert. Instead, together with your school team, you can select topics, share expertise, and learn together how about topics where teachers really care about.

In this week’s podcast, Principal Jen Schwanke and I discuss Providing Focused and Budget-Friendly Professional Development. She has been serving co-host for this series on “Strategies and Solutions that Work for School Leaders.” Jen is also the author of You’re the Principal. Now What? Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders, and the Principal of Indian Run Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio.

Consider Your Background for Professional Development

Here are some ideas to keep in mind before developing a Professional Development Plan:

  • Size of school
  • Size of district
  • Previous professional development
  • The level of your learners
  • What the data say
  • The resources available
  • District priorities

It’s important to keep this context in mind so that you can design PD that works for your setting and context.

Recommendation for supporting teachers in PD

Once you have this background, consider these steps and strategies:

  • Gather history about what your teachers have done previously
  • ASK THEM what they need (surveys, conversations, responses to school initiatives)
    o Provide choice and voice (just like the kids)
    o It needs to be applicable to their daily work
  • Find time (creative solutions for finding time)
  • Plan short-term and long term (sketching out a vision)
  • Spread about the work (Delegate! The principal doesn’t need to be the wisest guy in the room)
  • Use internal experts, but know when to outsource
  • Vet your PD (don’t just jump on the first vendor that sounds good)
  • Use your principal colleagues
  • Follow through with what you promise!!
  • Make profession reading an expectation (cheap, easy, and applicable– book study groups)
  • Use resources (more and more available online)

Finally, at the end of these conversations and planning, develop a shared professional development calendar. At the end of this week’s podcast, Jen shares a sample of how she and her school team build their own.

Listen-in this week as we also add some bonus-conversation at the end to remind you that it is better to choose fewer priorities than overwhelm yourself and your teachers with un-focused professional development.

Let’s Wrap This Up

You need to remember there is no way to include everything you want to cover in professional development, but you can learn to share the learning and increase the joy of focused PD. It is more important to go deep in one or two areas than to overwhelm your teachers with too many initiatives at once. Be a leader who listens AND protects those whom your serving – while also inspiring learning.

Now It’s Your Turn

What is one new way you can begin approaching professional development that involves input from your team? How can you protect time in your calendar so that time is prioritized for ongoing learning for your teachers and staff? What is something you’d love to learn more about? Ask your teachers that question and begin planning professional development with their input.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker