Professional Development for Teachers: Eight Tools for Personalizing Professional Development

Posted by Matt Berringer on December 21, 2015

By Heather MacCorkle Edick, M.S.Ed
Part 3 of 3

Professional Development for TeachersIn the post “Spending Professional Development Time and Money Wisely,” teachers and professional development (PD) providers were urged to personalize learning and make it relevant to the teacher’s current learning environment. One suggestion was to use Action Research to help teachers identify research questions within their own context, investigate the questions, analyze the data, and plan for the future based on the data collected. In this post, I identify eight tools that can support teachers as they learn to personalize their professional development.

8. A Journal
Whether using Moleskine® or going online, keeping a journal about the day's experiences will, over time, help a teacher identify trends, make better predictions about lesson outcomes, shape and clarify decisions, and grow confidence. Many teachers have taken their thoughts online. Here is a list of top educator blogs from 2014 to inspire you: 2014 Edublog Awards - Best Teacher Blog Category.

7. Your State DOE Website
In Pennsylvania, the Standards Aligned System website features a PD Center for teachers with many courses on a variety of topics. The courses are free for teachers who have a PPID (Professional Personnel ID), and they can choose the courses they want to take based on their needs. Teachers can see a preview of the course to make sure that it suits their needs, too. I have taken many courses through this website and have learned something valuable from each one. The instructors are great, too.

Google searches have often brought me to the Public Schools of North Carolina's PD website, too. The resources are helpful, and this DOE also offers live sessions for NC school leaders, both online and face-to-face.

Another example is New York’s EngageNY. EngageNY is a website chock full of resources for educators and parents. They have resources for Common Core, Teacher/Leader Effectiveness, Data Driven Instruction, Professional Development, and a video library that addresses topics by grade level.

Other State DOE websites also offer PD resources that teachers can use based on their needs. Check yours out today!

6. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything
She’s not kidding; it really is a guide to everything. If you can't find information on a topic, let her know, and I’m sure she’ll find something to add to the site. Take a look at her page for Assessment and Rubrics, for example. Find Kathy on twitter here: @kathyschrock.

5. We Are Teachers
Use this site to find lesson plans and resources on a wide variety of topics. Resources include videos, printables, “out of the box” ideas for lessons, ideas for integrating art and creativity into the curriculum, ways to teach the whole child, and more!

4. The Teaching Channel
The Teaching Channel® video collection features short (fewer than 10 minutes) videos focused on very specific topics. They currently have videos for arts, English language arts, math, science, and social studies, as well as cross-curricular topics like assessment, behavior, differentiation, and English language learners. There are videos for each grade level, K–12. Many videos also have guiding questions and supporting materials in PDF and Word format.

3. Twitter
Kathy Schrock has created a page called “Twitter for Teachers” that shares links to practical advice on how to use Twitter for professional development. Because Twitter users are limited to 140 characters, their tweets are usually succinct, which is more helpful to a teacher looking for quick answers than a long post such as this one. This article from TeachThought is a primer on Twitter hashtags for educators. There are so many of them, and I'm sure the number is growing all the time. Education groups also chat on Twitter. They agree to days and times to be on Twitter and tweet in real time, allowing for collaboration with any number of colleagues and many experts in the field of education who participate in these chats. Find a list of Twitter Chats for educators here.

ASCD is a site that caters to educators with books, publications, conferences, professional development courses, and special programs. I own many of their titles and have been a member of ASCD for many years now. Membership is a bit pricey, but the benefits of membership (including many texts available for download and free members-only webinars) are very good, and the support they offer teachers is solid and trustworthy. They always seem to be aware of each educational trend and prepared with something (webinar, book, video, article, lesson plan, report, etc.) to help teachers understand it.

1. The Colleagues in Your Building
The most valuable professional development resource you have is your building PLC (Professional Learning Community). The teachers in your building will best understand your situation, and best be able to provide you with timely advice about students, teaching strategies, classroom management, community engagement, etc. If you do not have a PLC in your building, perhaps you could start one. This article from Edutopia might help you. This PDF from SEDL (The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) may also be helpful.

An Open Mind
All of these tools require that the teacher has a continuous improvement mindset, and that he or she is committed to reflective practice. Understanding one's strengths and challenges and wanting to improve is critically important. It is also important that the tool teachers choose proves relevant to their current situation, and that using it is enjoyable and worthwhile. I hope that I have provided a list of such tools for you, and welcome your suggestions for others.

Topics: Best Practices, Heather Edick