Here are some other ideas I've heard about from friends in other schools as to how they deal with professional development within their school communities:
- Visits to other classrooms and learning from observing colleagues - I know I have learned so much from being in classrooms or having the homeroom teachers in the labs and seeing some different instructional approaches. It's great to observe colleagues who are doing things that we want to know more about or who are experimenting with new ideas and who also value our feedback. I believe this approach was tried very successfully in our Middle School this year.
- Sharing best practice at staff meetings - teachers showcase what they are doing and what is working well. I've seen these done as "speed-geeking" sessions as well as something more along the lines of an EdCamp where teachers choose what they want to learn more about.
- Walkthroughs - I tried to do these on a weekly basis during the first half of the year - I was focused first on whether the new technology in the classes was working and then later on how it was being used. Walkthroughs could have many different focuses.
- Peer coaching so teachers can try out new skills and strategies with support.
- Being part of a professional reading group to discuss and share ideas based on books we read together
Outside of school I have found the following the most beneficial for my own professional development:
- Networking - finding teachers with a similar vision about teaching and learning. There are teachers around the world that I follow on Twitter, educators whose blogs I read and comment on, educators I skype or email with regularly, many of whom I have never met in person.
- Joining with teachers in another school on a collaborative project.
- Attending and presenting at conferences
- Online courses and webinars
My reflection: time is what is needed to do most of these things. Schools need to commit to giving teachers the time they need to learn and develop. Some schools I've worked at have given this time, either to the whole staff through late start/early release days, or by releasing teachers from duties and/or clubs. If teachers are seen as the leading learners in the school, the students will surely benefit.
Photo Credit: Master Learner (SMART) by Josh Allen