Society’s understanding of education constantly evolves. Research and data regularly reveal new insights into topics like student learning, instructional methods, classroom management and more that inform how educators shape their craft. But, without proper training and support, teachers don’t always have the opportunity to use this knowledge to learn and adapt. That’s where robust professional development (PD) — backed by strong leader support — plays a huge role in schools.
Professional development doesn’t simply “happen.” Teachers have many demands on their time and energy, so school administrators should support their faculty by allocating time specifically for PD and embedding it in the job. Additionally, they should support the development of effective teacher leaders within their schools who can help elevate colleagues through PD training. Leaders can coach other teachers on specific content areas and facilitate more regular learning experiences. By working to complement one another, school administrators and teacher leaders can cultivate a dynamic culture of professional development among their fellow educators.
In the online Education Specialist (EdS) in Educational Administration with a Specialization in Teacher Leader program from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), students receive the knowledge, skills and strategies necessary to support the ongoing development of teachers. Whether as a leader, coach or specialist, graduates will gain a deep knowledge base and skills that integrates practical and research knowledge and links theory with inquiry.
Below are some strategies that teacher leaders can use to create and maintain quality professional development:
Respect Time and Communicate Effectively
One of the most important roles a school leader has is to respect the time and energy of others, as the education blog Edutopia points out: “Administrative meetings compete with individualized education programs, data teams, professional learning committees, cross-curricular planning meetings, and much more.” If a meeting could be an email instead, make it an email.
Providing an agenda, managing time concisely and ending meetings on schedule are also ways that any administrator or leader can honor other educators. With an agenda or schedule, teachers have time to prepare for meetings and can arrive ready. With time as a perpetual consideration, effective time management is crucial. Presenters must be able to get their lessons across efficiently in ways that educators can utilize immediately. Lastly, when leaders end meetings on time, they demonstrate to colleagues that they recognize and respect the importance of their time.
Offers Chances for Feedback and Reflection
Another way for teacher leaders to create better professional development is to allow teachers time for reflection and open themselves up for feedback. On a basic level, this empowers teachers and reinforces their autonomy. Educators need time to reflect and consider how new knowledge might be integrated into their individual classrooms.
Individual reflection time also enables teachers to ask teacher leaders for feedback or clarifying questions about the material and develop a better understanding. The education resource website Prodigy notes that leaders should also solicit feedback from teachers about the training session. This creates a feedback loop that helps sustain professional development and reinforces co-investment: “If you want professional development to be relevant, ask your teachers for their suggestions — there’s a good chance that they have plenty to say.”
Be Patient and Keep It Simple
Although new trends in education are common, not all are worth pursuing, of course. Administrators and teacher leaders should carefully consider what new strategies to implement and encourage. Edutopia writes that supportive leaders “know how to distill high-impact strategies into a handful of manageable priorities” to help teachers master them. Then, give new strategies time to take root. Obviously, not all ideas work out long term, but prematurely giving up on a new concept or not giving teachers sufficient time to implement strategies can skew results and create confusion and burnout among faculty.
Graduates of a postgraduate education degree in educational administration and teacher leadership are prepared to support educators’ professional development and, in effect, build stronger school communities. Relevant courses in SIUE’s program include Instructional Leadership and Supervision: Theory and Research, Becoming a Teacher Leader: Mentor and Coach, Leadership in Professional Development, and Leadership in Educational Technology.