Why Alternative Professional Development?

Just imagine yourself sitting in at a professional development training where you are in a large room sitting at tables while you hear the presenter talk about a new strategy you are going to want to implement in your classroom.  At this time you are just sitting there thinking to yourself: “Here we go again.  Why do we have to sit through this training?. Why do we have to get into groups just to talk about how this new strategy will help my students?”  

Most of us dread professional developments and only go because they are mandatory.  For the most part we sit through the same trainings getting the same information regardless of of our grade level or core subject. Granted there are times where the trainings are tailored more towards grade levels and core subjects, but the delivery is still the same.  Teachers sitting at their tables while receiving information.  The activities that are used are not effective enough to be able to implement what we learn in the classroom.  We receive information on how the new strategy/program  will benefit students tremendously, but we do not receive any information on how to implement or support it.  

“..the largest 50 school districts in the U.S. devote at least $8 billion to teacher development annually.” -TNTP (2015)

There is so much money, time, and effort that goes into professional developments yet the results are not beneficial, why?  Why do they continue to present it the same way?  What if it could be different?  Teachers are being taught that their teaching should be more personalized towards their students.  That not every student learns the same.  Aren’t teachers not students as well?  Why should teachers be treated differently?  We are all individuals who learn differently, shouldn’t out trainings reflect that? Professional development needs to needs to be reconstructed.  To make professional development more efficient it needs to be made up with the following:

  • Personalization

Trainings need to be tailored to what teachers are interested in learning and  what they need in their classrooms.  Every year at the beginning of the school year, teachers are trained over the school’s behavior management system.  This is a crucial training for incoming teachers, but not returning teachers.  For returning teachers they do not need to listen to the basic information that most likely did not change from the previous year.  They need to be trained on how they can improve on their weakness.  If they do not get trained on how to effectively implement the behavior plan, how will their management get stronger?  When you personalize trainings to the teacher’s needs, teachers will become stronger teachers.

  • Effective Collaboration

When we think of collaboration at trainings, we think of teachers breaking out in groups for an activity.  Usually the activity involves talking on how you can implement what you are being trained on, reading an article and sharing with the group, or creating an anchor chart.  This is not an effective way for teachers to collaborate.  The best type of collaboration needs to be teachers with teachers. When it comes to training, districts/schools do not need to always rely on bringing in an outside source.  They should look within their districts/schools and let their teachers shine in what they are masters in.  This will create a more meaningful collaboration between teachers.  Also there should be groups of teachers who get together at their respective schools and collaborate with one another on a daily/weekly basis.

  • Support system

After we finish with the professional development, the support is gone.  Districts/schools get the consultant to come back several times a year, but that is not a support system.  They come back to continue training us when we haven’t fully mastered the original subject.  Trainers need to be available throughout the whole process.  They need to be available to come in the classroom to model the implementation process in real time. They should be available to help teachers when they struggle and provide additional ideas.  Their support should not stop as soon as the training ends.  Schools should also create support groups because teachers should not feel ashamed to ask for help.  Teachers should feel they have people around them wanting them to succeed.  The same can be said for  administration.  They should be part of the support system as well, so if teachers need help they can go to their admin and not feel like they are failures.

  • Time for implementation

Time, time, time! When districts/schools bring someone in or have their instructional coaches train, they expect teachers to go back in their classroom and immediately implement what they are training for.  In other situation, sometimes a deadline is given with an unrealistic timeframe that is not achievable.   If a deadline is necessary, it should be reasonable and agreed upon by both parties.  It is easy for teachers to get overwhelmed.  Things come up on a daily basis that makes implementation difficult.  An effective implementation will  take time and patience.  Like the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t build in a day.”

In order for teachers to have an effective professional development, they need to have it personalized, involve more collaboration, and have a support system and time.  When teachers are properly trained, their instruction improves therefore student learning improves.  With the above criteria teachers will go from griping about professional development to praising professional development.

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For my presentation I decided to try something new called VideoScribe.  This was a frustrating new tool for me  It took me some time of playing with the software to get what I wanted and even then, I am not totally satisfied with the software.  Even though I am not satisfied, I am glad I gave it a try.  I am a firm believer of trying everything once, this will you an assortment tools to use in the future.  VideoScribe allows you to try it free for 7 days and gives you a limited database of images you can use.  The software also allows you to import images via locally or from the web.  I was able to add free images from Google search. At times it was frustrating because the images I wanted were not available to me unless I bought a subscription to the software.  It is very similar to using any slide presentations software.  You search for images, write in text, set how long it takes to draw the image, and add sound or you can record a voice over.


Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the teachers effective professional development in an era of high stakes accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Teaching-the-Teachers-Effective-Professional-Development-in-an-Era-of-High-Stakes-Accountability/Teaching-the-Teachers-Full-Report.pd