July 13, 2023
What if professional development were seamlessly integrated into the day-to-day operation of every school and district? What if districts or departments within a school collaborated on relevant training? What if professional learning was about not just developing skills but solving challenges and breaking down barriers to teacher and student success? What if learning and developing ourselves as teachers were acts of joy?
When done well, professional development (PD) can keep people in the profession, help address teacher burnout, and improve the conditions for teaching and learning. The first step to more meaningful professional development is adding the time and structure for the systematic implementation of inspirational PD. The second step is to honor the individuality of staff members and replace mandated training with goal-oriented, personalized PD that simultaneously cultivates new skills while elevating the expertise of educators.
What’s the next step?
Structure professional learning to build agile, flexible thinkers empowered to revolutionize education. Nurture the natural changemaker at the heart of many educators and equip them to design and test solutions to educational challenges. The world is moving too quickly to think that top-down solutions and mandated resources will foster change: targeted, grassroots adjustments—and at times replacement—are needed for education to keep up with the rapid pace of change.
Simply put, PBL PD. Teachers are embracing the authenticity of project-based learning to challenge students and help them develop real-world problem-solving skills. The same basic approach can redefine professional development.
In addition to equipping teachers with vital agility skills, such a shift in professional learning will emphasize just how much teachers MATTER in the lives of students and in changing society for the better. With burnout at an all-time high, helping teachers see their impact and showing them how much they matter is critical. In his research analysis, Zach Mercurio, organization and leadership development researcher and strategist, found that “Few things are more powerful than when a human being realizes they matter.”
Identify Potential Projects
While administrators can let teachers pick whatever they want to do, to truly nurture changemakers you must focus on what needs to change. Dedicate time to developing a list of possible PD PBL topics. Brainstorm all the barriers and frustrations that limit or prevent student success. Compile a list of teacher concerns and curriculum hurdles. Identify big world problems that are STILL not being discussed in classrooms.