Recently I have been tweeting on Twitter posts related to the professional learning of teachers as I believe it is vital that it is a priority in schools. However, professional learning for teachers is often dependent upon the priorities set at different levels across educations systems - from national, state or local levels. Additionally, budgetary considerations across these levels can leave teachers with limited options to participate in professional learning and build upon their professional knowledge, practice and engagement. I would advocate that all teachers want voice and choice regarding their professional learning, but the reality is sometimes very different within schools.
As professionals, we need to be proactive. Therefore planning for professional learning regardless of the opportunities that may or may not exist within our schools can be achieved. We can create pathways for professional learning that further develops professional knowledge, practice and engagement through developing a Professional Development Action Plan. We can follow our interests, our passions as well as embark on new discoveries about teaching and learning when we create our professional pathways.
Professional Development Action Plan
Professional learning is the key to improving your teaching and also the quality of learning that your students experience in your classroom. Every day teachers work hard for students in their classrooms. We need to actively commit to professional growth and development. In developing a Professional Development Action Plan (PDAP), the opportunity arises to plan for your professional learning trajectory in the school year. You decide the direction you want to head in your professional learning. It gives you an agency where you exercise your voice and choice in your professional learning priorities.
In developing a plan, you are not waiting for something or someone to provide you with opportunities. By developing a PDAP, you enact ownership over your professional learning and create the opportunities for yourself. The following are actions that you can take to help you in developing your PDAP:
1. Reflect upon your current strengths and the areas of professional knowledge, practice or engagement that require further development.
2. Conduct a SWOT analysis to list out your strengths & weaknesses and then identify the possible opportunities & threats that you see that could affect your PDAP.
3. Identify 3-5 goals for your professional learning to develop across the school year.
4. Decide on the particular activities that you could undertake to support your professional learning goals. These could include any one of the following options:
Collaborate with colleagues to develop your professional learning. Let them know that you are working on priority areas to increase your professional knowledge, improve your professional practice or build upon your professional engagement. Collaboration entails "sharing, talking, trusting, co-creating and learning..challenging, critiquing, including, empowering, and debating" (Hargreaves, 2019, p.15).
Consider mentoring/coaching to support your professional learning. There are many benefits from these approaches to professional learning and range from non-directive to more directive approaches. Both entail learning conversations, reflection and sharing and working through agreed outcomes. If you require more experienced expertise to support you achieving your goals, then mentoring would be suitable. Coaching is ideal if you are seeking guided explorations related to your goals.
Build upon your professional reading library. Invest in books and also take time to find journals, articles and blogs that explore educational issues related to your professional learning priorities. Professional reading is so essential in deepening your knowledge and understanding related to your priority areas. Build professional reading into your work with colleagues and participate in professional dialogue that supports learning about the priority areas.
Podcasts are an easy way to keep up to date with the latest innovation, information and research related to teaching. They provide an easy way to access educational expertise and build upon your professional learning in priority areas.
Online Professional Development
Online professional development is continuously being produced and takes on many forms, e.g. online courses, workshops, webinars, twitter chats. They provide the possibility of accessing professional learning anywhere at any time. They are flexible and cost-effective - additionally, they offer opportunities for interactions with experts and online communities through online chats.
Professional Learning Networks
There is also the possibility of building upon your professional learning networks. Through ongoing interactions and connections in an online space and associations creates opportunities to engage with education experts, researchers and teachers across the globe.
5. Select and combine different activities that support your professional learning within your identified priority areas and will help in achieving your goals.
6. Timeline and schedule your professional learning activities across the weeks, terms & year.
7. Document your learning through ongoing reflections, e.g. blog, to create a portfolio of your professional learning.
8. Reflect and evaluate the achievement of your goals and review your next steps.
9. Share your professional learning with colleagues and administration (school leaders).
Donohoo (2017) identifies seven characteristics of effective professional learning, as follow:
Ongoing professional learning
Reinforces meaningful collaboration
Grounded in the teaching and learning in your classroom
Involves reflection upon the impact of student learning
Increases your influence within your classroom or even schoolBuilds your capacity for leadership
Develops your efficacy as a teacher
When planning your PDAP consider the above characteristics. These can assist you in evaluating the value of the professional learning activities. Also, the characteristics can be used to evaluate the impact of the professional learning upon the teaching and learning within your classroom. Your professional learning is an essential aspect of your work as a professional, so it makes sense that it is both strategic and planned. It helps in builds upon your professional knowledge, practice and engagement, and in doing so, it improves both the teaching and learning in your classroom.You are creating your own professional pathway leading to increased professional learning opportunities. In doing so, you are also building your professional learning network as well as creating a professional pathway that leads you towards achieving your career aspirations.
Donohoo, J. A. M., (2017) Collective Efficacy: How Educators' Beliefs Impact Student Learning (p. 53). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
Hargreaves, A., (2018) Collaborative Professionalism: When Teaching Together Means Learning for All (Corwin Impact Leadership Series). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
The General Teaching Council for Scotland, (2019). Coaching and mentoring. Retrieved from https://www.gtcs.org.uk/professional-update/coaching-and-mentoring.aspx