After 13 years working in the Professional Learning Field- I have learned at least one very important thing.  Teachers learn and implement the learning when they can apply it to their teaching.    Woah!! That is not really a mic drop moment.  It is kind of a “duh” it took you 13 years to figure that out?  Not really- but we do continue to do things the same ol’ way in many cases- like let’s do a workshop to show them a process or new curriculum or even a new assessment. OR how about the sit and get we do before school starts so we all get the same message?  OR even having the counselor and the specials teachers at the inservice meeting because “it’s not fair if they get time when the other teachers don’t.” We need to stop the insanity. We must move towards a more personalized, job-embedded approach to professional learning in order to help all teachers and students thrive

Here are a few instances of how our ESU has  promoted job-embedded professional learning for our schools..

Instructional Coaching- in a few of our schools we coach teachers that want to change, get better, or improve their practices.  Most of the time-the teachers being coached have approached their principal with a question of how to get better at something. Those principals reached out to us in many cases so we could provide non evaluative feedback to the teacher based on what that particular teacher wanted to get better at.  Now that doesn’t mean that we are experts at everything so we can then pass on our “expertness” to the teachers. NO WAY!! It only means that we are really good at giving feedback or questioning strategies on a goal set by the teacher and following that teacher’s directions on what data to collect and share back.

Implementation coaching- in a few more of our schools we have helped deliver initial PD on a particular concept (like writing instruction) and then we have coached the teachers in the implementation of that concept.  The teacher is in charge of what piece they would like to implement- we come along side of the teacher and offer feedback and questioning on what data they have asked us to gather. Sometimes like above we use video, observations and face to face meetings.

Personalized PD- in other schools we have introduced a concept of personalized PD where all staff chose an area that they want to get better at- set outcome goals, create a plan and research the topic, then implement it in their classroom.  One example is instructional strategies. They learn about 1 or 2 particular instructional strategies-perhaps from their instructional model and then implement it. Once implemented, they share with the admin team and/or staff the results. Collecting baseline data before or after and/or sharing with PLC teams can  certainly help with the implementation.

I encourage our Nebraska schools to think differently about professional learning.  If you don’t have a PD a curriculum department-use your ESU’s to help you build a continuous, job embedded professional learning plan.  Once you think differently about the PD, and implement your plan, you will get different results for sure. Our teachers and our students deserve it.

Eileen Barks

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