Frequently, professional development in education follows a one-size-fits-all approach, with teachers attending conferences or all-school meetings. While this style of training may offer valuable skills, teachers may prefer to engage in learning that applies to their classroom or that provides more time to understand the material.
Consider encouraging self-directed professional development for educators, which offers important advantages over traditional training:
- Teachers and other educators can take more time to understand and master difficult concepts.
- Teaching assistants, related service providers and other educators who may not have access to traditional professional development can take part in self-directed training and learning.
- Self-directed development allows educators to fine-tune their knowledge to solve challenges in their current classroom, especially with special-needs students.
If you would like to implement this practice in your school, try these simple steps to assist teachers in creating self-directed educator professional-development plans—and help them become the best teachers they can be.
Picture the perfect classroom
Have them think about the ideal structure of their classroom each day. (PDF) Ask questions like:
- What should students be able to achieve in a day?
- How much time should be spent on traditional lecture vs. collaborative learning vs. learning with technology?
- Which topics or subjects should students be learning?
Having a vision of the perfect classroom experience will help educators determine how professional development can help them achieve it. Post-it® Notes are a helpful brainstorming tool as they make it easy to organize and reorganize thoughts.
Determine the gaps in your vision
Now that they know what the ideal classroom looks like, teachers can create a list of obstacles that may keep them from attaining that vision. Barriers might include:
- Lack of information on an educational topic or topics
- Need for new instructional techniques, especially for atypical learners
- A computer-software skills gap
Provide educators with a journal and pen to record their thoughts.
Find ways to fill the gaps
Once they know which skills or techniques they want to master, your staff can research how to fill those learning gaps. Self-directed professional development in education could include:
- Subscribing to professional journals
- Observing another teacher or working professional
- Attending a workshop
- Taking a university course
- Joining Twitter® and following specialized hashtags (for example, #NTchat) to keep on top of trends and topics
- Joining professional Facebook® or LinkedIn® groups
- Taking educational online courses
- Joining a professional network
- Joining or forming a local research or discussion group
A monthly planner or desk calendar can help them keep track of their progress and any upcoming opportunities.
Put it into practice and find out what works
As educators participate in training and education, encourage them to put the new information they learn into practice and see how it affects the classroom. Self-directed educator professional development allows teachers to discover what works in practice—and which other skills or techniques they may still need to learn.
Self-directed training for better classes
Self-directed professional development in education allows teachers to find and fill skill gaps. By encouraging them to discover what makes their instruction more fruitful, they’re able to make their classroom the best it can be.