Educators spend so much time educating, we forget to get educated. Of all the efforts that schools put into increasing student achievement, professional development has one of the best return ratios. The problem that schools have, is that we don’t know how to choose and implement professional development very well. In this post, I examine how professional development impact students achievement, and what can we do to ensure professional development is working for our school.

Good teaching starts with good learning.

In 2007, the American Institute for Research found that teachers receiving at least 49 hours of professional development in a six to twelve month span could expect to increase student achievement by approximately 21 points. This is a staggering figure. There isn’t a school in this country that would not want to increase student achievement by 21 points. So, what is holding us back?

Below are some tips for making professional development work for your school.

1. Make learning part of the school culture. Professional growth should not be an afterthought. It should not be something that is done once a month to meet the district requirements. Every adult should be expected to, and desire to grow for the sake of helping the students. School leaders need to make this part of the vision of the school, it should be central to everything that happens on a daily basis.

2. Make it work for everyone. If we are to shoot for 49 hours, then we need to be proactive in helping teachers find the time. Schools would have to dedicate 1.36 hours per week (in a 36 week school year) to meet the 49 hour goal. One way that our school is creatively meeting the needs of our teachers is by moving our professional communities online. Using Edmodo, we have given our teachers the ability to use any available time to connect with others and grow.

3. Remove the obstacles. The time that teachers have with others is limited, don’t fill that time with mundane details. Use department and staff meetings to learn and grow together. When you have your staff together use the expertise in the room to help everyone grow. If you are standing in front of your staff giving information that could be sent via email, you are wasting a precious commodity, time together.

4. Make it relevant. Ask teachers what they need to become better. Then ask your teachers what training/expertise they can offer to the staff. Encourage teachers to try new things, become experts, then train others. The extra incentive/pressure of teaching others is a great motivator.