21st century professional development

Blogger’s note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in July 2016. 


Modern Day PD

2016-17 will mark my 12th year in education. I’ve seen a lot change in my decade plus both in methodolgy, styles of teacher learning, student learning, the rise of social media for edu learning/connecting, etc. Considering my mother was a career eduator, I’ve literally been around the education setting my entire life and have seen a lot of changes within our profession both directly and indirectly.

One of the biggest shifts from the professional lens has been the way we receive professional development. With budget cuts to resources gone are the days often times when a large percentage of a staff could travel long distances to see speakers at workshops for PD then bring the contents back to the remainder of the faculty. This still remains to a point but most of the PD is site-based. As we shift from the traditional “sit and get” PD more and more, how do we effectively ensure our teachers, the most ones who have the most important positions in the school…the backbone of the faculty if you will receive PD effectively?

As a curriculum coach, this is one of the hurdles I’m faced with (one of the many hats I have in my position) while I’m afforded some of those traveling PD experiences mentioned above many times, I too, am not and the PD has to be school based.

I’ve learned to get creative. First of all, every school has a lot of experts in certain areas. Think about it. Coming from the elementary lens, ever school has a few teachers who really and truly excel in guided reading instruction, or introduction of CCSS multiplication methods, always on the cutting edge of classroom education apps, Daily 5 integration, 4Cs woven into literature, the list goes on. Utilizing these “in house” experts is huge! As opposed to the principal, assistant principal, myself or someone from our district central office coming out to give PD, while we can assist, teachers love learning from their peers that are “in the trenches” with them. We’ve had great success with this model at my current school and previous school as well. It’s a win-win gets some teachers out of their comfort zones by recognizing skills they have and would benefit sharing with peers and teachers are learning from eachother in personalized PD settings this way no one is learning things they already know about, have previously heard, already are experts on, etc. This makes the PD much, much more meaningful.

Being in the 21st century brings about all sorts of new technology. Example. Last spring one of our Kindergarten teachers came to me asking about the Seesaw app she had heard about. I mentioned that I had a connection on the other side of our school district who was a Seesaw ambassador and had already mentioned to me doing a PD at our school for interested faculty. I hyped it to our faculty enough that the entire staff was interested in at least learning. So…. we did a Google Hangout PD. The staff had their laptops, could see and hear my friend (45 min away) ask questions and she could see our progress in live time. It was truly meaningful PD! The link below is a tweet from the event….https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/719628291074826240

Visting another workspace

Another way to grow as professionals is by visiting other educators’ workspaces, seeing them “in action.” The Science specialist at the school I serve is dynamic – always on the top of her game, asking questions, attending district encouraged Science kit PD, learning and growing. The students love learning from Mrs. Hodges and we’re lucky to have such a great educator at our school. However, she wanted to learn more. She came to me with ideas for PD beyond what she was getting. Immediately I came up with taking a day, visiting two schools within our district one middle, one elementary and seeing two amazing Science teachers in action to see how they interact in their work spaces and asking questions during down time. I spent a day with Abigail at these two schools having amazing observation experiences, discussions both with the teachers, students about their learning and eachother at the end of the day about what we saw and how Mrs. Hodges could apply what she saw into her practice. Talk about meaningful PD – she still mentions it and clearly so do I…. https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/717829739734507525


Edcamps are a wonderful way for educators to learn and grow professionally – at your own pace and skillset. I’ve blogged in ASCD EDge before about the power of EdCamps and they still remain true. If there is one in your area and you’ve never attended – GO. Take a leap of faith. I promise you won’t regret. If you’ve been before encourage peers in your school and/or district to go that have never attended. Everyone gets a lot out of EdCamps and it’s always a good use out of a Saturday or Monday morning and afternoon! https://twitter.com/BrendanFetters/status/752508358398271489


Of course, in my opinion, the most powerful PD out there is your PLN (professional learning network) via Twitter & Voxer. It takes time to build and maintain an effective PLN but it’s so worth the investment. Feel free to check out my blog post from a few months back on this very topic if you’re not connected……yet.

In education today within professional development, you have to be willing to think outside the box. Both from content, delivery and being respectful of your faculty’s time. Never lose sight of the later. I truly believe the teachers have the most vital role in the school – we need to honor and respect that. Not by giving them “one more thing” in PD but rather PD that is truly meaningful for every faculty member. It takes more on the planning end but will be worth it in the end by a mile.

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