A differentiated approach to PD - the PD menu

Teachers choose the PD that will be most meaningful to them from a menu of choices.

Photo of Sara Speicher
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As a person who delivers PD on integrating technology in the classroom, I have learned that teachers get excited about PD when it is relevant, applicable to their classrooms, and engaging.  The challenge is that teachers, just like our students, are on different places on the learning spectrum.  As teachers, we are expected to differentiate for our students...shouldn't we expect the same for ourselves?  

The PD model most used in our district is the one size fits all approach.  The teaching staff sits in the cafeteria trying to hide the papers they are grading, while a building or district leader delivers PD to the group on integrating math strategies across the curriculum.  The math teachers ARE getting their papers graded because they know it all.  The reading/language arts/social studies teachers ARE grading papers because the PD doesn't fit what they teach.  The science, art, financial literacy, etc. teachers are into it - no papers graded there!  So while a lot of papers get graded, the PD is not effective because it's not relevant to many teachers. 

My vision for PD is that teachers have more agency in their PD.  Offer a menu of choices with a technology component so teachers get the PD they can apply.  The staff development committee or whomever develops PD, would offer several choices for teachers to choose.  For example, the reading coach could do a session on close reading or annotating strategies, the technology coaches could offer a session on tech tools for formative assessments, the art teacher could do a session on teaching visible thinking, or teachers could choose to join a webinar or Twitter chat. Teachers would choose what best fit their needs/interests and spend their PD time working on what matters to them.  

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Photo of John Faig

We've done something similar where we have "expert" stations and teachers can move around like an expo. I've also heard folks have success with a technology PD using a speed-dating setup. For example, there are five ten-minute blocks of time and to many stations for teachers to hit them all. They must choose the five most important ones. The catch is that there is only a limited amount of time to move about. It is a little like musical chairs, you may have to sit for a "date" you didn't intend (it's only 10 minutes). It's a nice combination of planned and unplanned PD.

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