On-site professional development time (PLCs, early release professional development, common planning time and full professional development days) is focused on improving practices that increase student achievement. In a collaborative team, teachers reflect on current practices, examine student work, develop units of study, create and refine common assessments, and plan experiences to challenge students' thinking and/or reinforce learning. It is our goal to provide time and experiences for all staff where embedded professional learning is an ongoing process, facilitating the connection from professional learning time and collaboration to direct classroom practice.
Professional development should engage the intellect, involve all teachers in cycles of action and reflection, and build relationships. These actions should lead to continuous improvements in teaching and learning for students. To achieve these outcomes, teachers should work in ongoing teams, examine student work, study various types of student learning evidence (not just standardized test scores), set goals for improvement, plan lessons together, and reflect on the effectiveness of those lessons. (Sparks, 2004)
In addition to the positive impact on student learning, teacher collaboration contributes to a positive collaborative culture in the school. Teachers work together as members of a Professional Learning Community. As we adopt a new structure for collaboration and ensure schedules that support Professional Learning Communities and common planning time, teachers will work together to establish norms based on the work of Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker. In their book, Professional Learning Communities at Work, they have made a series of recommendations to ensure the time spent in this manner is a highly productive collaborative process centered on student's achievement. In a high functioning PLC, teachers assume responsibility for the achievement of all students, not just those in their classroom.
DuFour and Eaker (1998) have stated that the purpose of our work is to do the following:
- To form a collective group committed to a set of principles with a common purpose
- To work relentlessly in questioning our practice by seeking new methods, testing those methods and reflecting on results
- To aspire to action and move vision into reality
- To seek continuous improvement; not allow a status quo
- To assess actions based on results
Further, they believe that during common planning time teachers should focus on the following questions:
- What do we want each student to learn?
- How will we know when each student has learned it?
- How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
Types of Professional Development Activities
EMBEDDED PD OPPORTUNITIES: Our professional development days are geared to provide required training (such as the new evaluation tool), along with ongoing district initiatives, coupled with choice offerings, and finally building based opportunities to learn amongst our peers.
INDUCTION PROGRAM: The district has a formal induction program for new teachers and administrators. The induction program includes orientation, support teams and a mentor program. The mentor program pairs new teachers with experienced professionals. Training and compensation are provided for the mentors.
OUTSIDE WORKSHOPS: Each school has a fund allowing it to sponsor teachers to attend outside workshops as they relate to their practice. Our expectation is that teachers will share this information with their colleagues during various PD times and through other methods of collaboration.
The Department of Education is dedicated to helping educators improve their practice through participation in High Quality Professional Development (HQPD). High Quality Professional Development is a set of coherent learning experiences that is systematic, purposeful, and structured over a sustained period of time with the goal of improving teacher practice and student outcomes. DESE will once again offer free professional development institutes; please go to www.doe.mass.edu/pd for more information.
OUTSIDE COURSE REIMBURSEMENT: Teachers may always elect to participate in outside course offerings for specialized courses toward certification and advanced degrees that we do not offer in district. As with past years, we continue to provide course reimbursement for approved courses, as defined by the teacher’s contract.
BOOK/STUDY GROUPS: Staff members are encouraged to create study groups around relevant educational philosophy and practices. Teams interested in participating in a common read would complete the study group proposal form and submit to their building administrator. The district will support these groups by providing PDPs. Refer to page 25 for guidelines and forms.