What does it look like to support and develop teachers?

Teachers in modern schools take on new, more varied, and more complex roles. To do this, they need to develop new skills. Supporting teachers to develop these skills is one of the most vital parts of making the transition from traditional to modern education. The field has produced many lessons learned about teacher development. Perhaps the most important is this: teachers can’t be asked to do what they have not experienced. In other words, helping teachers facilitate personalized learning in classrooms means allowing teachers to experience personalized learning in their professional learning and development. When schools and districts do this well, their change efforts are more successful and more sustainable. So, what are some of the key lessons learned?

  • Let teachers lead. The most effective professional learning systems empower teachers as leaders. Teachers tell leaders what supports they will need. Teachers self direct. And teachers take on leadership roles supporting one another.
  • Address self concepts and mental models. Making the shift toward modern education is not  just about knowledge and skill. It’s also about mindsets, beliefs, and assumptions. It’s important for teachers to be supported as they investigate and adjust these over time.
  • Personalize. Personalized learning recognizes that no two students experience learning the same way, and so each student needs slightly different supports. Personalized professional learning does the same: it allows teachers to focus on areas of learning and development that matter to them, acces learning in the ways that work for them, and self-direct as they learn and grow.
  • Create opportunities for meaningful practice. Sit-and-get professional learning does not work. Learning happens when teachers have opportunities to practice new skills and strategies with consistency, focus, and formative feedback.
  • Promote collaboration. In the traditional system, teaching is a fairly individual practice. In modern education, it is collaborative. Collaborative how? Teachers collaborate in the classroom do personalize learning,to design cross-disciplinary units, to provide feedback on each other’s instruction, and to engage in continuous improvement. Schools can make this practice sustainable by reserving time for collaboration on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Rethink evaluation. Evaluation can help or hinder the process of shifting teaching practice. When evaluations are not aligned with the new things teachers are being asked to do, they create mixed messages and competing incentives. When evaluations do not  allow room for risk taking or failure, they make it difficult to undergo learning.
  • Rethink credentialing. In the traditional system, credentialing is time based: teachers get recertified by completing professional learning hours. But this time-based approach is out of synch with modern education, which is learning-based. Micro-credentialing and other innovations connect credentials to demonstrations of learning and allow teachers to personalize their learning. They can be powerful tools for change.

Questions to Consider

  • What does teacher support and development look like in your school or district today?
  • To what extent are current approaches to supporting and developing teachers aligned to your desired approaches for supporting and developing students? Are teachers getting to experience the learning they are being asked to create for students?
  • Looking through the lessons learned, which feel most relevant? Why? What do these lessons learned mean in your context?How can you engage teachers in your school or district to help redefine what support and development look like?
  • What might be a good entry point? Where can you start?