IRIS Connect Professional Development Blog - North America

5 steps for school leaders to ensure effective PD next year

Posted by Ed Williams on 5/13/19 11:00 AM

As this semester flies by and we look ahead to the next school year, now is the time to seriously consider which PD opportunities are going to be the best for the future of your school and your staff.

Students sitting at a table in a library while learning and working on a laptop

It’s important that money spent on teaching and learning is invested wisely, and time is spent on activities with a proven track record of success and lasting impact.

As David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust, UK, explains:

“When [professional development] is done right, there are improved outcomes for students - particularly for the most disadvantaged - better teacher morale, staff retention and increased reputation for institutions who benefit from effective teacher development”.

If you can get these three focuses right, outcomes for your school as a whole will be significantly improved.


1. Consider what actually works

It goes without saying that time spent together as a staff body is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted on ineffective activities.

Research continues to show that expensive courses and visits by external consultants have little to no lasting impact on professional development and for teachers to learn and embed new practices, they need opportunities to engage in all components of effective adult learning.

With this in mind, it’s absolutely critical that in-service professional development days achieve more than ‘box-ticking’ and present genuine development opportunities. So what actually works?

To really make the most of this time, teachers need engaging, informative, and collaborative activities with proven and evaluated impact. The free IRIS Connect Film Club program has 16,000+ members and has been positively evaluated to achieve all of these objectives. Plus, 97% of the teachers who have been through the program found it an effective way to develop their practice.

However, truly effective teaching and learning can’t be achieved through in-service professional development days alone; it has to be a continuous process of reflection, analysis, collaboration, and sharing, led by the teachers throughout the entire year.


2. Harness your existing knowledge

Whether you have four or forty teachers at your school, there is without doubt a huge amount of knowledge, specific subject prowess, and coaching expertise within the faculty lounge. Utilize it; allows staff to build banks of best practice to model to their peers, and give teachers the opportunity to give and receive focused, contextualized feedback.

Aside from time, your most valuable commodity as a school leader is the experience and proficiency of your teaching staff.

Consider your colleagues in your faculty lounge. Do they have the opportunity to fully share their knowledge with their peers?


3. Carefully select focus areas

It’s likely that you have already identified your whole-school priorities for the year ahead. This is a necessary facet of school leadership, however there’s a lot to be said for allowing your teachers to practice self-efficacy to understand their strengths, and consequently identify their own areas for improvement.

The only way for a teacher to truly understand which areas of their teaching practice are most in need of development is through self-reflection. John Hattie, author of Visible Learning, has reported that teachers only see or hear 20% of what happens in the classroom, meaning that an astounding 80% is missed.

For your teachers to objectively self-reflect on all aspects of their practice, this means being able to both see and hear themselves teach, while seeing the lesson from the learners’ perspective.

If lessons are securely captured on video, looking at both the teaching and the learning, teachers can gain a full understanding of their teaching and their students’ progress, meaning that areas for development can be much more accurately identified.


4. Create a truly collaborative culture

Once your teachers have identified areas to develop, it’s time to consider the Lesson Study approach as a way to truly build a self-developing collaborative culture.

Originally developed in Japan, Lesson Study consists of teachers working together in groups of around three observing, and - as the name suggests - studying aspects of each others’ lessons. There are no leaders or grading systems; just focused, professional dialogues between teachers with improved outcomes for learners in mind.

When it was first introduced in the 1990s, Lesson Study was expensive and time-consuming to run. This was because cover had to be arranged so teachers could observe each other, and then time had to be allocated for the discussion afterwards.

Thankfully, things have moved on since. Using IRIS Connect, teachers are able to capture their lessons without the other teachers needing to be present in the classroom, and then the feedback and ensuing discussions can take place online whenever the teachers have time to contribute.

This saves time and money and, better still, it’s much more effective. The feedback isn’t just given once; teachers can reflect again and again, adding to the discussion over time as they continue to develop.

To find out more about using video effectively, explore our free guide on teacher reflection here.


5. Look to the future

Once you’ve found what works for your teachers, there can be no room for complacency; it’s time to build a lasting legacy of excellence ready for new teachers who join your school, and consider supporting other schools with their professional development journey.

It’s worth remembering that the most successful schools aren’t necessarily those who spend the most money on PD or who work their teachers the hardest. They’re schools who, supported by effective leadership, empower their teachers to turn every lesson into an opportunity for improving teaching and learning, and encourage teachers to take ownership of their professional development, identify expertise, and facilitate the sharing of excellent teaching through collaboration.

These are all practices that boost staff retention, teacher morale and improved outcomes for pupils - three of the biggest challenges facing schools today.

If you’d like to find out about how we can help you achieve more for your teachers next year, get in touch to arrange a meeting at a time that suits you.


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