The 4 Hallmarks of Successful Professional Learning for Teachers

By Anita L’Enfant

Australian principals, pay attention: More than half of teachers wanted more professional development than they’d received in the last 18 months, according to Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Results from TALIS.Whilst this is no surprise, it is interesting to note teachers in Australia especially suffered, falling below the global average for professional development days each year —the majority took fewer than six.

It is well-known that having enough of and the right type of professional learning is crucial to ensure educators are equipped with the right knowledge and tools to drive effective educational outcomes. When it comes to new technology programs such as 1:1 rollouts, it’s especially vital that teachers feel ready to use these new tools and devices to foster individual learning for students. Here are some of the hallmarks of effective professional learning that can help set up your technology program for success.

Tip 1: Ensure professional learning opportunities meet the needs and goals of the teacher

Differentiation is not just for students. Tailoring professional learning to individual teachers leverages their own learning and instruction style to impart techniques they can apply in the classroom. When it comes to technology, your teaching staff will have different skill levels. Being able to identify strengths and weaknesses in technology gives each teacher their own individual path to growth. Elements such as small group professional learning, teacher mentoring, lesson modelling and online progress tracking help ensure the individual teacher doesn’t get lost in a world of new technology — or in a sea of other educators.

Tip: 2 Keep professional learning a continual process that occurs informally as well as formally

Whilst having dedicated, formal professional learning sessions is customary, working out a way to extend these teachings into a continual process of optimisation is where teachers — and your entire school — will see real benefits. An article in Australia’s Capital Magazine pointed out that about 70 per cent of all learning activity happens informally.Having regular discussions about development and offering access to online learning materials are ways to foster this ongoing process. These tools also help teachers address their own unexpected learning needs, which are bound to come up when it comes to navigating new technology programs and devices. The goal of professional learning should not just be to inspire but also to implement change. Teachers should have the opportunity to learn with and from each other as well as their students, particularly in the realm of technology.

Tip 3: Build in accountability to every professional learning opportunity

To demonstrate success, you must track progress. Using a performance management system to give reviews on a term, semester or annual basis is one formal way to hold teachers accountable for transforming their professional learning takeaways into actions that use technology to positively affect student learning. Informal discussions can also help by allowing you to check in with teachers on a more regular basis to see if they have questions, concerns or challenges related to their professional learning action items. Consider utilising an external professional learning facilitator to plan a term-, semester- or year-long professional learning technology strategy for your school that includes built-in progress tracking.

Tip 4: Use professional learning to create a school culture of learning and extend learning to everyone including parents and the wider community

Professional learning for teachers should not occur in a vacuum. Collaboration amongst all the school stakeholder populations will put everyone on the same page to achieve a common vision to which everyone is committed when it comes to your technology implementation. This type of collaboration includes sharing successes and mistakes about lessons, curriculum and procedures, an agreement on broad educational values and allowing teachers to act as independent leaders to choose and adapt specific pedagogical strategies that spur educational outcomes. Professional Learning at Datacom is built on these good learning principles.

Make sure to join our webinar on Nov. 27 from 4 to 5 EDST with Anita and two representatives from Mount Sinai College to learn how to use planned professional learning and ICT support for a successful 1:1 rollout. 

Establishing the national Professional Learning Services team at XciteLogic in 2009, Anita brings over 20 years teaching experience to Datacom’s Education services. She has taught most age groups — from kindergarten through to university lecturing — and has also assumed specialist teaching roles. Her previous teaching and consultancy roles, and current role with Datacom, has seen her work throughout Australia and internationally, teaching students, educating teachers and working at systems levels to help implement learning initiatives where teachers learn alongside their students in a technology-rich environment.

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