At the Center for Teaching, we promote (design and implement) professional development programs for teachers at Drew Charter School and The Westminster Schools. We rely on the expertise of teachers in our school communities to offer their time, knowledge, and experience to teach colleagues. Our faculty cohort program, a group of five Drew Charter and five Westminster School teachers, work collaboratively with two facilitators, one from each school, on teaching and learning topic that in some way directly impacts their instructional practice. This year the cohort is working on learning and brain, studying what current research tells us about how the brain learns and how this knowledge can influence the way we teach.
What are ways that faculty can engage in professional development? At the Center, we have explored a variety of ways for faculty to learn and grow. Here are some examples:
- Be observed and receive feedback. Westminster is conducting a peer-to-peer observation model as part of its Faculty Assessment and Annual Review.
- Conduct action research in the classroom. Westminster and Drew Charter faculty have conducted research projects as part of their faculty cohort experience.
- Plan lessons with teaching colleagues. In the JHS at Westminster, teachers are using the PLC model (All Things PLC) to think about essential learnings, discuss lessons, and plan assessments.
- Examine student data. At Drew Charter School, the faculty in 2nd and 3rd grade are using the DATA WISE improvement process to look at student data, identify a student learning problem, and investigate the best teaching practice to address the learning problem.
- Write assessments with colleagues. In the JHS at Westminster, 8th grade Algebra teachers are collaborating on common assessments, and 2nd and 4th grade teachers are attending a Solution Tree workshop on writing common assessments.
- Be a mentor. Through the Center, some “master teachers” are learning how to be mentors to CFT teaching fellows, helping them learn their way around classroom teaching.
- Visit another school. A variety of teachers and administrators at Westminster have visited the Greater Atlanta Christian School to see what they are doing with curriculum and instruction as an Apple Distinguished School.
- Complete a self-assessment. At Westminster, all K-12 faculty have to complete an annual self-assessment process that involves a reflective tool and a conversation with his or her principal and department chair.
- Be coached by a peer or an expert. The Center for Teaching has provided resources to Drew and Westminster faculty in the area of teaching pedagogies. Helping with instruction, videotaping classes, and assisting with debriefing video reflections.
- Consulting experts on educational issues. The Center for Teaching has collaborated with both schools to bring in experts on assessment, the education of boys, problem-based learning, and other topics to work with faculty in workshop settings.
- Write an article about some aspect of your work. Insights Into Teaching, the Center’s online newsletter, is a vehicle for faculty to write articles about some aspect of their classroom teaching. We will typically have 10-15 faculty submit articles for a typical issue. Faculty as writers is something we try to promote at the Center.
- Join a professional organization or network. The Center sponsors Drew and Westminster science teachers in NSTA’s Science Learning Center, an online professional development network. We have sponsored Drew Charter social studies teachers to join the National Council for Social Studies.
- Lead workshops. Through the Center’s Summer Institute, we sponsor Drew and Westminster teachers leading summer workshops on topics of great interest to them. This gives teachers the opportunity to share their expertise and build a community of learners.
- Read articles and books. The Center maintains a professional library of books and journals. In addition, the Center circulates articles to administrators and faculty on a variety of educational issues. The feedback from book circulation and sharing documents through email has been very positive. Reading the research and thinking about how to apply ideas is a powerful learning experience for faculty.
- Observe colleagues teaching. Through Drew’s experiment with the DATA WISE improvement process and Westminster’s peer-to-peer observation program faculty are watching and learning from one another.
- Participate in a Webinar or Online Course. The Center shares webinars sponsored by a plethora of educational organizations with Drew and Westminster faculty. The interest in these learning opportunities is increasing. In addition, more faculty are exploring online courses through ASCD, NSTA and other organizations.
- Participate in a PLC. K-12 teachers at Westminster are working in PLC environments on assessment (2nd and 4th grade) and within disciplines (JHS and HS). PLC facilitators are also working in a leadership PLC in the JHS with their principal and a teacher leader. At Drew, faculty have participated in beginning and advanced SMART Board PLCs.
- Writing Blogs and using other Web 2.0 tools (Twitter). There are faculty at Westminster and Drew that have started their own blogs, using them as a vehicle to share what’s happening in the classroom, as well as reflecting on educational issues, such as assessment, AP program, and more. There is active participation by the faculty at Westminster on Twitter. One faculty member has used Twitter for an action research project that has brought in upwards of 15 colleagues and their students. Students tweet 20 minutes into the class what they are or have learned. In addition, faculty have an internet presence with class websites, MOODLE, and other Web tools.
As you can see, there are many ways in which a faculty member can advance their professional growth. In our profession, it is commonplace to say, “to be a good teacher you have to be a good learner.” At the Center for Teaching, we believe it is important to promote a variety of learning experiences for teachers. Like their students, teachers have a variety of learning styles. So it is very important to offer a variety of programs in which learning can take place.