Professional Learning for Teachers and Administrators
Today’s students are not the same as they were two, five, and ten years ago. With the advancement of technology and the ever-changing school environments, teachers have to ensure they meet the needs of the students, learn creative and new ways of problem solving and apply new knowledge and skills into their practice. This is done with an ongoing learning based on current research. Teachers are charged with the responsibility to help students learn at the highest levels, and through professional learning you make sure your skills are always relevant and up to date.
Many say that the path to a STEM job starts at elementary school, and as STEM teachers, raising our students’ interest and performance levels has everything to do with that. This makes an added value (and added responsibility) to our profession. According to a two-year study result that was published in 2014, teachers must be properly introduced to the evolving nuances of the STEM reform movement within their subject area as well as gaining some familiarity with changes among the other related subjects. To effectively increase the number of students electing to pursue careers in STEM, research on professional development for STEM education will have to delineate not only best practices, but also what constitutes well-designed training that effects change in teaching practices, heightens buy-in to new innovations and initiatives, and improves student achievement.
Just as an example from the past year: among the countless challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, the education system has changed forever. Students begin at-home experiments and with that come at-home science safety regulations, teaching and presenting projects remotely in science fairs, phone apps, self-assessments and distance learning recommendations – to name but a few – has evolved and changed since March 2019.
“Schools can never do it alone,” says Marc Jackson, former principal at Bassett High School and former Superintendent for Silver Valley USD. “The value of going outside the culture of schools offers fresh sets of eyes at changing the school climate for the positive, which also includes challenging the traditional lesson plans.”
Though the case of Bassett High School was extreme, as the principal felt that the school was failing and it was not only about the school’s low test scores. It was about the low-level of communication with limited trust and a disregard for the district staff that was out of touch with most school districts. Following two-and-a-half years of working closely with Dean Gilbert and EDU Consultants, the school passed the state test with flying colors, in addition to a total restructuring of site-based leadership and open, transparent communication.
“Lack of student interest and engagement with instruction can be an alarming sign that the school needs outside help, but in fact every school that wants to upgrade itself and its name can do it with the help of outside consultancy,” says Gilbert. “Nevertheless, this is not for everyone. Schools have to have good intentions to implement this research-based professional learning, and administrators and teachers have to be open to learning and developing.”
“Some teachers and administrators lack critical understanding of new state standards and what instruction should look like in the classroom, and that’s also where we come in,” Dean Gilbert says. “We help the school combine pedagogy instructions with the latest research and come up with a winning strategic plan. It’s not just about ending low scores in assessment and accountability at state and national levels, but includes looking at operational systems to develop collaborative synergy between all stakeholders.”
Related: Professional Learning Services