Sitting in on a session today regarding professional development and growth plans, I am glad to see that many of the practices that we have taken part in this year as a school, are on the right track. Growth plans need to have staff engagement while also leading directly to improved student learning. As I reflect as the school year comes to a close, I wanted to focus on some keys to supporting individuals in their own professional growth. Here are some ideas that I have summarized from my own learning:
1. Educator professional growth plans should lead directly to improved student learning. – As an educator, this is an obvious point. It is important that the goals you are working on are to help improve the learning needs of students as that is the main reason we are there. Some key questions are:
- How will your goals support the learning needs of students in your classroom?
- When do I expect to see improvement in student learning?
- How will my goals give students the opportunity to grow in their own learning?
- What does improved student learning look like and how will it be measured?
2. A collaborative school culture helps to promote the best professional growth. – It is essential that as a school, we give staff the opportunity to learn from each other and build upon the expertise that is within our own building. It is essential that as administrators we encourage our staff and open the door for them to work on growth plans together. We always learn more in a collaborative setting yet we tend to go away from this in growth plans. Take the opportunity to work with other educators and learn in the process together Some key questions that may help:
- Who are the supports in the building that can help me achieve my growth plan goals?
- Who would also benefit from these shared learning goals?
- What opportunities are available for shared learning time with our colleagues?
- Are there opportunities to collaborate with educators outside of our own school?
3. Growth plans are educator specific and meets the needs of the individual. – Learning needs are not only unique for kids but also adults. Although you may find some great opportunities within your school that will support student growth, they may not help you in your subject area. For example, if you happen to be the only “specialist” teacher in your school, it may be helpful for you to connect with other specialists outside of your school. A physical education teacher that I worked with benefited greatly connecting with others in his area and would have “checked out” of the sessions that we provided at our school. It is important that educators are engaged in their learning. Guiding questions may include:
- Will the opportunities provided within school give me the opportunity to grow as an individual?
- How much time will be needed to successfully implement this plan?
- How do I learn best and how can this be fostered in my own professional growth?
- How can I benefit from the professional development that is currently offered in my own school?
4. Professional development opportunities will thrive if they are given school support. – As administrators, it is important that we are always honest and forthright with our staff. With budget constraints always looming, money can only be placed in so many areas within a school so it is important that when we are unsure of the direction of the goals of a growth plan, we ask why these goals will be beneficial to the school and individual. If as an administrator you do not believe these goals will be beneficial to student success, discuss this with the individual. Holding that information back will stunt the growth of the educator. It is also important that when we do know that the goal is beneficial, we do our best to give staff all the opportunities we are able to, so we can support this. Time (especially) and money will be helpful to any educator in their development so do your best as an administrator to find ways to support your staff. Key questions may include:
- What time can be afforded to support this growth plan?
- Are there other educators I can connect to that have the same goals?
- What are my opportunities to connect with other educators outside of school?
- What money allocation is available to me to support my growth?
My thoughts on professional growth and PD opportunities have changed greatly since I have seen the great resources that are offered on Twitter and other social media. I know that my engagement level has increased as I have had opportunities to connect with educators all over the world that are passionate about education. Engagement in learning is something that we KNOW is essential to growth for our students so it is important that we do our best as administrators to support the engagement of our staff. Opportunities for staff ownership on individual growth plans will increase staff learning and will directly benefit our students. Is this not always the goal?
As always, I am VERY open to feedback and the sharing of ideas. Do you have any key factors to strong professional growth that you would like to share? I would love to hear them so that I can support my own learning.