What's Happening in Character?

What Makes Professional Development Effective?

Posted by Character.org Staff on Thu, May 19, 2016 @ 04:05 AM

Advice_about_Professional_Developmentfrom_our_Veteran_Trainers.jpgWe asked four veteran Character.org trainers: What Makes Professional Development Effective?
Here’s what they had to say:

Make learning interactive.

The most meaningful PD I have been a part of is when there is a lot of interaction/participation.  We all learn by doing or participating.  We silo or compartmentalize so many facets of education these days and don't have the time to "fit" everything in a day, week, month, or even school year.  I find PD is effective when teachers can see the connections and have dialogue about implementation.  

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How do all of the things we are asked to do fit together?
  • Where are the connections between Character Education and The Eleven Principles, Academic Curriculum, Social, Emotional, and Character Development skills/standards, Diversity, Discipline, Global learning, Project-Based Learning, Service Learning, Career Awareness, Integration of Technology, etc.?
  • How do we help students and parents see the connections between these areas?

 - Tamra Nast

Create a Culture of Ongoing Professional Learning.

During our interviews for our dissertation, one the participant said, "Professional development is something that is done to you.  Professional learning is done with you."  One-shot workshops, webinars and conferences are ineffective, outdated forms of professional development. Effective leaders must be willing to create a culture of ongoing professional learning and growth and be a continuous partner in that process.  The work of an educator is truly never done and a mindset of professional learning vs. professional development is key.

The foundation of all work is in the trust and respect staff has for one another. When trust is real, risk is encouraged and people can express themselves without fear of judgment, professional development becomes organic professional learning. - Amy Johnston 

Leave with an action plan in mind.

As one who’s been doing training for Character.org for more than a decade, I have to say that professional development that responds to the actual needs of a school or district, is the most effective. For example, last summer I gave a general session on the Eleven Principles, which was attended by teams from New Jersey schools or districts, many of which had already started some kind of character program or the administration/staff had envisioned that building character in their students was a path to overall school improvement.  The teams, in turn, turn-keyed the message with amazing results: at least five schools in attendance went on to become State Schools of Character, and others have formed a network of schools exchanging strategies. It is crucial that sessions be interactive, that participants have a chance to see how the Principles apply to their own schools, that they leave with some sort of action plan, and that follow-up opportunities exist so the session is not a “one-shot deal.” - Eileen Dachnowicz

3 Helpful Tips & corresponding action steps:

Professional development is most effective when…

  • It is linked to “felt,” identified and widely shared needs.
    • Action Step:  Involve stakeholders in the process of identifying topics and planning.
  • Acquired knowledge and skills can be integrated into practice quickly.
    • Action Step:  Communicate clear expectations and provide support for follow-up and implementation.
  • Outcomes, including feedback from stakeholders, are assessed and utilized for future planning
    • Action Step: Establish and share anticipated outcomes as goals

- Bob Freado

Learn more about engaging school staff in our guide to Principle 8!

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Topics: Caring Community, Professional Development