Over Beers With an Alien, Chatting About Teacher Professional Development

Let’s say that somehow you find yourself having a beer with an alien who asks you, intrigued by all of the progress made by mankind, “How do you train and develop your teachers to produce all of the productive members of your society?”

If you were to describe the state of teacher professional development (PD) in the U.S. to an alien, most of you would be embarrassed to, right? You’ll most likely be shifting your weight uncomfortably, afraid to make eye contact while you explain how we as a country spend $18 billion a year on professional development with over three million teachers spending between 68–89 hours a year, and yet, somehow most teachers look forward to their next PD session with the same excitement reserved for:

(a) a root canal

(b) waiting in line for TSA during peak holiday travel season

(c) the return of Crocs

(d) all of the above.

In a tiny voice, you mention to your alien drinking buddy that only a small minority of teachers actually believe that PD leads to an improvement in their practice. Your alien companion looks uncomfortable and takes a long sip of his beer.

According to research on several school districts and a charter network conducted by TNTP, “The Mirage: Confronting the Hard Truth About Our Quest for Teacher Development,” for teachers that did improve their instruction, they could find no particular development strategy common to this group. So should this be a victory for all of the PD nihilists out there?

No, we don’t believe so.

At LearnCycle, we believe that teachers are unsatisfied with PD because:

  • districts, charter networks, and schools have created confusion around what activities are called PD,
  • the PD teachers receive is not relevant to their personal learning preferences, areas for growth, and their teaching context, and
  • PD is not conducted in a way that treats them like the professionals teachers are.

And we believe that these challenges are surmountable. So how can we improve teacher PD in the U.S. and give our alien friend a proud update over a few cold ones in the future?

Over the next few weeks, LearnCycle will publish blogs on the problems listed above and how we think they can be tackled by truly personalizing PD for teachers.

Can’t wait until then? Read more about how LearnCycle wants to change professional development on our website and how we can help districts, charter networks, and schools personalize professional development for teachers.

Follow LearnCycle on Medium and Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group, Personalizing K-12 Professional Development.