4 things teachers hate about PD

I’ve designed and provided a lot professional development for teachers in various districts over the years. There are a few things teachers hate when attending PD. They hate it when their time is wasted. They hate it when PD doesn’t have immediate impact in the classroom. They hate it when their learning isn’t relevant. They hate it when they don’t have options.

Wasted time is learning time that could be happening in the classroom. The biggest waste of PD time happens when administrators do not take time to understand the teachers’ needs. It’s a simple thing to ask. Design a Google Form (or use this one that I’ve already created) asking what is most important and use the data to drive PD options. Why not align PD to building or district goals? Either way, asking teachers’ needs are shows them their time is valuable and not to be wasted.

A huge pet peeve of teachers is when what they are learning can’t be used immediately in the classroom. Personally I could talk all day about personalizing learning for students using data, differentiation, and technology. And, when I do, a glaze shadows the eyes of the teacher and I quickly shut up. Teachers don’t care much for theory. What they care for is action coupled with theory and being able to use what they learn in meaningful ways. So, share the theory while helping them to integrate technology, interpret data, use data to drive instruction, apply an instructional strategy, or planning lessons. Doing this gets the best of both worlds.

As much as students hate it when their learning isn’t meaningful, teachers hate it more. A student won’t say to the teacher, “This doesn’t really mean much to me. Why are we learning this?” If a student does say and ask such things he/she will be given a general response that the knowledge is needed for their future, it will be on the test, or a snarky response about it is what it is. However, say those kinds of things to adult learners in PD and there will a fight. Teachers also want personalized learning experiences; teachers want relevant learning too and is closely tied to not wasting their time. The easiest way to make relevant is to ask what they need or tie it to district or building goals.

Eating out is fantastic don’t you think? There are so many things to choose from that it gets hard at times to pick what you want. Of course you could always come back another time to try other delicious dishes. The point is that someone has options. Apply this to PD. Give teachers options as to what they want to learn. Many will choose something that relates to what they teach, but why not offer choices like yoga, how to create healthy meals, or a read a book that relates to education. These aren’t the normal options but they relate to the human side of the profession. When planning PD think outside the box and offer unique options.

What would make professional development better for teachers?