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The Strengths of Teacher-Driven Professional Learning

Designed for Teachers by Teachers

Professional learning or development in most fields refers to continued learning after securing employment. While this is true in education, teachers also consider professional learning and development a requirement that their administrators force upon them. Research suggests, however, that professional learning for teachers is often most beneficial from the bottom up. The most effective teacher development creates a supportive, collaborative environment that endures longer than one session and helps perpetuate best practices across a district.

By taking advantage of teacher leadership, administrators can encourage professional development created for teachers by teachers that will best serve the community. From going back to school for a master’s degree in education to participating in faculty in-service, teachers leading their own growth will have more meaningful and worthwhile experiences.

Perpetuate Best Practices

In any given school district, there are already teachers innovating in their classrooms. Be it the implementation of new technology or a change in classroom structure, there are good things happening in classrooms. Helping these educators share what works for them, and how others can replicate their results, can perpetuate best practices throughout the entire district. This type of professional learning development for teachers works well because those who work together often already have an idea of what others in the building are doing, and the learning environment can be friendly and grounded in real-world experience instead of workshop theory. Teacher-driven professional development can perpetuate the best, most practical ideas throughout a district, promoting a culture of continuous improvement.

Create a Supportive Environment

If it is not correctly designed and implemented, professional learning can create stress. When direction comes from the top down in any organization, changes can feel forced. In the education field, when changes originate through teacher leadership, however, teachers often feel supported when learning new methodology. This type of professional development creates educators who are lifelong learners, which helps them foster this same spirit in their students. Those leading this kind of professional learning are themselves teachers in the district, meaning they are available to support and collaborate with those they are training.

Real Buy-In from Teachers

One of the most difficult struggles for teachers can be securing buy-in from their students. It is often a difficult task. Professional development is just as difficult if its participants do not believe in the program. Teacher-led professional development fosters a collaborative environment of shared learning. This type of bottom-up leadership is effective in an educational setting because teachers can really believe in the changes it suggests. Because teachers trust the teacher leadership with decisions about what to learn and how to learn it, the leadership can more accurately reflect on their fellow teachers and create meaningful learning opportunities.

Professional development in education often comes across as an administrative dictate, but when teachers design it for themselves, it creates more supportive learning environments. To maximize development, teachers should learn from their peers, whom they can trust to understand their challenges and concerns. Not only does this create a more collaborative learning environment, it also creates internal momentum to continue improvement beyond the development session. There really are very few resources better than other educational professionals to help teachers develop professionally.

Learn more about the Columbus State online M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership degree program.


Edutopia: Instructional Coaching: Seeding District-Wide Innovation

NWEA: Redefining Professional Development as Teacher-Led Professional Learning

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