There are only 24 hours in a day. How do you utilize your time for professional learning?
Professional Compliance vs Professional Learning
Educators are required to participate in prescribed professional development sessions to maintain certification. This is a given. Compliance-focused professional development is the most common form according to a 2014 survey conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And based on the results, choice matters to educators.
Unfortunately, for many teachers today, professional development is viewed more as a compliance exercise than a learning activity—and one over which they have limited, if any, choice.
Fewer than one in three teachers (30 percent) choose most or all of their professional learning opportunities. Nearly one in five (18 percent) never have a say in their professional development.
However, teachers with more choice report much higher levels of satisfaction with professional development—those who choose all or most of their professional learning opportunities are more than twice as satisfied with professional development as those with fewer options. Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development, 2014.
Take into consideration the typical educator who is required to complete 20 hours of professional development during each year of service. Over the course of a career that spans 25 years, the typical educator accrues 500 hours of professional development with the majority of that time devoted to maintaining compliance with local, state and federal mandates.
Now, compare this to the typical time required to earn a graduate degree in Education. A Master’s in Education (30 Semester Credit Hours) requires 480 hours of class time. A Doctorate in Education (60 Semester Credit Hours) requires 960 hours of class time.
When viewed from this perspective, it is glaringly obvious that every hour devoted to professional learning over the course of an educator’s career is highly valuable.
“People who know the value of time are always doing something valuable with their time.”
― Sunday Adelaja
Professional development mandates require teachers to devote highly valuable hours to prescribed professional development topics that have less to do with improving instruction or student growth and more to do with logging hours to meet compliance standards as set forth by laws or policies. Below is a list of professional development topics that are most commonly mandated and often required to be repeated throughout the course of an educator’s career:
- Suicide Prevention
- Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying
- Recognition of Substance Abuse
- School Safety
- Law Enforcement Operations
- Mandatory Gang Awareness Training
- Potentially Missing/Abused Children Reporting
- Communicable Diseases
- School Nurse Delegate for Glucagon
- Training of Delegates for Epinephrine Administration
- Bloodborne Pathogens
- Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Prevention and Intervention
- CPR/AED Training
- Lyme Disease
- Equity and Affirmative Action
- Integrated Pest Management
These topics are vital to the effective development and maintenance of a safe, positive and supportive school community that is conducive to learning. This is a fact that is not to be denied, nor challenged. However, it is also an undeniable fact that many school districts devote more time to mandated professional development topics in an effort to develop and maintain an environment that is conducive to learning than to professional development topics that are actually designed to improve learning. This is the PD Pinch. And sadly, 61% of teachers are being squeezed. Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development, 2014.
How do we loosen the grip of the PD Pinch?
Educators are not the only victims of the PD Pinch. Students suffer the effects of the PD Pinch in the form of a long, dull ache rather that of the sharp sting that their teachers experience. Students who are taught by teachers who are required to spend the majority of their professional development time devoted to minimize the district’s exposure to liability and little to no time on effective instruction spend a lifetime trying to overcome the effects of receiving instruction that is often outdated and mediocre. So how we loosen the grip of the PD Pinch? Educational leaders must think outside of the box when it comes to the development and delivery of professional development programs:
- Develop a culture of collegial professional learning that encourages the sharing of knowledge
- Establish a culture that values and rewards participation and accountability
- Establish intra- and inter-district professional learning communities
- Develop custom training programs that are relevant to unique needs of staff
- Use technology to improve overall effectiveness, efficiency and accountability of professional learning programs
Onspire’s PD3 is the solution
Onspire’s PD3 is the first to fuse expert-developed online professional training courses with a custom content learning management system. The result of this fusion is the most innovative and versatile online learning system on the market.
As a custom content learning management system, Onspire boasts the following capabilities:
- enables school districts to become a community of engaged learners through the creation of individual user accounts for all employees, contracted service providers, volunteers, parents and students;
- enables school districts to join Onspire’s Learning Network (OLN). OLN is a shared online course/presentation library that encourages collegiality among educators and school districts;
- provides school districts with the freedom and power to develop custom online training programs for employees, contracted service providers and volunteers and to share or use custom content via OLN;
- enables school districts to develop custom online presentations for students, parents and community members and to share or use custom content via OLN;
- provides school districts with ability to track course participation, course completion and to collect valuable data from users;
- provides teachers with the power to develop custom online lessons for students (flipped learning) and to share or use custom content via OLN;
- enables districts to manage individual and group professional development plans;
- provides district with ability to set and send auto-alerts and reminders for individual professional development plans, to set course completion deadlines and to track course completion by individual user and group;
- enables district to auto-award certificates for each course completion based on post-assessment score; and
- provides a comprehensive reporting system.
Each course is divided into easy to manage micro-chapters that can be completed over multiple
sessions. This provides educators with flexibility to complete assigned courses over time in a
highly efficient manner. Participants are not required to sit for hours at a time in front of a
computer screen to meet their professional requirements. Some course chapters are as low five
minutes in length, which delivers the overall content in more easily digestible portions.
Onspire PD3 is built upon a powerful, proprietary platform that enables school districts to assign, manage, monitor and record all professional development. Each course concludes with an online assessment that randomizes the order of questions and responses to maintain fidelity. Upon successful completion of the assessment, the user is provided with a PDF of his or her certificate of completion and the software archives the record and sends an alert to the assigned system administrator. Onspire’s PD3 districts benefit from the system’s ability to set a completion date for each assigned course by user; track each user’s progress in real-time; send auto-alerts and reminders to users and administrators; send notifications to assigned users upon successful or unsuccessful completion of course; and generate user and district-level reports that include course title, username, date and time of completion and assessment results. All features result in a highly reliable professional development management system that ensures staff and district accountability.