This is a special blog posting by Dr. Julie A.Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, to share some selected , preliminary data findings from Speak Up 2014 (data collected from October 6 – November 24 from 17,913 teachers nationwide). The final data results will be published in a series of national reports in spring 2015.
Both teachers and administrators agree that the value of the use of digital tools and resources can be enhanced if teachers receive appropriate professional development that builds both tangible skills and capacity for future learning. But what do teachers say they need this year specifically to increase their effectiveness in their classroom? This “Teacher PD Wish List” may surprise you!
In terms of building their own capacity to use a wide range of digital tools and resources, a majority of classroom teachers (51 percent) identify that they need training on how to effectively leverage technology specifically to differentiate instruction. The heightened interest in personalizing learning for every student is a great motivator for learning how to use various emerging digital tools to accomplish that goal. Correspondingly, approximately one-third of teachers say they are particularly interested in learning how to use educational games and tablets this year in their classrooms. Students will be glad to hear that – both games and tablets show up prominently on students’ wish list for their dream school also!
Online assessments are also on the minds of many teachers these days. Depending upon their school, they may have already implemented online state tests with their students last year or they are preparing to do so this spring. It makes sense therefore that teachers also indicate interest in learning how to use technology for formative assessments as well as how to prepare their students for the standardized summative online assessments.
When asked about their preferred method or approach for PD, the teachers’ responses this year show some consistency with the data findings over the past few years. Face-to-face events such as attending a conference or participating in a school or district based training are still the most popular forms of training or PD for teachers. In those cases, learning from outside experts is the strong appeal. But teachers also highly value learning that is collaborative with colleagues and they place a high premium on the experiences and expertise of their peers. Consequently, teachers this year also indicate that they would like their PD experiences to include observing other teachers to get new ideas, being part of a school study team, and having the opportunity to be mentored by a master teacher.
As school and district leaders prepare agendas and recruit speakers for spring in-service training days or summer institutes, keeping in mind the teachers’ PD wish list is both wise and prudent. With time as a teacher’s most precious commodity, let’s make sure that we are using that asset effectively to help teachers enhance skills and capacities around topics that they are most interested in. The results will most certainly be evident in the classroom – both in terms of teachers’ use of technology and the satisfaction they will feel from having their voices heard.
Want to understand the PD needs of your teachers? Every school and district that participates in Speak Up and promotes the surveys to their staff, students and parents, receives a free report with both local and national data findings. Speak Up 2014 surveys are open for input until December 19. Local reports will be available February 5. Here is your link to the surveys: https://speakup.tomorrow.org2014/