Of Course

Mapping the way to more relevant professional development.

GUEST COLUMN | by Leslie Kerner

CREDIT Amplify Professional Learning MapsProfessional Development, or PD. If you’re a teacher, these words can bring on mixed emotions. On one hand, you clamor for more time to work with your colleagues, enhance your skills and step back to take a deeper view of your practice. But what little time you do get doesn’t always feel like it’s been meaningfully spent.

All too often, professional development amounts to little more than a mandatory, one-way lecture. If you’re lucky, you might get customized PD, which usually means that you had the chance to select which video lecture to watch. It’s no wonder many teachers walk away from these experiences feeling unfulfilled.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to PD, so what’s a district administrator to do?

As an administrator, it can be difficult to determine how to focus professional development in a way that meets each teacher’s needs. Time is wasted if the topics don’t resonate, and money is wasted on substitutes needed to cover those teachers during PD days or workshops.

The goal of PD should be more than peppering educators with a few facts on the latest research, trends or theories. Meaningful PD should provide teachers with an opportunity to think about how to help every student achieve their highest potential. Just like every student needs something different to learn, every teacher needs a different kind of PD.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to PD, so what’s a district administrator to do? You need something customized, affordable and fast. But where can you get it?

One highly effective option is Amplify. Many people know our company for education technology products, like our suite of mobile assessment tools, the Tablet and our Curriculum. But few know about the professional development services we’ve been providing to states and districts for over a decade; we were one of the first in the education space to bring mobile assessments to the classroom when teachers were routinely administering paper-and-pencil evaluations. We know that you can’t have a successful digital education program without engaging professional learning.

Our approach to the work is simple: we don’t assume what teachers want or need, we ask them. To start, we begin by surveying every teacher in the state or district. We then analyze the feedback and design a professional development program to meet the needs of individual teachers, grade levels, departments, schools and the district as a whole. This approach led us to develop a new solution, which we call our Professional Learning Maps.

Professional Learning Maps are a honeycomb-style data visualization showing administrators and coaches the best path for teachers to improve their instructional practice. With one click, you can delve deeper into any skill area and provide step-by-step guidance and sample activities designed to target the specific skills educators need to improve—all without losing any class time.

For example, a coach who is facilitating a Professional Learning Community (PLC) for second and third grade teachers can easily customize the map to view the specific needs for the teachers in those grades. She can cover the most relevant topics during the PLC meeting. Additionally, a district leader can view a map of the whole district, noticing the most common needs across groups of teachers, and make more efficient decisions about how to allocate time and resources to better professional learning.

The results? Educators are more engaged because they are getting exactly the professional development help they need, when they need it. And administrators are happy because they can now ensure that every hour spent on professional development has an impact.

Our customized approach has helped districts see real results; we just finished a statewide engagement in Delaware, where state assessment scores went up in part because of our efforts on the ground. We’re also coaching educators across schools in Rhode Island. While our work there isn’t done, interim reports tell us that teachers feel more confident than ever before using data in their instructional practice.

We’re honored to have the opportunity to work with states like Rhode Island and Delaware and know we have the capacity to help many, many more. That’s why this spring, we’re offering a chance to try our Professional Learning Maps for as little as $25 per teacher, which includes reports and analysis for individual teachers, grade levels, departments, schools and the district as a whole.

Personalized learning can be a powerful tool when it’s guided by leaders who understand what educators and students need to succeed. But learning what kind of PD each and every teacher needs can be a daunting task. That’s where our Professional Learning Maps can help. The combination of our cutting edge technology with our years of experience providing customized PD has helped educators in districts across the country improve their practice. Now we’d like to help your school as well.

Leslie Kerner is Senior VP and General Manager, Professional Services for Amplify.

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