The Student Achievement – Teacher Professional Learning Connection

There’s a domino game getting set up in schools today:

  • – Schools are facing a significant teacher shortage.
  • – Therefore, they are hiring teachers who may not have the necessary skills, or even a teaching degree.
  • – The teachers are struggling with all of the challenges that face them, including addressing diverse learning needs.
  • – Schools attempt to address achievement needs by purchasing programs and having teachers just follow the program and pacing guide.
  • – Teachers feel little ownership of their teaching, lowering their efficacy.
  • – Teachers are leaving the profession.
  • – Student achievement is suffering.
  • – Schools are scrambling to fill open positions, but not necessarily prioritizing professional learning to support and retain teachers.

Through the years, the research points to high-quality teachers as the most influential aspect of student achievement. If schools continue to lose high-quality teachers, hire less-than-qualified teachers, and fail to retain them, what hope is there for student achievement?

Professional Learning as the Route to Teacher Efficacy

Efficacy is the ability to set a goal or tackle a challenge and meet with success. Think about it! When you do, you just feel good; you build confidence; you’re ready to tackle another goal or challenge. Schools need to focus on ensuring that teachers become efficacious. This means being well prepared to tackle the challenges they’ll face in classrooms. How can schools accomplish this? The answer is through powerful, ongoing, professional learning.

Inspire Teachers to Connect to Their Purpose

Work to ensure that teachers are connected to their purpose: to help children and to position them for their future careers and lives. Talk to teachers about why they joined the profession. Have them write a letter to themselves at the start of the year about the importance of their purpose. Then have them read it at the end of the school year and reflect on what they accomplished. Keep teachers pumped about their purpose across the year through celebrations and acknowledgments.

Prioritize Just-In-Time Support Through Professional Learning

When teachers are stuck, ensure that they’ll have the answers they need. Leaders should act as coaches and mentors, and not the accountability police. Ensure that teachers have ample, ready resources to find answers. Create a professional library, and subscribe to online professional learning resources

Foster Collaborative Support Circles Among Teachers

No one teacher has all the answers, so sometimes peer mentorship can create a flawed sense of support. Create small groups of four to six teachers to act as a collaborative support circle. Provide time for the groups to meet regularly to share challenges and generate possible solutions. Use collaborative tools, such as Edward de Bono’s “Six Hats” and “PMI.” Develop norms and protocols for working together.

Provide “Lightning Learn” Sessions for Professional Development

Have consultants, building educators, or outside educators offer short, 20- to 30-minute learning opportunities at key times across the day. This could include before school, at lunch, after school, and any professional learning time during the day when a number of teachers might be available. Ensure that the topics are targeted and provide teachers with tools, strategies, and structures they can immediately use in the classroom.

Create a Culture of Professional Learning

Some principals end up shortening or canceling faculty meetings as a “gift” to teachers. A greater gift would be to provide opportunities for teachers to learn from one another and engage in collaborative problem solving. Use post-observation conferences to offer teachers tangible suggestions for growth. Use every opportunity — formal and informal — to discuss current issues and provide teachers with tools, strategies, and structures for greater success. 

Overcome the Domino Effect

Building teacher efficacy will lead to greater student achievement, which will lead to greater teacher efficacy and greater teacher retention. The key is to create a culture of professional learning, support, and empowerment. Today’s teachers will shape tomorrow’s future.

Mobilizing Action for Educational Excellence

IDE Corp. has been partnering with schools and districts since 1997 to create a culture of professional learning toward teacher efficacy, leading to student efficacy and achievement through:

  • – Online, on-demand, Professional Learning Experiences (PLE) that engage the entire faculty in ongoing discussions and provide resources for just-in-time learning and implementation:
  • Virtual Learning Communities that allow teachers to engage in learning with other educators at flexible times, facilitated by a consultant
  • – Remote and on-site professional learning experiences by IDE Corp.