The importance of a professional development program

What is professional development?

According to Austin Community College, professional development is defined as the continuous process of acquiring new knowledge and skills that relate to one’s profession, job responsibilities, or work environment.

What is professional development doing for schools?

While the older generation of teachers may not have used technology when they were in school, it has become an imperative learning tool for this generation of students. Professional development and training courses are meant to help teachers and students get the most out of their technology.

In order for students to learn efficiently through current devices, their teachers have to be properly trained. What does a technology training look like? Here are some ideas:

  • Training varies between schools – some schools and their staff are more streamlined with technology development than others.

  • For more remote schools, training typically happens in 1-2 full days or via distance learning such as the TTA’s online training offering.

  • Separate training sessions can be conducted depending on comfort and skill level.

  • It’s easier to address issues and new technology ideas when teachers are up-to-date and using their own technology in their environment.

  • Some schools suggest topics that they would like to learn, and others have no idea where they are in their knowledge. Either way, trainers have the ability to see weak areas and help strengthen teacher and faculty abilities where they need it.

  • Each school has a unique culture, which is why training is tailored to each school’s needs and learning pace abilities.

The problems with implementing change.

Schools spend hundreds of thousands of Rands on technology. The TTA often hears teachers say they don’t use some of these expensive devices because they don’t know how to use them, resulting in a waste of money and disadvantaged students.

What is the point of investing in this expensive technology if your teachers can’t use it to transform teaching and learning?

The TTA is often met with resistance but when management has included their staff in the process of obtaining technology and training the following factors are few and far between:

  • Teachers that don’t want to be told how to use technology.

  • Teachers that are too scared to use technology.

  • Feelings that the students will out-smart the teachers.

The importance of implementing change.

When it comes down to it, teachers learning about technology isn’t for the teachers, but for the students. In our current performance driven education system, the results of our students depict the teacher, hence why there is so much resistance to change. “Why should I change what I have been doing for so many years and been successful at, just look at my results!”. The TTA has heard it been said.

When it comes down to professional development training, trainers need to make sure to explain how new technology affects:

  • Learning;

  • The classroom; and

  • The teachers.

Importance in Continuing Professional Development.

Spending a few thousand Rands on training per year is an important part of the budget when investing in technology. Schools should set aside time and budget for continuing professional development, especially when:

  • New devices are installed;

  • New features are implemented;

  • New ideas are being generated for teaching with technology;

  • Teachers seem behind or have questions;

  • Teachers are not utilizing the technology properly;

  • The “one and done” approach to training does not work, or

  • Teachers start to ‘get-it’ and want more ….lots more.

Over 50% of your teachers won’t implement the training after just one day:

“The adoption curve outlines that, on average, 16% of people will change or adopt new practices no matter what (these are the innovators and early adopters). 34% are the early majority who will most likely adopt change with basic training and a little push guidance from the innovators and early adopters. 34% are the late majority who will typically only change/adopt through peer pressure or if it is a proven necessity. Then, the last 16% are the laggards who may never change. They will take as long as possible to change.

This is really handy when planning a professional development program. For example, it is important to think that 16% of teachers are going to change with a little bit of training and support. These are the ones that handle the one training. The other 34% will follow their lead and change with a little more training and support and if it is very clear how it impacts them for the better. Then, there is the late majority that are going to take a lot longer and need a lot more training. This 34% need more intense training and lots of follow-up in order to make instructional change.”

Source: Lindy Hocknenbary, owner of InTECHgrated Professional Development.

So what?

Teachers often teach the way they were taught. Therefore, adopting technology in the classroom can be difficult. During our professional development training, we bring teachers to the student side of the classroom, where they learn experience technology lessons as a student.

This hands-on approach helps teachers learn the process, instead of having to listen for hours and then trying to jump in and remember what all was said.

The ability to go online and learn at your own pace or revisit something that you might not have grasped the first time in a workshop, lends itself to continual support for the teachers, which they want.

With regular training, customisable learning paces and topics, teachers will be able to not only run new technology, but teach and integrate the technology through instruction to their students. Empowering your teachers with new skills and allowing them to lead within the school is what is setting successful schools apart from those STILL trying to implement the technology they don’t know how to use.

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