For students to gain access to the highest quality education, there needs to be an effective teacher in each classroom. State and federal governments are moving closer toward making sure that all classrooms have quality educators by investing money in professional development programs, such as workshops and presentations. While any step toward giving teachers the tools they need is important, these standard professional development programs are often too generic to meet the teachers’ needs for growth and improvement. With time and money being wasted on programs that have not shown great results, it may be time for a look at how money can be repurposed toward professional development coaching tools specifically tailored for each and every teacher.
Instructional Coaching: A Better Long-Term Investment
One of the most common forms of professional development where money is being spent today is the workshop. According to The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., “In the U.S., schools spend between 74 and 181 million dollars per year on professional development programs to improve teacher quality. Despite the widespread use of these programs, many doubt if they are truly effective.” More and more teachers complain that these programs fail to fit their needs for growth and improvement as they are not tailored to address each teacher’s specific challenges.
Traditional professional development, like the workshop, consists of scheduled sessions, often after school or during the summer, that are led by those with a certain expertise in education. Other similar forms of PD, besides the workshop, can include teacher conferences and educational courses. The problem with the traditional forms of professional development is that they struggle to produce any meaningful change in teacher practices because they relay overgeneralized information that may not address a teacher’s specific areas of weakness. What makes workshops and other forms of traditional professional development most effective is when coaches and peers work together to close the implementation gap.
With instructional coaching, coaches can observe teachers during their classroom instruction and get to actually see where they can improve. Instead of presenting a general workshop, coaches can give feedback and engage in meaningful discussions about the lesson. According to the same Brookings study, “Professional development programs like instructional coaching are more effective than the traditional PD workshop model because they integrate into day-to-day activities at the school.” Every teacher works at a different level. Instructional coaching gives school leaders the ability to provide individual feedback and instruction based on their performance in the classroom.
So with all the money being spent on traditional development strategies that may be ineffective, isn’t it time for money to be invested in professional development programs that are providing feedback to each teacher’s level?
The Shift in Spending Toward Teacher Coaching
Repurposing money doesn’t have to mean an end to traditional professional development programs. Instead, school leaders should have the option for more professional development programs that have been proven to give teachers the feedback they need to better reach their classroom instruction goals. We interviewed Kirsten Fiel, the Director of Teaching & Learning at Firstline Schools for another perspective. “We see the value of both here,” she states. “We strongly believe that it strengthens teacher practice to have teachers who teach the same thing come together weekly to prepare for lessons and analyze data as well as practice their delivery. That experience might be viewed as a 'workshop' PD. At the same time, it is the expectation that a school leader observes teachers at least once every two weeks. We are beginning the conversation around how to be even more effective at observation & feedback: how and when to give in-the-moment feedback and what to wait for the coaching conversation to deliver.”
Since school districts are already making large investments of money and time toward professional development, perhaps district leaders can repurpose funding toward cost-effective instructional coaching tools to better maximize their investment’s impact on their teachers’ classroom instructional quality. Fiel continues, “We see in-class coaching as valuable because we believe that coaching in the moment expedites the learning for the teacher. Rather than waiting for a coaching meeting, a teacher can make a course correction in real time. This allows us to increase the learning time, the feedback to students, and the habitual, effective moves of the teacher.” By providing more personalized support to teachers, school leaders can use coaching to improve the instruction that students receive ultimately ensuring students get a high-quality education.
Investing in Whetstone’s Coaching Platform
Helping teachers overcome their challenges and become more effective in the classroom has been a federal and state priority for many years now. Instructional coaching can play an important role in this effort by providing in-class observation and personal feedback and can be a critical investment for professional development programs.
At Whetstone, we provide school leaders with a powerful and customizable classroom observation platform that allows schools to educate their teachers’ through feedback. This gives each teacher specific instruction and assistance from their school leader to help them master their educational skills while overcoming the obstacles they’re facing in the classroom. Because each teacher is unique, school leaders need a professional development tool that can target the strengths and weaknesses of each educator and provide them with the feedback they need to improve.
Contact us today to learn more about how Whetstone’s classroom observation software measures up to traditional professional development programs.