Professional Learning for the Long Run

You know that ongoing professional learning is important, so you regularly read books, blogs, and engage in activities with a professional learning community. You also receive announcements for courses and workshops on a variety of appealing topics. So how do you decide when to take a course or workshop and which courses are worth your time and money?

Think of professional learning as a long-term investment, and look for professional learning activities that will result in long-term benefits for you and your students. As you consider the options, ask yourself these three questions:

Will this course help me teach my students transferable skills they can use long-term? Look for learning opportunities that focus on developing your students’ foundational and critical thinking skills, such as reading with deeper comprehension, developing and supporting ideas and arguments, writing about what they read, and listening to others respectfully. All students, no matter their ability level, need to master these skills in order to achieve success beyond school.

Will I learn or strengthen instructional strategies that stand the test of time? Some professional learning is a response to educational trends, or it’s so product-specific that it has limited applications. Why not develop the skills that never go out of style—the approaches that will always be at the heart of effective teaching? Skills such as asking effective questions, leading and sustaining discussions, and guiding students in inquiry-based reading and writing activities are valuable teaching tools you can use any time, in any subject. Watch a short video of a new teacher explaining how he benefited from Great Books professional learning.

Are there opportunities for me to continue to develop my expertise? Check to see if the course you’re interested in taking is part of a series or if follow-up is available. Just as students need to practice skills, receive feedback, and spiral back to revisit new concepts, you also benefit from opportunities to follow your initial experience with refresher courses, coaching, and courses that build on previous ones so that you can internalize what you’ve learned and advance your knowledge and skills.

Answering these simple questions can help you maximize the time you spend on professional learning. We know you have a lot of professional learning options to choose from, but don’t forget the proven effectiveness of our options! Since 2003, Learning Forward (previously the National Staff Development Council has recognized Great Books professional learning for increasing student achievement in elementary, middle, and high school grades. Great Books courses, on-site consultations, and Virtual Coaching are all designed to have long-lasting impact on you and your students.

Post by Deb Bowles, Great Books professional learning consultant, and Jodi Libretti, a former Great Books professional learning consultant who now works as a senior content developer for Great Books K-12 programs.

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