When Should Professional Development Be Offered?

Let’s say you want offer a professional development workshop. When is the best time to do it? During the school day? During the evening? On the weekend? During summer vacation? How about webcasts and similar so called web 2.0 training tools? This is a challenge for many. The answer is obvious of course. Well except that for different people different answers are the obvious one. Let’s take a look at them.

During the School Day – I have met teachers who will only take training when it means they get out of school. After all they are only paid for a set number of days and training is work related right? People in business take training on paid work days so why not teachers? But then there are teachers who just can’t get the days off from school. They have principals who don’t let them take off for professional development or contracts that require them to pay for substitute coverage out of pocket. Ridiculous? perhaps but I’ve heard from more than a few teachers that they would like to attend a workshop if only they could get sub pay covered. And let us not leave out the dedicated teachers who just hate to lose time with their students. This is especially true in AP courses where time is not your friend.

Evenings/Weekends – Well there is no conflict with school or need for sub pay. On the other hand even teachers like to have some time with family. Or the inevitable grading. And after a long school day? Hard. But people do it. My wife has signed up for and taken a lot of evening workshops. A lot of teachers work on their graduate degrees at night as well. But it’s still hard. Which is better between an evening or a week end? Informally it appears that both are equally good. Or bad. People will tell me that one will work and the other will not but different people will tell me that in different ways.

Summer vacation – I took a bunch of workshops during summers myself and loved them. To me that was the ideal time to take a course, a workshop or other professional development opportunity. No distractions. No pressure to do a prep or grade papers. But do I need to remind people that these are not paid work days? Some people will just not interrupt their well deserved summer vacation without getting paid for it. I suspect that some of these people talk about “life long learning” as it if is for other people BTW.

But even without the no pay/no work attitude that a minority espouse it is often hard to build a critical mass of teachers. After all people take trips, visit family, work second jobs, and generally fill up their summers quickly. The well established workshops and summer programs usually need to attract from a wide geography to fill up. I’ve seen a lot of proposed summer workshops, even free ones, fail to get enough people to sign up to make them practical.

Online How about webcasts? Things on the Internet that you can watch when ever you have time? I’ve heard a number of people propose that as the heart of a new model of professional development. It costs a lot less than in person training and it is almost completely flexible. But do people sign up for them and if they do sign up do they find them as valuable as in person training? It seems like the answer but is it?

If you are a teacher when is your preferred time to take professional development and why?

Comments (8)
  1. Barb In Nebraska says:

    I hate prepping for a sub, so during the school day is my least favorite time for PD. I like Saturdays or Summer workshops the best.

  2. I’m a huge fan of summer workshops, and evenings work really well for me too. I got my masters at night, while working full time. It was hard, but I love school and love learning. Missing class is really hard – it’s hard to find a sub who can actually fill in, since no one knows the stuff I know. After 8 years, I finally have a few subs who can do justice to the curriculum and not just babysit.

    I think webcasts are not the wave of the future. They’re so flexible that they’re easy to put off… forever. Even with best intentions, who can make time? And even if you make time, it’s hard to guarantee that no one will need you, it’ll be quiet, the internet connection will work… I’ll schedule time for a class, make sure dinner’s waiting at home for the family since I’ll be out, that kind of thing, but I won’t do the same for a webcast. Nothing beats in-person communication.

  3. Gail Lovely says:

    I provide "embedded PD" which means I work in the classrooms of the teachers with their students and their technologies in real time. As lessons progress we wor together to try new things. I have a very high implementation and "sticking" rate as it maes it easier for teachers to see the possibilities and the benefits of tech integration. The only workshops I do at my "embedded PD" schools are mini-PD afterschool for 30 minutes – NO LONGER. I focus on ONE task, tool, or function and its possible uses and implementation. We want students to use technology in natural ways, we need to expect and model the same for our teachers.

  4. Carol in Kentucky says:

    Online is the best. My time, my schedule my choice. If it is done correctly it works great! Webcasts are okay, there are are other ways to deliver info online.

  5. I think this is a tough question to get answers to. Anyone that comes to this blog to respond to this post is an active LEARNER. All of us are eager to and willing to spend time outside of our regular hours to learn. Many classroom teachers do not have the same enthusiasm as your readers or Twitterers do. I prefer ANY opportunity I have to learn and absorb information. I’ve conducted PD at various times both in and out of the classroom. I have yet to find one that is clearly better than the rest.

  6. Dena Budrecki says:

    I agree with Jerry’s comment.  We have offered all the times you have listed above and so often we see the same people attend.  We are currently working on making 21st century skills / technology integration a requirement in all our teachers PLP.  

  7. Garth says:

    There are so many arguments for and against each method.  Using a sub I think everyone will agree is a royal pain.  Weekend?  Is Hell going to freeze over too?  Some topics suit 30 minutes after school while others are best as a summer course.  As a tech instructor I like the 30 minute approach.  I have a large number of computer phobic teachers and 30 minutes is about all they are willing to take.  The nice thing about 30 min after school is I can get them all, even coaches.  On the other hand I have the geek team that want a comprehensive, 4 hrs a day, 5 day type learning experience and will love every minute of it.  When PD is presented has to suit the user and the topic.

  8. I like summer workshops the best, especially whe I get paid to go, OR if I am taking it somewhere fun.

    Last summer I went to a workshop in Vegas and the room was paid for.  That one was great because it allowed husband and I go together, make it a family vacation and let me work while he did stuff I didn’t want to do.

    I’ve had even better opportunities than that, but yes, PAID summer workshops are the best.

    I don’t like workshops where I have to take away from the school day and I am just too busy during the school year to do nights and weekends.

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