Four Ways You Can Use Data to Create a Personalized, Teacher-Driven PD...

Professional Development

Four Ways You Can Use Data to Create a Personalized, Teacher-Driven PD Playbook

from Edmentum

By Tony Skauge     Jul 10, 2017

Four Ways You Can Use Data to Create a Personalized, Teacher-Driven PD Playbook

This article is part of the collection: The Personalized Learning Toolkit.

I worked in the same school—doors down from my wife—for three years. I knew she was a good teacher, but in all that time, I never had the opportunity to watch her in her own classroom. As someone who now leads professional development for educators, I know that teachers rarely get to see each other teach. Which is a shame, because it’s the small things that we observe colleagues do that can inspire us in big ways.

While it can be hard to share out the myriad of little things teachers do that are so effective, we do have a tool that can help—data. Whether from formative and summative assessments or online instructional programs, data is both a powerful indicator of teaching and a driver for personalizing professional development. Specifically, data can identify which teachers or grade levels are seeing success in specific skills and where extra support may be needed.

When looking at data, it’s easiest to start with what you know. What’s working? What content areas need the most work, and where do you know you can have the most impact? Specifically, ask yourself:

  • How are teachers teaching the same topic but in different ways?
  • What teachers are seeing the most success?
  • How are they teaching that specific skill or standard?

By looking at your data points in a new way, you can create professional development opportunities within a classroom, school, or across an entire district by leveraging your internal subject matter experts (SMEs). In doing so, you accentuate the strengths of individual teachers and expose other teachers to new styles and ideas in bite-sized chunks.

For example, imagine that you are an elementary school principal who is looking for opportunities to strengthen specific third grade math skills in the new school year. By digging into your grade level data for various discrete skills, you notice a trend—75% of your third grade classes are struggling with number sentences. You also note that one teacher’s classroom is outperforming the others by a large margin. This small piece of data is your big opportunity to plan a meaningful PD session. With this simple exercise, you have identified an area of need—as well as a valuable SME who is already overcoming the challenge.

So, how can you start using data to provide personalized, teacher-centric PD? Schools that do this well focus on four key elements:

1. Dig into a skill or standard regularly.

Not just once or twice a year, but once or twice a month—or more. You can create PD opportunities in advance of skills being taught by looking back at a previous year’s data, or after a skill has been taught by reflecting on what worked well for each teacher. Find opportunities to bring your teachers together, discuss how they are teaching specific skills or standards, and spotlight teachers who are doing it well. This gives teachers options—a collection of proven strategies and approaches that they can try in their classrooms.

2. Hold PD discussions at sites across a district.

Making PD a district-wide endeavor encourages collaboration and open lines of communications. When at all possible, get your teachers out of familiar environments and give them opportunities to watch, engage with, and learn from other experts within their own district in locations like classrooms or schools that are unfamiliar to them. If teachers cannot meet in person, or if it’s not feasible to invite teachers into each others’ classrooms for observation, leverage things like podcasts, teacher blogs, and short videos to demonstrate how to teach specific skills.

3. Let technology inform your approach to professional development.

Use the data outputs from your LMS, classroom assessment and practice programs, high-stakes tests, and any other technologies that you already have in place as support for driving effective instructional techniques. You have all of the tools; dig into them and identify focus areas and pinpoint what is working and what is not. They are your roadmap for success and they will help you build your PD playbook.

4. Build a PD playbook.

By bringing together effective teaching practices and a variety of approaches from multiple SMEs within your school or district, you are collecting a powerful knowledge base of teaching experience that your new and experienced teachers can leverage for years to come. Compile and organize this knowledge so that it is readily accessible for your staff—whether it’s on an internal file sharing system like OneNote, saved to Google Drive, or hosted on a school or district website.

Earlier this year, EdSurge columnist Kerry Gallagher outlined three conditions for personalized learning success—ongoing communication, a culture of learning, and data analysis. This very same approach can help you implement more personalized PD. A cross-collaborative effort will open lines of communication while building internal capacities and teacher confidence because they are learning in a safe environment with their peers.

Whether you're part of a large or small district, building a fully customized PD playbook takes time, effort, and commitment. Give yourself time to master the art of personalizing PD, and remember, you have the expertise in place—now, it's just a matter of using it.

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