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PD with Pizzazz

Article by Laura Bailet, PhD, Kaplan's Chief Academic Officer

Ask the next teacher you see for her thoughts about "PD," "professional development," or "professional learning." Most likely it won't be paired with words like "fun, "glamourous," or "inspiring." Instead it will be described as "vanilla," "boring," or "a waste of time" — a burdensome requirement that offers minimal benefit. Why?

There's a significant disconnect between typical professional learning opportunities and the desire for high-quality, relevant professional growth.

Early childhood educators know the value of professional learning. But often the system fails them:

  • Budget constraints limit access to quality programming
  • Time is in scarce supply, so early childhood educators squeeze in PD on nights and weekends
  • Professional learning is presented in a "one-and-done" approach, rather than integrating learning across sessions to deepen knowledge, connect to classroom application, and help educators build credentials and careers

Unsurprisingly, given the current landscape and lack of quality ongoing development, the education industry is struggling, and too many of our children's learning outcomes are below par. Did you know that 25 percent of teachers spend less than one hour per week on professional learning?

That's simply not good enough. Professional learning is critical to the success of you, your team, and the children in your program. Good childhood outcomes depend on quality teaching. Research is clear that, when teachers improve classroom instruction through high-quality and relevant professional learning, child achievement goes up substantially. And, opportunities to learn and grow are a big motivator for all types of workers, including educators. According to bestselling author Daniel Pink, the opportunity to increase mastery over core aspects of your job is one of three main "drivers" of work performance.

My suggestion? Be a part of the solution! Recognize the power and importance of high-quality professional learning. Be intentional in identifying topics and resources where your staff can access meaningful learning opportunities on an ongoing basis.

  • Consider CDA courses for yourself or your staff
  • Require your staff to attend implementation training for any curriculum or assessment you use
  • Encourage your staff to attend (free) webinars via edWeb , where then can learn key skills from experts and earn CEUs
  • Offer online courses throughout the year on topics that interest them
  • Host onsite professional learning with an expert at your facility
  • Encourage and lead discussions about professional learning content, ways to apply it in the classroom, and teacher successes with new concepts
  • Celebrate professional learning accomplishments and milestones

The options for providing quality professional learning are endless. The ability to flip the switch from "vanilla" to "PD with pizzazz" is at your fingertips. Explore the pizzazz of PD today at kaplanco.com/professional learning.

About Laura Bailet, PhD, chief academic officer, Kaplan Early Learning Company

Dr. Bailet has more than 30 years' experience in the field of early childhood. She earned her BA at Wake Forest University and her MA and PhD from Northwestern University. She is a licensed school psychologist and has expertise on a wide range of early childhood topics and learning disorders, including dyslexia and autism. The former Operational VP at Nemours Children's Health System and Assistant Professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, she has published numerous journal articles and book chapters and has been recognized by many award boards. For her accomplishments, Dr. Bailet was selected as the top "Change Agent" in Jacksonville, FL, in 2006 and is the recipient of Jacksonville's prestigious EVE Award for her success in creating Nemours BrightStart!, the program to promote reading success for all children. She is a member of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Advisory Board.

Source: Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. NY, NY: Riverhead Books.