Creating effective teacher professional development plans
For teachers, it’s second nature to offer additional support to students when they are struggling with the curriculum. But as a teacher, are you giving yourself the opportunity to address and support areas of improvement within your own professional development?
With a new school year approaching, now is a good time to consider the roadblocks that are standing in the way of becoming the best version of yourself in the classroom. While there is no single strategy for success in teaching, it does demand a commitment to continuous improvement and growth—and being intentional when you address your teacher weaknesses can help meet this goal.
Whether you’re an experienced educator looking to fine-tune your skills or a newer teacher who’s eager to transform weaknesses into strengths, here are some steps you can take to ensure your teacher professional development plan yields the results you are looking for.
1. Remember your strengths
This might seem counterintuitive, but don't proverbially throw the baby out with the bathwater. Remind yourself of the things you’re doing right as you reflect on areas on improvement. Doing so allows you to maintain your confidence, stay productive, and be self-aware as you think about your development plan.
For example, you may have a good rapport with your students—they trust you and would confide in you about things that were going on at home. You can also be proud of how your students met their goals in the past year due to your guidance and investment in them.
2. Determine teacher weaknesses
You can determine your areas of improvement in a variety of ways:
• Conduct a SWOT analysis. Write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your teaching career. There are several SWOT templates you can find online to help organize your thoughts.
• Review past evaluations. Look back at your most recent evaluations to find potential weaknesses to address.
• Solicit feedback from your team. Ask your supervisor or other teachers for their insights to see if any themes or patterns emerge.
• Think about recent challenges you’ve faced. Reflecting on situations where you made a mistake or wished you had the opportunity to handle it differently can be helpful in pinpointing what you’d like to work on.
3. Research ways to improve
Thanks to the internet, it’s a lot easier to find resources that help work on your weaknesses.
You can start by searching "What's the best book about [Your Topic]," read the reviews on some of the titles that come up and narrow it down to the top five options that seem most relevant.
Visiting the authors’ official website can also be helpful, as many offer free content like blog posts, videos, and downloadable resources that you can use in your classroom.
4. Decide what you will implement
Start by breaking down the area you would like to improve on into small sub-areas, and then developing solutions that you see fit.
For example, if you’re looking to improve your classroom management, the sub-areas to focus on can be your expectations around:
• whole group instruction
• travelling in a line outside of the classroom
• when a visitor enters the classroom.
In your research, you will likely discover several potential solutions. Consider prioritizing and choosing the techniques you’re interested in based on how easy they are to implement or their potential impact on your goals.
5. Put your teacher improvement plan into action
Begin implementing the solutions you’ve chosen in the new school year. Find a fellow teacher or someone in administration you are comfortable with to be an accountability partner that you can share updates with and keep you honest.
While it’s always easier to keep doing what you’ve been doing, change doesn’t happen without feeling uncomfortable as you put the work in.
Schedule check-in points throughout the year to formally evaluate the changes you’ve made. Ask yourself: "Has [new technique] improved [your area of improvement]?"
If you believe the answer is yes, then consider "How?" and follow up with "How can I further improve?" If your answer is no, then ask "Is the issue the strategy itself, or is it the way that I'm implementing it?"
Based on the answer to that question, decide whether you should try a different strategy or stick with it and improve the way that you are implementing it.
To improve is to change...
Teaching truly is a practice—it will always be evolving, and it’s important to remember you don't have to be the same teacher you were last year. By using these steps as a blueprint, you can make intentional and meaningful improvements in the areas you struggle with to be the best educator that you can be.
Looking for more professional development tips? Here are additional tips on Evaluating Your Own Performance as an Educator.
This post was originally published July 2017 and has been updated.