Professional Development

Posted by Richard H. Faidley on 3/3/2017 10:00:00 AM

Job Embedded Learning Encourages Growth

Musicians and athletes rely on coaches, starting with the first time they pick up a bat, ball, guitar, or microphone. They rely on their coaches to inspire them to be the best they can be, to celebrate successes, and to encourage through the rough times.

For educators, coaching comes in the form of job-embedded professional development. A 2010 Issue Brief, written in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center and the National Staff Development Council, defines job-embedded professional development as teacher learning that is grounded in day-to-day teaching practice and is designed to enhance a teacher's content-specific instructional practices with the intent of improving student learning.

As noted by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, recent research on professional development suggests that it is most effective when it includes components that are based in the school and embedded in the job. Additionally, high-quality job-embedded professional development is aligned with state standards for student achievement, as well the district's goals.

Over the years, educational experts have conducted hours of research and have written volumes describing what professional development for teachers should look like. The Standards for Professional Learning align with this research, calling for professional learning that is ongoing, embedded, connected to practice, aligned to school and district goals, and collaborative.

Here in the Boyertown Area School District, we know providing quality education that increases the achievement of every student starts with having a properly trained and motivated staff. In addition to a New Teacher Academy and an Induction Program, we provide our educators with job-embedded professional development in the form of instructional coaches.

The New Teacher Academy is a weeklong program that introduces newly hired staff to the core values of the district. Participants explore several important topics, including educator effectiveness, technology integration, collaboration, critical thinking, effective communication, and creativity. Experienced staff members support the new teachers through discussions, activities, and a special mentoring program that allows for continued support.

In addition to the New Teacher Academy, the Boyertown School District implements a three-year Induction Program for each newly hired teacher. The state requires school districts to offer one-year programs, so the district is unique in offering teachers a three-year Induction Program.

Beyond the Induction Program, teachers are required to earn 12 administratively directed hours of professional development each year. These curriculum-based sessions focus on refining their classroom practices and embedding technology into their daily teaching.

The district also provides instructional coaches who work one-on-one and in small groups to provide teachers with the guidance, training, and practical strategies for engaging students and improving learning; a job equivalent to Tiger Woods' swing coach. Instructional coaches provide support through an array of activities that are designed to build collective leadership and continuously improve teacher instructional capacity and student learning.

As noted by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, the principles of instructional coaching are grounded in research on effective professional development and professional learning communities. At the Boyertown, we have found our instructional coaches to be vital, not only in providing ongoing assistance to the faculty, but also in providing job embedded support. They work side-by-side with teachers to provide co-planning, co-facilitating of lessons, observing and providing constructive feedback, and providing encouragement teachers need to get supports up and running.

We are committed to fostering an environment that encourages professional growth and development for all employees, whether they are in their first year or their 21st.