Vendors Must Hone in on Successful Models for Educator PD

According to a report by TNTP schools spend $18,000 per teacher each year on professional developmentWhen I was a reporter in public radio, I rarely received professional development. The only training or workshops I attended were those I got a grant for, applying on my own. Not working in education, I didn’t know how much value (and money) is placed on PD.

Now as the founder of an ed-tech startup Listenwise (new name!), I think about PD very differently. I want to deliver professional development to educators around listening, so our users can understand the value of teaching good listening skills.

As a business owner, I know offering robust PD allows me to tap into a different education budget. Currently we include in-person or online PD as an optional add-on to our subscription offering, but to be honest, no one buys it. I’m looking at how we as company can offer PD that resonates (and attracts buyers).

According to a report by TNTP schools spend $18,000 per teacher each year on professional development. That’s a lot of money considering this report shows that most teachers appear not to improve substantially from year to year. The report, out last year, also found that there is no evidence that any particular kind or amount of PD consistently helps teachers improve.

I heard frustration around these issues at an event at ISTE this year in Denver.

At ISTE, I attended a Software & Information Industry Association breakfast focused on PD. It looked at whether schools are embracing anytime, anywhere learning for teachers in the same way they are for students. I found the responses interesting as we think about improving our PD curriculum around listening.

Even though teachers are embracing technology tools in the classroom at a rapid pace, according to this group of administrators from Maine and Connecticut, digital professional development hasn’t swiftly adapted to online PD.

One administrator called Twitter “fantastic” for PD, if you are following the right people. And another panelist said they sometimes use Solution Tree for in-person PD. No one on the six-person panel said they had purchased an online PD solution. I know that this informal poll doesn’t represent a national trend, but I think it reflects the reality that we don’t know what constitutes a successful model for PD. It’s still under debate.

But there is a booming business in online PD. Teq, uses an online professional development platform to deliver a variety of PD sessions. ASCD offers online PD courses, and so does EdTech Leaders Online. Recently BetterLesson announced a new professional development platform called PersonalizedPD.  Of course, the established publishers all offer online PD. And these organizations report more and more schools enrolling.

The consensus of the panelists was that the best learning goes on between two teachers, especially if they are colleagues. To me, that means that as much as everyone talks about online PD, we haven’t found a formula that best replaces the face-to-face learning and support.

We’re thinking hard about how to offer PD around listening that involves teachers. If you are a school administrator, what models do you see having an impact on your teachers? And if you are in business, what models work for you? I want to have my own PD session on how to offer the best options.


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