Time Plays a Key Role in Effective Professional Learning

Every June as I closed up my classroom, I would say: I will change this next year. But, by August, my grand plans fell by the wayside and gave way to six preps and little time for implementation. Teachers are innovative and have powerful ideas, yet many districts can’t or don’t spend the time or money on the kind of professional learning necessary to encourage true change. But what if they did? Today, we’re examining one school district who changed it all in the name of balance.

The PlayPosit Success Team facilitates workshops for clients every week. And while we see upticks in usage after teachers realize the power of PlayPosit, we often later hear, “I would use PlayPosit so much more if I just had the time…” So we wondered: What would happen if our workshops were immediately followed by time for teachers to create content they could assign the next day?

Mentor Exempted Village School District (Mentor Schools) faced a challenge. After winning a grant from Ohio’s Straight A Fund, they needed to deliver meaningful professional learning opportunities that truly engaged and inspired their teachers. Mentor’s Director of Instructional Technology Mike Lynch explained, “We knew early on that we had to shift the way PD was happening and needed to do it in a smart way. Teachers are more productive and more likely to take back what they learned if they have time to work on it in the session. PlayPosit is a very easy tool to learn, but yet still, if a teacher doesn’t have the opportunity even for a half an hour, to get in there and see the ease of it, they’ll never take that first step, that first risk.” Teachers encourage their students to practice the skills they learn, but too often professional development is not conducted according to the same principles and is commonly limited to 45-minute presentations after school.

If time is one solution to better professional learning, how can districts afford it with ever-tightening budgets? Lynch shared that tools like PlayPosit allow for enhanced professional learning opportunities. “We don’t spend a lot of money on textbooks because we give our teachers time and use open educational resources or create educational videos using tools like PlayPosit. So, we’d rather give our experts who know their curriculum, know their content, know their students, the time. We’ve tried to reallocate and rethink how we’re our spending our money as a district.” Shifts like this don’t happen overnight and many districts simply don’t have the funds to offer such rich professional learning opportunities. But, small steps can lead to big changes. So, the next time you want to present a new method or new tool to teachers, try giving them the time to put it into practice, even if only for 30 minutes.

Benjamin Levy