Teacher professional development, which is commonly referred to by its acronym TPD, is the process of teachers becoming learners in order to progress their knowledge and skills in the areas of instruction, course content, curriculum development and student assessment. TPD is what the policymakers at a school use in order to implement their ideas into the classrooms, as well as provide guidance and information to teachers. The ultimate goal of TPD is to steer the faculty in new direction that most positively benefits its students and improves the student experience in the classroom. When it comes to methods there is more than one type of TPD. The three primary models of TPD are standardized, site-based, and self-directed. All the models have the same goal of helping teachers develop their skills, but each comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Standardized TPD is a very classic training approach where large or small groups of teachers receive skills and knowledge through face to face, broadcast or online based training These trainings sessions allow teachers to interact and collaborate with others in their profession. The trainings are often something like a workshop or seminar and typically follow a one-to-many format of learning. Most of the time, standardized TPD is used to teach singular concepts and narrow sets of knowledge. The primary benefit of the standardized model is that because of the on-to-many format, it can be very cost effective for disseminating information. For example, a small group of teachers who attended training can come back to campus and replicate their training with the rest of the teachers on campus. This act of replicating training is referred to as the cascade model, which is a subset of the standardized model. The primary downside to standardized TPD is that it typically involves a one-time learning event. As a result of the short time frame, it limits the scope of knowledge that can be delivered . This model doesn’t lend itself to long term development or support.
Site-based TPD differs from the standardized approach in that it consists of much more intensive learning by groups of teachers. It most commonly takes place in teacher specific colleges or training centers. Because it is a more intensive approach than standardized, site-based TPD can better address the specific needs of a school. Site-based TPD is the most expensive model out of the three due to the recurring costs associated with an ongoing education program. Though costly compared to a standardized approach, the site-based model allows for more long term development and community building to take place. Whereas the standardized approach is best at teaching simple sets of knowledge the site-based approach is able to deliver more complex information due to the availability of continued support.
Self-Directed TPD puts the learning largely in the hands of the teacher themselves. One significant benefit to this approach is flexibility. The self-directed TPD gives a level of autonomy to the teacher , giving them more say as far as what areas they choose to improve their skills and knowledge in. This can be significant because a policymaker at a school may not be able to recognize the specific needs of an individual teacher. A second benefit to the self-directed TPD is that the costs associated with learning fall largely onto the teacher themselves. The biggest downfall of this model is that all teachers are not equally motivated to continue learning. As a result, the school will likely see minimal benefit from this approach compared to the other models, since only some teachers will wholeheartedly pursue learning of their own volition. In addition the teachers who follow a self-directed TPD may be learning strictly for their personal gain and not that of the institution as a whole.
As someone who is not currently employed in a teaching position, but works on the administrative side of things at my school, it took a bit of asking around to determine which models are being used on my campus. After speaking with a few of the academic directors and professors with whom I have relationships, it became evident that two models are used fairly equally Throughout the year, groups of teachers or individual teachers are sent to multiple seminars or conferences. From what I learned in speaking with several academic directors, they typically go to these types of events individually and then come back to pass down information to the instructors within their department. As an outsider, this appears to closely resemble a standardized/cascade TPD model. The other model being used at my school is the self-directed approach. Our institution offers tuition reimbursement and credits to both full time and part time faculty. As long a teacher can justify that the coursework they are taking applies to their job and will benefit their teaching, the school will reimburse any out of pocket cost. Since I work at an arts college, the professors use this self-directed approach to stay up to date in their medium of choice. When a teacher has state of the art knowledge in their subject, it then trickles down to their students naturally.
Because my school is experiencing rapid growth there is a constant influx of new hires. New full time and part time professors are coming aboard frequently. Because of this consistent hiring there seems to be a need for building a community of practice, so that all the teachers are on the same page as each other and the policy makers. The way in which my school can build this community would be to include site-based TDP in conjunction with the standardized and self-directed TDP already taking place. From what I see no single model can best meet the needs of our teachers by itself. Instead, I feel our school would benefit most through a carefully crafted blend of all three models, based on the combined needs of both the teachers and policy makers.
Edmond, G. & Burns, M. (2011). Models and best practices in teacher professional development. Washington, DC: infoDev / World Bank. Retrieved from http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.294.html