by Julia Fisher, Coordinator of Teacher Effectiveness at Green Dot Public Schools
Professional Development Is Power
At Green Dot, we believe in providing our teachers and administrators with the chance to cultivate an educational pathway that reflects their individual strengths and interests. This means offering a range of professional development (PD) options that allows them regular opportunities to explore educational leadership and add experience to their professional practice. It’s part of our “Grow Your Dot” concept — an organization-wide effort to engage our educators in a variety of leadership roles by offering them meaningful, relevant PD.
We’re getting noticed for our efforts. In 2014, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a grant to Green Dot Public Schools California to further develop its theory of action and implementation strategies for professional development. The grant kicked off a year-long examination of our own internal and external research, internal observations, and interviews, helping us to better understand the elements necessary to create high-leverage PD and accurately assess its impact on participants.
Six Guiding Principles
The results proved powerful: Besides providing a PD calendar, planning tools, an evaluation rubric, a new PD website, and an administrators’ sharing forum, the grant allowed us to codify the Green Dot PD model into six guiding principles:
1. Relevance: Green Dot professional development facilitators will use data to ensure that every PD experience addresses participants’ pertinent professional learning needs. This means looking closely at each participant’s current skills and designing a PD session to fit.
2. Continuity: Green Dot professional development will be an interconnected series of activities aligned to a few large goals around increasing student achievement, school culture, and improving classroom instruction. This means PD is designed in units instead of individual sessions. (Ongoing PD, we learned, gives participants time to integrate everything they’re learning — practicing new strategies, getting feedback, calibrating their understanding, and revising their approach.)
3. Educator Voice: Green Dot professional development will include the voice of its participants in planning, delivering, and giving feedback on PD. This one is simple: Teacher leaders develop and facilitate their own PD. We’ve seen how sharing expertise as well as working to implement learning into their own practice builds rapport and increases educators’ investment in PD.
4. Session Design: Green Dot professional development sessions will be rooted in adult learning theory and will utilize the most appropriate structures to achieve their learning objectives. PD facilitators have an obligation to model effective teaching practices. Lessons have a clear objective; participants do the heavy cognitive lifting.
5. Delivery: Green Dot PD facilitators will engage participants in thoughtfully prepared PD by building rapport, continually reading the audience, and responding or adjusting as necessary. We train our facilitators to be articulate, confident, engaging and respectful. They treat participants as adults, not students.
6. Follow-Up: Green Dot professional development will include support for the participants during the ‘implementation stage’ after the particular PD session. We’re aware that the hardest part of PD is implementation, so a Green Dot PD plan not only includes what happens in the session, it also allows for teacher follow-up for observation and feedback.
Proven Professional Development Commitment
In its 15 years of serving students in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, Green Dot has carefully and strategically evolved its PD platform. For 2015-2016, we’ll be investing in more than a dozen new leadership positions, giving educators the opportunity to expand their experience, gain professional development, and improve their practice — all while continuing to impact the organization’s overall professional growth. We’re also committed to sharing what we’ve learned with others, since we recognize that whether intended for those in the Green Dot family or in another organization, PD provides a chance to personalize an educators’ professional narrative.