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9/20/2014 Professional Development Activities for Teachers

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Alberta Teachers' Association > For Members > Professional Development > Professional Growth Plans > Section 3 > Professional Development Activities for Teachers

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PD Activities for Professional Growth
Advice & Assistance On this page
Action Research
ATA Locals
Book Study
Classroom/School Visitation
Salary, Benefits and Pension
Collaborative Curriculum Development
Conference Audio Tapes
Getting Involved
Community/Service Organizations
Programs and Services
Curriculum Mapping
Data Analysis
Professional Development
Examining Student Work
Specialist Councils Education Exchange
Teachers' Conventions Focused Conversations
Conferences and Events Hosting a Student Teacher
Webinars Integrated Curriculum Planning
Professional Growth Plans Internet Research
Diversity, Equity & Human Rights Journaling
Resources Lesson Study
PD E-News Leadership Development Programs
Mentors and Mentorship
Events Calendar
Online PD Programs
Peer Coaching
Forms and Online Services Post-Secondary Courses
Professional Books and Journals
ATA Store Professional Development Schools
Professional Organizations
Professional Portfolios
Regional Professional Development Consortia
School Improvement Teams
School-Based Professional Development Workshops
Specialist Councils
Study Groups
Summer Institutes
Symposia, Institutes and Retreats
Teachers Conventions
Training Trainers/Lead Teachers
Video Conferencing
Viewing Educational Videos

Within the scope of a professional growth plan, teachers and school administrators
can undertake a range of professional learning activities including reading professional
journals, trying out new practices in the classroom and joining professional
organizations. Below is a list of professional development activities that can be
undertaken individually or collaboratively as part of a professional development plan. In 1/9
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the past, professional development focused on individual development, workshops,

inservice and external delivery systems. Today, the emphasis is on school-based
activities such as coaching, partnerships and team/group development.

Action Research Top of page

In undertaking action research, educators begin by asking how current practice might
be improved. They then study the relevant literature and research to select an
approach that might improve current practice.

Teachers often use their classrooms as research sites. For example, teachers might
teach a concept in different ways to determine which had the greatest effect on student
learning. Likewise, teachers might experiment to see what approach is most effective
in facilitating cooperative learning among students.

Administrators can use action research to address issues related to their leadership
role in schools. Action research is a reflective strategy that requires the collection of
qualitative and quantative data, which can lead to enhanced practice.

Teachers can engage in successful mini-research projects in their classrooms, while

administrators can use schools, individually or collectively, as research sites. This
action research often helps identify which techniques work best for particular
students. Action research helps teachers to theorize from teaching practice and
experience and redefine teaching as an autonomous form of inquiry. For more
information on action research, consult the ATA document Action Research Guide for
Alberta Teachers .

Book Study Top of page

Book study groups are an effective form of professional development that educators at
all levels can use to facilitate their professional growth. Book studies work best if the
participants have similar skills and interests. However, varying viewpoints are important
because they inject diversity of opinion and enliven discussion. One of the first matters
on which the group must reach consensus is a schedule for reading and discussion. If
the book study is to consist of four to eight meetings in all, then each meeting should
last between 60 and 90 minutes. Choose a book on a topic that interests everyone in
the group but that is sufficiently open-ended to encourage new learning through
reading and discussion. The book should be thought-provoking and have enough
depth to stimulate debate. At the conclusion of the book study, ask the following
questions: Did the book stimulate thought and discussion? Did the group study meet
the learning objectives? How might the group study experience be improved?

Classroom/School Visitation Top of page

Teachers visit the classrooms of colleagues to view innovative teaching practices and
expand and refine their own personal pedagogy. For classroom visitations to occur,
school boards must be willing to engage substitute teachers.

School administrators may benefit from visiting a school in the jurisdiction or another
jurisdiction to view the facility, explore alternatives for organizing resources and
discuss leadership strategies with the hosting school administrator.

Classroom and school visitations may range from a single day up to two weeks and/or
multiple visits over time.

Collaborative Curriculum Development Top of page

Collaborative curriculum development provides a unique opportunity for teachers to
delve deeply into their subject matter. Working together, teachers can design new
planning materials, teaching methods, resource materials and assessment tools. 2/9
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Conference Audio Tapes Top of page

Conference audio tapes provide teachers who are unable to attend a national or
international conference with an opportunity to learn new ideas from experts. Most
organizations make available information on sessions or proceedings through audio
cassettes, CD-ROMs, and MP3s.

Conferences Top of page

Conferences can provide very effective professional development opportunities,
particularly when they are part of a teachers ongoing professional development plan. A
detailed listing of selected conferences is located on the ATA online events calendar.

Community/Service Organizations Top of page

Community and/or service organizations provide an opportunity for teachers and
school administrators to develop leadership skills and gain important knowledge
related to their role and community context. Examples of community/service
organizations include church, service clubs, 4-H, Scouts, Girl Guides and sporting

Curriculum Mapping Top of page

Curriculum maps are tools to organize teaching. They outline a sequence for delivering
content and provide a clear scope for what must be taught to all students as specified
in the provincial curriculum. Curriculum maps, which can be aligned both horizontally
and vertically, organize content, skills, assessments, and resources over time. A
curriculum map can also serve as a tool for collecting data about the implemented
curriculum in a school and in a districtthe instruction that students are receiving. By
mapping what's actually taught and when and aligning it with assessment data,
teachers can modify instruction (Educational Leadership, December 2003/January

Data Analysis Top of page

Educators use data to inform their professional practice, that is, to make decisions
about what to teach, how to teach it and how to determine whether students have
learned what was taught. Data come from a variety of sources. Some data help
determine the degree to which an individual student or a group of students has
achieved specific standards as measured by teacher-made tests and assignments,
norm-referenced tests, student portfolios, observation surveys and other sources.
Other data provide insight into contextual factors such as language proficiency,
preschool experience, attendance patterns and family support that may influence
student achievement. Still other data provide insight into structures, attitudes and
practices that comprise the school programfactors such as curriculum organization,
instructional strategies, assessment practices, report card, course completion rates
and school satisfaction surveys. Reliable data are multi-sourced, relevant, timely and

Examining Student Work Top of page

Student work provides teachers with a critical source of information about how a
student is learning, developing, acquiring new knowledge and applying new skill sets.
Student work includes such items as writing samples, projects, oral reports and
pictures. Thinking analytically about the work can give teachers greater insights into
teaching and learning. The information can also be used in study groups.

Education Exchange Top of page

The Alberta Teachers' Association administers the International Education Exchange
Programs (IEEP) under the existing exchange agreements between Alberta Education 3/9
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and its international counterparts and the Ministry of Education in Quebec. Calendar
year and short-term exchanges are offered in a number of countries. All costs of the
program are borne by the participant but the benefits of an exchange are both personal
and professional. More information.

Focused Conversations Top of page

Focused conversation is a four-stage process that can help people reflect together
about any issue, large or small. A facilitator leads the conversation and asks a series of
questions that elicit responses that take the group from the surface of a topic to its in-
depth implications.

Hosting a Student Teacher Top of page

Hosting a student teacher is a form of mentoring, except that the experienced teacher
has an obligation to focus on supporting the development of standards related to
interim certification. All Alberta universities provide a handbook and orientation
workshops for host teachers that outline the expectations for field experiences. Host
teachers are ultimately responsible for their students and therefore must closely
supervise what the student teacher does with respect to lesson planning, classroom
instruction and student evaluation. Student teachers do not have teaching certificates
and, therefore, should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to act as substitute

Integrated Curriculum Planning Top of page

The terms integrated curriculum planning, interdisciplinary teaching and thematic
teaching are often used synonymously. The teacher organizes curriculum so that it
cuts across subject-matter lines, bringing topics into meaningful association and
allowing students to focus on broad areas of study. Integrated curriculum planning
includes these features:

An emphasis on projects
Sources that go beyond textbooks
Relationships among concepts
Thematic units as organizing principles
Flexible schedules
Flexible student groupings

Internet Research Top of page

The Internet provides access to a wealth of information on countless topics contributed
by people throughout the world. On the Internet, a user has access to a wide variety of
services: vast information sources, electronic mail, file transfer, group memberships
based on interest, interactive collaboration and multimedia displays. However, Internet
research has a number of limitations. Because the Internet is a self-publishing medium,
anyone with minimal technical skills and access to a host computer can publish
content. Furthermore, Internet sites change over time according to the commitment
and inclination of the creator. Some sites demonstrate an expert's knowledge, while
others are amateur efforts. Some may be updated daily, while others may be outdated.

Journaling Top of page

Journalling is a technique for recording observations and reflections. The entries may
be related to teaching, student growth, the implementation of a new initiative or any
subject for which a teacher may want to develop a record. The journal can provide a
rich, qualitative record of events and activities.

Lesson Study Top of page

Lesson study is a professional development process that Japanese teachers engage in
to systematically examine and improve their practice. In this process, teachers work 4/9
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collaboratively to plan, teach, observe and critique a small number of study lessons. To
provide focus and direction to this work, teachers select an overarching goal and
related research question that they want to explore. This research question guides their
work on all the study lessons. Teachers then jointly draw up a detailed plan for the
lesson that one of the teachers delivers to students in a real classroom. Other group
members observe the lesson. The group then meets to discuss their observations.
Often, the group revises the lesson, and another teacher delivers it in a second
classroom, while group members again look on. The group then meets again to
discuss the observed instruction. Finally, the teachers produce a report of what their
study lessons have taught them, particularly with respect to their research question.

Leadership Development Programs Top of page

Leadership development programs are generally designed to provide teachers aspiring
to school or district administration with an opportunity to learn about various aspects of
the role and thus increase the pool of applicants for leadership positions. These
programs may be locally developed within the school jurisdiction, in partnership with
the ATA local or offered at a provincial level by the ATA, CASS or regional consortia.
Some programs may be recognized by universities for postgraduate credit and
participants are encouraged to confirm these arrangements with the university in

Mentors and Mentorship Top of page

Mentoring is a confidential process through which an experienced professional
provides another with information, support, feedback and assistance for the purpose of
refining present skills, developing new ones and enhancing problem solving and
decision making in a way that promotes professional development.

Studies on beginning teachers demonstrate that the first three years of teaching play a
crucial role in shaping a teachers perception of the profession and in helping the
teacher decide whether to stay or leave. Beginning teachers are in greatest need of the
support that will enhance their classroom management and instructional skills. They
also need support systems that will help them see teaching as a collegial, rather than
an isolated, endeavour. Mentors can provide the advice, suggestions and constructive
feedback that can make the difference between whether a new teacher succeeds or
fails. More information on mentoring is available in the ATA publication Mentoring
Beginning Teachers: Program Handbook.

School administrators who are new to administration or new to the school district,
veteran administrators in the first few years in the role, or vice-principals aspiring to
become school administrators can find mentorship supportive and beneficial to the
development of their leadership practice. Mentorship is most beneficial when it is
based on an action plan that includes goals and strategies. More information on
mentorship for leadership is available in the ATA publication Administrator Mentorship

Mentoring is an effective process to support teachers whether they are new to the
profession, new to a curriculum or grade level, or new to an administrative designation.
According to the provincial Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation policy, a plan
for teacher mentorship can be the teachers professional growth plan.

Networks Top of page

Effective professional development initiatives use a variety of communication networks
and strategies. The vertical and horizontal boundaries at the school and system level
must become interrelated and mutually supportive.

Electronic networks can respond to educators needs to communicate with a larger and 5/9
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more diverse group of educators beyond the staff at their own schools. A computer, a
modem and access to a telephone line can link teachers to the electronic village. Open
systems can connect teachers to existing online libraries, databases, list servers and
other communication systems.

Participants can discuss such issues as evaluation and assessment, technology across
the curriculum, environmental and global education, second language instruction,
conflict resolution, school leadership and school-based research.

Online PD Programs Top of page

Some organizations and postsecondary institutions have developed online courses,
tutorials and self-guided programs for teacher professional development. Most
programs have a registration fee.

Peer Coaching Top of page

Teachers and school administrators solicit and receive feedback about their practices
after being observed by a peer or other observer. Observation and assessment
encourage educators to reflect on their everyday professional lives and can take many
forms. Reflective writing and discussion allow educators to develop ideas that can be
integrated into their evolving personal pedagogy and professional practice.

Post-Secondary Courses Top of page

Teachers interested in continuing their academic development can register for credit
courses offered by postsecondary institutions. Some programs are offered using
outreach or online strategies. Teachers should consult the Teacher Qualifications
Service to determine the credit that they will receive for taking a particular course.

Professional Books and Journals Top of page

The ATA library offers an excellent collection of professional books and journals
available to members. Visit the online catalogue for a complete list of titles. The
Association has purchased access for its members to three online periodical databases
containing more than 3,000 titles. Members can access these resources through the
Members Only portion of the ATA website at

Professional Development Schools Top of page

Professional Development Schools are schools that collaborate with a university. The
faculty and staff of the university work directly with field-based practitioners on
problems and issues relevant to the everyday practices of teachers, schools and
school systems. Universities play an active role in graduate education and professional

Through their ongoing communication with teachers, principals, consultants and

superintendents, faculty members help to identify trends and challenges. Field
development projects are collaboratively formulated between school boards and
university personnel and may involve a combination of the following activities: problem
framing, planning, delivery of PD sessions, ongoing school support, board committee
membership and project evaluation.

Professional Organizations Top of page

Many organizations offer publications and professional development programs for
teachers, among them the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
(ASCD), Phi Delta Kappa, the National Staff Development Council (NSDC), the
National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National
Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). 6/9
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Professional Portfolios Top of page

Professional portfolios are collections of credentials, artifacts and reflections that
document a teachers professional practice. Some teachers and school administrators
have used the portfolio development process to reflect on and improve their
professional practice.

Regional Professional Development Consortia Top of page

Alberta Education funds six regional professional development consortia. The purpose
of these consortia is to provide professional development and curriculum inservice to
teachers in the K12 system. Each consortium publishes regular program bulletins and
maintains a website describing its program. More information is available from the
Alberta Regional PD Consortium website.

School Improvement Teams Top of page

Changes in school organization and roles within the school require teachers to rethink
what professional development means and who controls it. Decentralized decision-
making affords the opportunity to explore the talent that resides within the school. The
Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) provides schools with the opportunity
to address contextual school issues using a process of strategic planning and action
research. Strategic planning empowers all members of the school community
administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, parents, trustees and other
stakeholdersby enabling them to build their future exactly as they want it at the
professional and personal levels. The strategic planning process also involves reaching
a consensus on the expectations of the organizations. The value of strategic planning
depends on the extent to which the school administration and staff are willing to
change and to invest the time required to bring about that change.

School-Based Professional Development Workshops Top of page

The ATA offers a wide range of professional development workshops designed for
school staffs. These workshops can be offered as full- or half-day sessions or as part
of an ongoing program of school-based professional development. Find out more about
ATA workshops.

Self-Reflection Top of page

Self-reflection is a critical skill for the ongoing development of ones professional
practice. Many effective teachers use three levels of reflection: reflection on action,
reflection for action and reflection in action. Self-reflection can be broken down into the
following four steps: (1) problem identification, during which teachers identify a problem
or question about their practice that they are motivated to address; (2) information
gathering, during which teachers collect data to inform the area of practice; (3)
reflection and decision-making, during which teachers attempt to find meaning in the
data through reflection and analysis; and (4) application and change, during which
teachers plan how to improve their practice. Self-reflection can be combined with other
PD strategies such as action research, journalling and developing a professional

Specialist Councils Top of page

The ATA sponsors 22 specialist councils whose mandate is to promote the
professional development of teachers in a particular specialty. Specialist councils
publish journals and newsletters, organize regional professional development activities
and sponsor annual provincial conferences. Find out more about specialist councils.

Study Groups Top of page

Study groups involve small groups of educators who meet regularly to work on a 7/9
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predetermined project. This approach to professional development benefits both

teachers and administrators by bringing colleagues together to undertake in a group
setting a task that they would normally do in isolation. The optimum size for a study
group is about six so that each participant is equally responsible for the success of the

Commitment to a study group is greatly enhanced when participants are directly

involved in setting the task and its parameters. Whether the task chosen is
implementing a new curriculum, demonstrating the use of math manipulatives,
researching theories of teaching and learning, or studying strategies for school
administration, the group must stay focused on its purposeto create an environment
conducive to student learning. The study group provides the structure; the participants
concentrate on content.

To implement a study group, follow these steps:

1. Define the task.

2. Set regular meeting times and places.
3. Establish appropriate meeting behaviours.
4. Create an action plan.
5. Choose a shared decision-making process.
6. Contemplate appropriate leadership roles.
7. Promote a climate of shared commitment.
8. Consider logistics of time, space and money.
9. Discuss criteria for achieving and evaluating goals.

As the work of the study group progresses, participants may decide to redefine goals
or to invite a specialist to attend a scheduled meeting. Study groups work best in a
collaborative environment that allows for intellectual exchange and shared experience.

Summer Institutes Top of page

Summer institutes provide teachers with an opportunity to immerse themselves in a
curriculum or pedagogical topic for an extended period of time. Most summer institutes
are three or more days in length and some are offered for university credit. Summer
institutes are organized by most PD organizations in the province. Teachers are
encouraged to contact these organizations directly for more information.

Educational Leadership Academy (ELA) is a summer institute, offered by the

Association in collaboration with the Council on School Administration (CSA), for
school administrators and those aspiring to administration. Find out more about
Educational Leadership Academy.

Symposia, Institutes and Retreats Top of page

Institutes are intensive, specialized sessions that focus on one topic or issue. Institutes
and retreats provide opportunities for teachers to learn new teaching strategies and
techniques and to explore in depth with colleagues different dimensions of their

Teachers Conventions Top of page

Local, provincial and national conferences provide a forum in which ideas can be
debated, analyzed and sometimes validated. They can inspire, motivate and create
feelings of renewal. Some school staffs participate in conferences and seminars as
groups and then meet to discuss what they learned and how it can improve student
learning and classroom practice. Find out more about Teachers' Conventions.

Training Trainers/Lead Teachers Top of page

One role of the teacher trainer is to help a group of teachers identify a project that is
meaningful to them and then work through the steps required to carry it out: 8/9
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implementing curriculum, conducting research, holding workshops and establishing

new lines of communication among staff. By engaging in such group processes as
consensus building, vision building and conflict resolution, teacher trainers model ways
for teachers and administrators to develop and hone their collaboration skills.

Video Conferencing Top of page

Video conferencing enables teachers to consult with their peers when distance would
otherwise prevent them from doing so. Video conferencing can be used to facilitate
study groups, analyze student work, participate in workshops and view presentations.

Viewing Educational Videos Top of page

The ATA Library has a wide selection of professional development videos that teachers
anywhere in the province can borrow. Most educational videos have a facilitators
manual and workshop material that group leaders can use to offer professional
development at a time that is convenient for the group.

Return to Section 3 Menu

Meaningful Measures
Section 4: Prepare for a Successful Review of Your Growth Plan

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