Mental Health, Trauma-Informed Teaching 10.31.2019

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3 Ways to Upgrade to Engaging Professional Development for Teachers

Providing more interactive, engaging professional development may help to improve teacher retention and avoid burnout.

Infographic: Engaging Professional Development

It is possible to find engaging, delightful professional development for teachers. Professional development—just reading these two words can put teachers around the country in a state of stress. To many, it’s a burdensome task on a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Teachers are working longer hours (an average of 53 hours per week!) and 50% of all teachers report feeling under great stress at least several days per week.

Unfortunately, only 29% of teachers are satisfied with their district’s current professional development (PD) offerings, contributing to teacher burnout—a serious concern when currently nearly 1 in 3 teachers leaves the profession within only three years.

The concept of professional development isn’t the issue; the issue is that educators report dissatisfaction with “sit and get,” one-size-fits-all PD while favoring personalized and interactive learning.

Aha! There’s an opportunity here: Providing more interactive, engaging professional development may help to improve teacher retention and avoid burnout.

Instead of seeing professional development for teachers as a requirement that adds to an educator’s burden, what if we saw it as an exciting and enriching experience that can actually do what the name implies—develop them professionally?

3 Ways to Go from Boring to Engaging Professional Development

1. Keep it short

Keep It Short
Keep It Short

No one wants to sit through 8 hours of training. On average, educators and school staff spend 39 to 74 hours, that’s 5 to 10 days, on mandated professional development each school year. Be respectful of their time and implement trainings that are effective yet concise. Look for engaging professional development experiences that are evidence-based so you can ensure you’re making the most of teacher and staff time.

2. Focus on active learning, not passive

Keep It Active
Focus On Active

Put simply: don’t bore them. E-learning is antiquated and isn’t designed for retaining knowledge. PowerPoint presentations are a struggle to sit through and can easily be tuned out. Active learning—a hands-on approach involving interactivity, discussion, feedback, etc.—leads to a more engaging professional development experience that is proven to help trainees retain more information in less time.

3. Personalize it

Personalize It
Personalize It

Teachers also know that everyone has a different knowledge base and learning pace … and that includes themselves. Presentations are static and don’t account for these differences. Cater to everyone’s strengths by giving them options. Yes, you can give them options while still delivering standardized, evidence-based learning objectives. Look for online formats that allow them to go at their own pace, and provide options to do the training on any device on their own time.

Upgrade to More Engaging Professional Development

It doesn’t have to be difficult for districts to upgrade their professional development for teachers. In fact, using a solution like Kognito’s interactive, simulated trainings with virtual coaches can actually save money when compared to the cost of hiring an in-person training coach.

We know time is a luxury for teachers, which is why all of Kognito’s online K-12 simulations take two hours or less to complete. They are brief, meaningful, and can be completed from any device, anywhere, at any time. Teachers engage with the training via simulated conversations based on real student scenarios, giving them an opportunity to put their new skills to practice.

Here’s what some trainees had to share after completing one of Kognito’s training modules, At-Risk for High School Educators:

“I absolutely loved the interactive nature. It wasn’t just a video that I had to watch in a numbing state. It required me to make decisions based on the information. The choices particularly in the conversations with the students were so interesting to go through. This was probably one of the best online training professional developments I have experienced in my 13 years of teaching. Thank you.”

“The interactive portions were engaging and practical. It made the information accessible, interesting, and memorable.”

“The design was well-created and easy to use. It provided me a direct opportunity to engage in very real scenarios. It was not too exaggerated, nor out of touch with the classroom. It was also well rounded in the types/experiences of students that we engage with.”

At Kognito, we believe professional development should delight teachers and provide opportunities for hands-on practice that they can start using in their classrooms immediately. Our role-play simulations enable schools, districts, and state agencies to rapidly build the capacity of educators to improve student mental health, academic performance, and school safety, while giving teachers the freedom and flexibility to complete their professional development at their own pace.

Incorporating interaction, a staple of our simulations, gives teachers an opportunity to practice a new skill rather than passively learning it on paper or a Powerpoint slide.

Kognito vs In-Person Workshop

At Kognito we want teachers to feel valued and empowered instead of feeling like passive learners. And districts should feel confident that their investment in this professional development delivers measured results that are making a positive impact in their schools.


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