The Secret to Empowering Your Teachers and Staff With Professional Development

School districts have good intentions when it comes to empowering their teachers and staff through professional development. By providing learning opportunities for their teachers and school staff, it helps ensure that personnel stay current with policies, curricula, and learning innovation. Ultimately, equipping educators on a regular basis with new knowledge and skills transfer to their students, to best learn and grow.

Just like teachers want to effectively teach their students, they too deserve quality learning experiences. Yet despite the opportunity to learn, teachers and staff are generally unsatisfied with professional development. How can administrators give teachers and staff a better professional development experience?

Why do school staff dislike professional development?

Administrators are tasked with choosing learning solutions that fit their district budget and requirements. Yet not all professional development is equally effective. Some common reasons why educators dislike current professional development solutions include:

  • It’s time-consuming. On average, 39 to 74 hours (5 to 10 days) are spent on mandated teacher development in a school year. Formats like workshops can last an entire day and may not be efficient.
  • It’s boring. Information might be too simplistic, broad, static, and repetitive. It treats teachers and staff as passive learners.
  • It’s uninspiring. Oftentimes professional development is selected to fulfill a training mandate. It is done for the sake of doing it.
  • It’s unapplicable. Teachers need to be able to apply what they are learning in the classroom. Traditional professional development may not be tailored or specific enough for classroom needs.
  • It’s outdated. Online professional development makes it easier to get new information and formats to learners, yet classrooms are changing quickly. Professional development needs to keep up.

Why does providing engaging professional development matter?

Research shows that effective professional development must give teachers a say in what they are learning. Having a larger say gives them ownership over their instruction and positions them as competent professionals. Giving teachers more control can empower not just their attitude towards professional development, but translates into what they take away from their learning and how they apply it.

On the flipside, poor instruction can result in feelings of unprofessionalism that transfer to engagement with students. When teachers and staff aren’t satisfied with the time they are spending on professional development, it lowers job satisfaction. Teacher turnover is a major issue that districts currently face.

This means that engaging teachers and staff with professional development can strengthen a districts’ return on investment. Professional development that features good learning design will better engage teachers, leading to better retention of information and skill-building. That empowerment translates into classroom change, when students thus receive better instruction and are interacting with adults in their school in a more positive way.

How can professional development empower teachers and staff?

With the right solution, it is possible to provide great learning experiences to educators that will improve their performance in the classroom and fit within a district’s budget. In an earlier blog post, we talked about some aspects of professional development that can bring delight to teachers and staff. By focusing on their pain points – busy schedules, dull and outdated content, etc. – districts can use that information as a listening opportunity to empower teachers. They can provide the opposite.

Listening to what educators want is incredibly important. Applying their input will help to empower them in their roles and get the most out of their professional learning. A report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation identified five traits that teachers want in an ideal professional development experience:

  1. Relevant
  2. Interactive
  3. Delivered by someone who understands my experience
  4. Sustained over time
  5. Treats teachers like professionals

More professional development options are on the market than ever before, especially with the rise of online and innovative solutions. Districts have the opportunity to provide a variety of formats for learning for their staff, including personalized learning or solutions that have seen success in other districts.

What does good professional development look like?

Once districts find professional development solutions that teachers and staff want, the result can be spectacular. In fact, learners can be pleasantly surprised with learning experiences that diverge from what they have traditionally received. Here are some examples of what they had to say after completing an interactive simulation:

The interactive conversations was honestly some of the best training I have ever had. Being able to see how responses played out, and try another approach was the best part.

This is the best elearning module I’ve ever seen and that includes corporate training which I’ve taken and even developed in my previous life.

It is really real. In my 23 years in education, this is one of the best courses I’ve taken.

This is one of the best online courses I’ve ever taken! I liked the clear guidance, and choices I could make in the simulation, and feedback afterwards.

The interactive conversation was very helpful. The most helpful online training I’ve ever experienced by far!

It was by far the most intriguing and effective course I have ever taken.

It was one of the most well-constructed online trainings I have been a part of.

It used real-life situations and kept my attention throughout the whole course, unlike most other courses.

The conversations were realistic, more so than other trainings I’ve had, and the voice acting was spectacular.

 Many educators don’t get any experience ‘hands-on’ training in dealing with students in this manner, so this simulation proves effective.

I loved the fact that even though it was not a traditional face to face training, I was MORE involved in this training than I have ever been! Great design!

It was very interactive- hard to ignore like some of the 90’s training videos we have to watch every year.

The interaction was much better than the other trainings we have to complete that haven’t been updated in years and have outdated information!

This is feedback from real educators who work with students in elementary, middle, and high schools. What are they talking about?

Choosing Professional Development That’s Different

The comments above were captured from survey data after these educators had completed a Kognito simulation. At Kognito, we provide school districts with online professional development experiences that are immersive, interactive, and directly applicable to the classroom.

In the reactions above, you can sense the enthusiasm from real Kognito learners after they completed a simulation as part of their professional development. Since the beginning, Kognito has been committed to investing in the learning experience for professionals by creating something unique.

We value the opportunity of technology as a means to deliver effective practice. At a minimum, we could deliver slideshows, comics, and quizzes. Instead, our instructional designers, writers, animators, and developers build simulations with virtual humans that provide real-world practice in a virtual environment.

A Learning Experience Unlike Any Other

The attitudes and beliefs held by the learners after they’ve completed a Kognito simulation matter. It leads to higher likelihood that they will apply new skills across mental health and suicide prevention, trauma-informed practices, and more. And for districts, this means that they can really empower teachers and staff by valuing their time, challenging them, and treating them like the amazing professionals that they are.

That’s why teachers and school staff across the U.S. say that a Kognito learning experience is unlike any other.

Are you ready to find out for yourself? Take a demo today.

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