By Tania Tani and Julie Keane
Students learn best in open, trusting and engaging classrooms. To create these learning environments, we must also engage educators.
Teachers are the main drivers to ignite students’ innate curiosities and excitement about learning, and they need opportunities to learn every day, experience professional growth as educators and have autonomy based on the acknowledgment of their expertise and experiences.
In high performing systems around the world, effective teacher learning and improved teacher practice have been identified as top strategies to increase student learning and school improvement. Teacher engagement is also a great strategy for retention—a key component for school success.
Often, inadequate salary compensation is identified as the main cause of teacher attrition, but research shows there are also other factors such as lack of autonomy, insufficient support from school systems and little collaboration with peers. All of these factors result in high rates of attrition, which is extremely disruptive to both educators and students.
Professional development (PD) plays a key role in building and supporting teacher engagement, and should be more collaborative and creative than traditional methods.
An ecosystem of professional learning is emerging that offers ongoing job-embedded PD and personalized pathways. Effective professional development design integrates adult learning theory to ensure deep cycles of reflection, experimentation and evidence that demonstrates student impact.
In the past two years, VIF International Education has worked closely with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University to study the impact of this PD in the context of our global education and dual language immersion programs.
We partner with thousands of educators around the country to provide job-embedded, online PD that focuses on project-based inquiry (PBI), technology integration and collaboration among educators. Teacher engagement has increased steadily, especially in content area knowledge, use of PBI focused pedagogical practice and innovative next generation technologies.
In a PBI focused classroom teachers not only challenge students, but also challenge themselves to practice content area knowledge in a complex, real-world context. Educators provide spaces where both they and students feel safe to take risks, and administrators play a key role in sustaining these innovative learning environments. This kind of active participation in classrooms creates self-sustaining learning cycles between teachers and students.
When teachers feel engaged and connected in their work, they are less likely to leave the profession. For example, in North Carolina, teachers participate in a validated survey every two years to gauge job satisfaction. Teachers who are active participants in VIF’s professional development have reported deeper levels of engagement and satisfaction.
Teacher engagement must be a priority to ensure open learning environments in classrooms, and well-designed, collaborative PD is part of the solution.
When educators are empowered to build creative environments, learning can impact the world beyond the classroom.
This post is part of the “Impact of Teacher Learning” blog series produced in partnership with VIF International Education(@vifglobaled). Join the conversation on Twitter using #classroomstories. For more, check out the interactive website at impact.viflearn.com, and see:
- A “Fail Forward” Approach: Building Cultures of Innovation in Schools
- Theory of Action: Positive Impact on Teaching and Learning
Tania Tani is a researcher at VIF International Education. Follow her on Twitter: @Tania_Tani26
Julie Keane is Director of Research and Evaluation at VIF International Education. Follow her on Twitter: @juliekeane
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