In a rapidly changing world, it’s important for teachers to stay on top of their professional development and make the most of the knowledge they receive. In this month’s Ilm o Amal, Shahrezad Samiuddin explores how professional development can help teachers meet their learning objectives and career goals.

Teachers’ professional development is critical for student achievement. Studies show that a motivated teacher who has content knowledge is the most important factor in a school that can influence student achievement. This is especially true for early childhood educators who are constantly striving to improve their practice. As a teacher you are probably attending several professional development classes, however using what you have learnt in a workshop setting is not always easy to retain or apply when you return to your classroom. Here are 7 ways you can get the most out of your professional development workshops.

1. Try Different Workshops

Do you only sign up for workshops that update your knowledge of content? Do you avoid workshops on pedagogical innovations, or those that can equip you with new competencies in a changing world or those that keep you abreast of new developments and initiatives in education? While you may prefer to attend a subject workshop, we suggest you keep an open mind, step out of your comfort zone and attend a session you normally wouldn’t. It can really help you grow.

2. Schedule a Staff Meeting

It is very likely that you attended the workshop with other members of the staff. Call a meeting of the staff a few days after the workshop to discuss and revisit what you learnt in the session. Talk about any new methods you would like to see used in your school and work on a plan to change things in your classroom. Another advantage of talking about the ideas you have learnt is that it can help everyone, including you assimilate the new information.

3. Be an Active Participant

Listen actively, ask questions, give your opinion and volunteer when the workshop leader asks for a participant for a demo. When attending a workshop a lot of participants tend to sit back, take sneak peeks on their phones and wait for it to be over. However, if you go to the workshop with a focus you can pick up useful skills if you stay open to the new ideas being shared there.

4. Take Notes

Have you ever been grocery shopping without a list, believing you will remember everything you have to buy only to return home without a few things you really, really needed? It has happened to all of us and is the primary reason you should make lists and in the case of workshops, take notes. An idea can sound so wonderful in a workshop, you might think you will never forget it….but think again! Use an app on your phone or take a pen and notepad with you and take notes. Sometime workshop leaders give out handouts which can also be used to take notes. Apart from recording an idea, writing things down imprints it in your mind and can help you remember them easily. Have a folder where you keep all your resources for professional development and tuck your notes in there so you can refer to them later.

5. Ask for What You Want

Is there a particular topic you wish someone would conduct a workshop on? Contact TRC and let us know your workshop suggestion. You can call, email or inbox us. We would love to know what teachers want to learn.

6. Identify the Takeaways

Often teachers’ workshops impart a lot of information. This is usually because workshop leaders tend to share a lot of information in an effort to reach out to as many participants as possible. To avoid getting overwhelmed, take notes on everything, but focus on one or two strategies that you think will work in your classroom. Trust your judgment while doing this. It is easier to use one or two strategies in your classroom, than trying to integrate everything you have taken notes on. Keep all your notes, refer to them frequently and try to integrate the strategies in the classroom slowly, over a period of time.

7. Tweak and Be Patient

New strategies can be refreshing, but it may not always be easy to integrate them in the classroom. You will find that you may need to tweak the strategies to apply them effectively in your classroom environment. Be patient and give new strategies time to work.

Workshops offer you the opportunity to become a student again, which is a great perspective for a teacher. Remember, great teachers are great learners. While nothing beats real life experience, such experiences are not always easy to come by. Also we may not always learn what we need to from real experiences. The dynamism of today’s learning environment and that of the future is one of the primary reasons for teachers to focus on their professional development and keep on learning.

Shahrezad Samiuddin works at TRC. She is also a journalist with a special interest in traditional and new media. She has written features pieces in Dawn on various issues, including on the media. For almost a decade, Shahrezad has been writing the Auntie Agni column in Dawn. She writes on a variety of subjects for Aurora, the Express Tribune, The Herald (Dawn group) and The Indian Express. She has also co-authored a book on Pakistan for young readers called, Pakistan: Castle with a Thousand Doors.

May 2017