Effective Professional Development

NOTE: This blog is cross-posting with naea.typepad.com for the month of July.

My memory is crystal clear: I was sitting with the rest of the elementary school faculty listening to an “expert” who had been paid to present various strategies for differentiating math lessons. As the only art educator in the school, I was used to professional development that was not designed for me. At the end of the presentation, the speaker asked if anyone had questions, and a veteran first grade teacher stood up. She looked directly at the principal. With language and a posture that communicated that she was speaking on behalf of everyone, she declared that this was the most relevant professional development that we had received in years. She, apparently, had not considered those of us who did not teach mathematics in her declaration about “we.”

My name is Leslie Gates, and this is a true story from my years teaching art at a rural elementary school. Right now, I am currently a Ph.D. student in the “Teacher Education and Professional Development” program at the University of Maryland College Park. I spend most of my time reading, writing, and thinking about what excellent professional development for art educators would look like. Over the course of the next month, I plan to share with you some of the tentative conclusions that I have reached. I hope that these posts will be helpful for you.

There is a growing consensus about the essential characteristics of effective professional development. It is necessary for us, as art educators, to understand these characteristics and their potential applications to our own professional development. With knowledge of these characteristics, we can advocate for professional development experiences that are most meaningful and relevant to our work.

-Leslie Gates