Professional Development Beyond Pinterest
According to a study by Donna Scanlon and her colleagues (2010), professional development for teachers is the most effective means of supporting struggling readers – even more effective than one-on-one intervention! Furthermore, they found that “instructional improvements were not accomplished via the implementation of a highly prescriptive program nor by the adoption of entirely new curricula but rather by encouraging teachers to analyze and respond to the instructional needs of their lower achieving students.”
There is a general consensus that conferences or workshops are not the most effective forms of inservice – if they’re just “one-off” experiences. However, they can offer much in the way of new thinking, current research and networking with colleagues – and can be effective springboards for further investigation, collaboration and instructional experimentation.
It seems to me that a lot of school districts are using Professional Learning Communities as a copout to avoid paying real money for professional development. In too many cases, already overstretched teachers come away from these sessions without much new learning or opportunity for reflection.
Conferences, professional reading (beyond Pinterest!) and collegial groups like your local council of the International Literacy Association (formerly IRA) or the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) can offer valuable opportunities to share and build expertise.
PS Read the Scanlon et al study at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2659758/.