4. Social Media and Online Communities
Social media and online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are good ways to create your own virtual learning networks. These online communities allow educators to expand their network and learn new approaches to classroom instruction. On social media, you as an educator can ask questions about teaching strategies or troubleshoot edtech. These platforms can be invaluable for educators who are “one of a kind” in smaller schools or districts—maybe you are the only Spanish teacher in your district, but social media can connect you with Spanish teachers worldwide. Searching for public groups to join or influencers who are relevant to your interests can facilitate connections, or you can start your own group.
5. Professional Learning Communities
Leading a classroom of students can be isolating for educators, as they often spend the school day making decisions and solving problems without the benefit of other colleagues by their side. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) allow teachers to receive collegial support and PD that is personally relevant to their current teaching situation.
A PLC is a group of educators who work collaboratively to understand what individual students know and need to learn and then find ways to meet agreed-upon learning goals. PLCs meet on a regular basis to review student progress and strategize together on ways to improve. Due to the collaborative nature of PLCs, educators can learn a lot from hearing their colleagues’ experiences and obstacles and from coming up with solutions together. When members of a PLC find common gaps in knowledge, they can seek out opportunities that will benefit the whole group, or divide and conquer the knowledge gaps by researching and learning independently and reporting back. Setting up a productive PLC takes organization and may require a mindset shift from working independently to working more collaboratively, but a great first step is to survey your colleagues’ pain points and interest level in collaboration.
6. Resources Embedded in Instructional Programs
Within teaching materials, some instructional programs provide tips and information on various pedagogical strategies. These are valuable sources of information that are directly relevant to the subject at hand and may shed light on why a program has chosen to take a particular instructional approach—or provide alternative approaches or strategies that may be better suited to your classroom. For instance, video demos of a real teacher in a real classroom delivering the program’s instruction can allow educators to preview the content, anticipate aspects that their students might struggle with, and learn strategies to respond as their students take in the new material.
Resource lists of scholarly articles and books also give educators a more in-depth look at the why and how behind what they are teaching. It can be challenging to utilize all the teacher-facing resources that an instructional program has to offer, but a great way to keep resources of interest from slipping through the cracks is to use project management software like Trello or Asana to save notes and links categorized by topic—though a good old-fashioned written list also works—so that when you have time to review these resources, they are organized and ready to go.
Want to learn more about teachers' areas of optimism and concern and views on professional development? Download the Educator Confidence Report here.