Shifting to Job-Embedded Competency-Based Professional Development
In April, we had the pleasure of hosting a special Education Series event in Tampa, Florida. During the event, Aaron Jongko, PK-12 instructional lead teacher from Greater Atlanta Christian School, presented on how his school has transitioned from a more traditional model of professional development to a new job-embedded competency-based PD model. The following article features highlights from Aaron’s presentation.
Greater Atlanta Christian School is a PK-12 independent school in Norcross, GA, outside of Atlanta. The school currently serves 1,700 students from over 100 zip codes. In Aaron’s role as an instructional lead teacher, he spends some of his time leading classroom instruction and the rest of his time focused on leading and assisting instructional staff in developing and delivering high-quality instruction. Professional Development falls into Aaron’s area of responsibility.
What is Job-Embedded Competency-Based PD?
It is professional development within schools focused on quality instruction and student achievement. It occurs during the day, in the workplace and is connected to the actual work of teachers in the classroom. Job-embedded professional development is designed to improve instruction and learning, and is centered around the academic needs of the students and goals set by the team and school.
Why the Change?
For starters, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission put out new requirements that beginning in July 2017, professional learning for the purpose of certificate renewal “is to be primarily job-embedded and done in the context of the school learning community.” In addition, research has shown that traditional workshop format PD has had little effect on teacher practice and perhaps even less impact on student achievement, often because what is learned in the workshop is infrequently taken back and implemented in the classroom.
Approach to Implementation
- Cohorts – As they were trying to bring teachers from all different grade levels and content areas together under one consistent PD program, how they chose to organize the groups was important. They landed on the idea of cohorts. In each cohort, smaller numbers of teachers were grouped together to begin a journey through a series of 6-week PD sessions.
- Redelivery – What happens when people don’t attend the PD session? One of the members of the cohort is charged with redelivering the PD content to their peers in their school community.
- Artifacts – Following a PD session, the teachers would work on implementing what was learned. The result was the creation of an artifact that would be submitted at the end of a 6-week period, which would be approved or declined for course credit. The cohort community was there to offer support through the implementation and artifact creation process.
- Course Credit – When teachers submitted artifacts for review, the instructional team reviewed the artifact to determine if the teacher showed mastery of the content. If approved, the credits they received would be documented on their professional development transcript. If the artifact did not show mastery, the instructional leads gave feedback to the teacher, had one-on-one meetings, tried to support them in editing and modifying their work and guided them in resubmitting an updated artifact.
Results so Far
- Accountability – Teachers are being held to a higher standard. They not only receive information on new strategies or research-based best practices, but they also must show their proficiency and evidence of implementation in their classrooms.
- Alignment – Because teachers across the school community are progressing through the same PD program, students are experiencing more consistency from teacher to teacher, from grade to grade, and even from school to school.
- Community – The number one piece of positive feedback that has been consistently shared by teachers about this new PD approach is how much they appreciate the opportunity to work closely with other teachers.
- Motivation – Teachers are taking the things they’ve learned throughout the year, trying them in their classrooms, sharing with their instructional leads, asking for advice, and really trying to push themselves to improve their practice.