Special Report

Blind Spots in Teacher Professional Development

May 15, 2019
Marie Hatwan reflects on her group's ideas to address implicit bias during a professional development day held with Californians For Justice at the Teacher Resource Center in Long Beach, Calif. on April 13, 2019.
Professional development: It happens every year, for every teacher. And yet there’s broad agreement among those who participate that it often—very often—misses the mark. The trainings fail to take teachers’ prior knowledge and experience into account, or use instructional techniques that wouldn’t work with students. The things teachers say they want to learn—how to recover when a lesson goes south, how to recognize their own biases and design activities that reach all learners—are often overlooked. And even when teachers get PD in topics they know are important, like trauma-informed teaching and suicide prevention, the sessions are crammed in amid a growing list of training requirements, and can end up feeling shallow.
For this special report, we let the ground-level experts lead the way, asking teachers what they saw as PD blind spots and then digging in on causes and solutions. It seems clear there will never be a perfect system for professional development. But by taking stock periodically of what’s not been working, or been overlooked, schools can work toward a better vision for professional learning.