Effectively Supporting the Professional Development and Growth of Teachers

In our role as learning coaches, we have the foundational belief that teachers are professionals who will engage in reflection in order to examine practice and to make instructional decisions and changes to benefit the students they are teaching. “Much of the pleasure of professional growth comes from reflecting on what you’re learning” (Knight, 2011, p. 20). Instructional coaching and peer coaching has been substantiated in the literature as being an effective method to impact student learning when it is authentic. “Emerging professional development models have the potential, not just to promote teachers’ use of effective instructional procedures, but to support them to reflect on and revise teaching practices so as to construct new conceptual knowledge” (Butler, Lauscher, Jarvis-Selinger, & Beckingham, 2002, p. 4). 

One of our goals in this action research plan was to have teachers “own their learning … but it also has to be connected to the district’s and building’s goals for what’s best for the students” (Armstrong, 2011, p. 2). We wanted to find out what the professional growth plans of teachers are and connect this to the continuous improvement framework (CIF) for the school division and the schools in which they work, if possible. The literature also supports the belief that if teachers are engaged in effective and authentic professional growth and are learning, the student is more likely to learn. The professional learning of teachers is important and “not taking the time to understand the learning needs of teachers can lead to their resenting the coach instead of seeing the coach as a source of support” (Armstrong, 2011, p. 2). Professional development is tailored to the needs and targets set by the teacher. My goal was to build relationships with teachers and to really listen and to understand what they needed for them to grow as professionals. “Educators have responsibility to maintain focus in their professional learning. This effort grows exponentially if teachers work collaboratively” (Hirsh & Killion, 2009, p. 467).