10 Innovative Ideas To Provide Time for Professional Development and Collaborative Learning

Finding time for teachers to meet and learn together is often very difficult, but a resourceful school team can utilize creative ideas that have worked well in other schools.  It is important to put these structures in place early in the year.

Collaborative Learning as Democratic Practice: A History - NCTE

Here are some ideas for providing time for educators to learn together.

  1. Provide teachers on a particular grade level or who teach a common subject with a shared prep so they can plan and study together.
  2. Invite teachers to determine how their shared preps can be used for any study group they can imagine.
  3. Organize some regular large group activities for children.  Some schools have a weekly K-2 sing-along run by the music teacher on Friday mornings, allowing K-2 teachers to meet in a weekly study group.  On Friday afternoons, an activity for the upper grades could be planned.  Other schools organize large group gym activities, like Olympics or Field Days, run by the gym teachers and educational assistants.
  4. Provide teachers who want to study together with back-to-back lunch and prep periods.  This creates a larger chunk of time for teachers to meet and learn together.
  5. Cancel faculty meetings and post important business in a designated online space.  Use the extra time for professional study groups or meetings.
  6. In some schools, teachers use buddy reading periods with a lunch period to create a block of time for grade-level meetings.  For example: each fifth grade class meets with a first grade class under the supervision of either the fifth or first grade teacher.  Both grades then have lunch together. On alternate weeks, the fifth and first grade teachers supervise the group.  This can be an excellent activity for the Library Media Specialist to become involved in.
  7. Extend teachers lunch period from fifty minutes to one hour every day.  Teachers are free to spend their lunch as they choose for four days. On the fifth day the accumulated extra hour is used for a grade-level lunch meeting that all teachers in the grade must attend.
  8. Some schools use every Friday morning to organize an assembly (alternating between primary and upper grades) run by special area teachers. Students report directly to the assembly as they enter the building.  Classroom teachers agree to use this time along with some before-school time to meet together.
  9. If teachers are gathering together outside of the regular school day—early mornings, late afternoons, lunch—some principals support their commitment to the group by providing certain niceties.  Some principals might provide an extra preparation period (or two) during the month.  Some might provide money for breakfast or a coffee pot for early morning meetings.  Other principals buy study supplies like notebooks or folders for a study group.  A school might also have a policy whereby any group of teachers who form a study group are given a professional book to support their learning.
  10. Study groups can be supported not only with time for meetings, but also with time to visit each other’s classrooms.  In some schools, teachers who are in study groups are given coverage to spend time in other teachers’ classrooms.  These study group participants might also be supported by being given extra opportunities to attend conferences and visit other school sites.

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