Puzzle PiecesI greeted the teachers as they arrived for the beginning teacher after school professional development (PD). They were friendly as they greeted me, but most of all, excited to see each other. The room buzzed!

“How did your guided reading lesson go?”

“Did you try that new reading assessment? How are you using it in planning?”

“What are you using to track your students’ progress?”

It is incredibly satisfying to see a community of learners take shape. It was not always this way, and certainly did not happen by accident.

At the beginning of the year, the Chicago New Teacher Center struggled with Beginning Teacher PD, specifically, getting teachers to come to our events. We tried a variety  of strategies to improve attendance: changing the times and venue, offering choices of topics to differentiate, holding raffles and giveaways, and coming up with jazzy titles for our sessions (such as Morning Meeting Magic or Chatty, Chatty: Engaging Students in Discussion). But none of these produced higher attendance. Ultimately, we knew that if teachers were going to take time out of their days to come to PD, they had to find value in it.

As a mentor with primary grade classroom experience, and a love of teaching reading, I decided to bring together a small, grade-alike group of teachers with a common focus.
I thought back to my own experience as a first year teacher. I recalled that the PD that I found most useful included relevant content and time to collaborate with peers.

I decided the first topic for this group would be guided reading, something I was perpetually confused by throughout my first year of teaching. I was excited to see teachers responding to this topic—20 new teachers signed up! I knew that if I were going to create a strong community of learners I had to make this first PD a strong one. I carefully wrote the session, making sure to balance input of new information, time to process, and lots of time for collaboration with colleagues.

At the end of this first session, I asked the teachers for feedback on how helpful this session was, and what types of topics they would be interested in next. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was that teachers found the content relevant to their everyday teaching, that it was useful because it was aligned to CCSS (one of our Chicago Public School’s main
priorities) and that they loved the sanctioned time to be with grade-alike colleagues experiencing the same challenges.

I used the data I collected to align my next PD sessions  with their feedback to demonstrate that I highly valued their voices. Topics of following PD sessions included going deeper into guided reading, using assessment to plan reading lessons and creating effective learning centers.

With each session, I noticed I was talking less, and teachers were taking greater ownership in thinking about classroom application. The new teachers didn’t need me to make as many recommendations for implementation because they were looking to each other for support and resources.

I learned from this experience that considering relevant content, coherence, duration, collective participation and active learning really make a difference in PD outcomes and engagement. By continuing to be responsive to the teachers’ needs, the attendance at my PD sessions was consistent,  and even more importantly, it provided meaningful learning experiences within a collaborative learning community of increasingly efficacious and thoughtful new teachers.


For more strategies & ideas for creating & facilitating effective learning communities for new teachers download this Practice Brief.

Ongoing Communities of Practice for new teachers are a component of NTC's teacher induction program Theory of Action.

NTC offers our contract clients a three-day professional development workshop entitled Facilitating Inquiry-based Professional Learning Communities. Learn more.




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