Teachers, administrators and coaches often search for professional development programs that can help them excel in their chosen profession. However, not all professional development for teachers give educators what they need. That’s clear from articles that highlight some of the perceived flaws in professional development programs for educators.
Fresno Pacific University addresses those issues with its host of professional development programs offered through the Office of Continuing Education. The university is among the first to offer professional development for teachers and understand what makes for a good course and what doesn’t.
A History of Helping Teachers
Fresno Pacific University began offering professional development programs for teachers 40 years ago. They ranked among the first universities to address the professional development needs of teachers, coaches and administrators.
The programs, which are accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, offer teachers the latest tools and techniques to apply in their classroom. As Fresno Pacific University officials say, “They learn it today and teach it tomorrow.”
The online courses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students can enroll any day of the year. There is no waiting for the next start date. Depending on the course, it can last as short as three weeks or as long as one year. Students also receive graduate-level credit for many classes.
How Fresno Pacific Approaches Professional Development for Teachers
The following looks at some of the most frequent issues experienced by teachers who enter professional development programs and how Fresno Pacific University addresses those issues through their program design and content.
Lack of Ongoing Support From Instructional Experts
Fresno Pacific addresses this issue with classes that feature instructional experts who provide support and assistance. Here is more detail on how this works in specific situations.
Students typically email questions or call. However, some instructors also provide their Skype accounts and will set up times to do video chats with students. Online courses also have a discussion board or forum where students can post questions and either teachers or other students will respond. Whatever method they use, instructors make sure they are available.
Most professional development courses for teachers are project-based and focus on applied projects that teachers can use in their classrooms. The courses focus less on papers and tests because that approach does not engage students as well as project-based learning methods do. For each project, instructors provide feedback and grade the assignment after it is posted into the online learning management system. The system allows instructors to provide constant feedback to students during the course.
Fresno Pacific professional development courses have a “rolling enrollment” system where teachers can enroll any day of the year at any time. They then have one year to complete the course. Because everyone may enter at any time, students will likely not find themselves on the same schedule. That said, they do have forums where they can interact with other students. For example, they can share how they applied what they learned in the course to their own classroom or a lesson plan they created by something learned in the professional development course.
Guidance from instructors
Students can ask instructors questions about applying lessons learned in the professional development course to real-world issues. Typically, they can email instructors and discuss possible solutions to whatever issue they are encountering. One of the advantages of Fresno Pacific University programs is that the teachers all have experience in their field.
Workshop Trainings Are Too Broad and Shallow
Rather than looking at subjects broadly, Fresno Pacific University courses take a deep dive into specific areas. That’s because the university feels that approach provides teachers with better information to apply in the classroom.
This is opposed to the high-level look at an issue provided by a one-day or one-weekend workshop. These professional development courses involve a lot of material that it takes time for the student to work their way through, learning along the way how to apply the information to their classroom.
Lack of Support Beyond the Classroom
Fresno Pacific University takes the approach that it is more productive for teachers to implement their learning if they have time to reflect and share with an instructional expert.
Some courses are set up for students to implement a task learned through professional development into their own classrooms and then send results to teachers. Every course is set up to allow students to create a lesson plan, block plan or action plan to share in their classroom or in workshops with other teachers.
They also share results with their instructor, who provides feedback on what went well and what could have been done better. Students are also asked to do a self-reflection, which is often the best way to understand what worked and what didn’t.
Fresno Pacific University has instructors who meet teachers where they are in their instructional journey. They are focused on providing ways to make the information learned applicable to each teacher’s situation.
Example of How Fresno Pacific University Develops Courses
The following comes for a checklist that Fresno Pacific University uses when it creates new courses. It gives insight into what they value in professional development for teachers.
- The courses should engage students in a variety of learning experiences that encourage meaningful interaction with the content to support critical thinking (e.g., questioning, inquiry, research, analysis, discovery, creative activities, organization, comparison, etc.)
- The course should include a variety of activities such as lesson plans, PowerPoints, forums, analysis papers, reflective writing, electronic posters, case study analysis, virtual presentations, podcasts, media projects, audio reflections, journals, quizzes, surveys, polls and WebQuests.
With decades of experience, Fresno Pacific University offers some of the best professional development for teachers available. Teachers who want to improve their classroom skills and enhance their career prospects should consider entering one of the many courses offered by the university.