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Professional development is often overlooked and considered an afterthought—especially with pressing concerns around students’ mental health and well-being

The importance of professional development in education cannot be overstated. In fact, according to research, when teachers receive well-designed professional development, an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points.

Yet, professional development is often overlooked and considered an afterthought—especially with pressing concerns around students’ mental health and well-being, gaps in reading and math skills, and so much more. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up professional development, encouraging schools and districts to rethink what this process looks like and how to best set their educators up for success and, in turn, their students.

At Waxahachie ISD in Texas, we’ve implemented professional development through the use of video, and lean on self-reflection and personalization that is naturally part of the video process to transform how our educators learn, collaborate and grow.

Here’s why.

Enhanced self-reflection

Self-reflection is challenging, but crucial in any career and especially in education. A report from RAND notes that collaborative professional development activities provide opportunities for teachers to engage in informal mentoring with more experienced and more effective colleagues, experiment with new instructional approaches, and co-construct understandings of policies and practices—which, in turn, can shape teaching practice.

When a teacher watches themselves teach through video, they often notice things they missed in real-time. For example, perhaps a teacher is using their hands to explain a concept, but find when re-watching their lesson that the hand movements were distracting and took away from the lesson as a whole. Video enables teachers to capture real moments in their classrooms and pick up on little things that can otherwise go unnoticed. There’s a reason sports teams dedicate so much time to watching film on their opponents and themselves. Video allows teachers, much like sports teams, to reflect on their practice and note areas of improvement. They gain a new perspective, and their craft is further enhanced.

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