Differentiated Professional Development to Promote Differentiated Instruction
“Our students will be given the best of educational opportunities in order to ensure they will be ready and productive for a changing society.”
Dr. David Fitts, Superintendent
As part of this commitment, Pewitt Consolidated School District invited Stetson & Associates to help them strengthen their instructional practices. To optimize our partnership, we designed a blended approach. The PD series included planning conversations, classroom observations, training sessions, and instructional coaching.
The leadership team began the series with an honest conversation about the schools’ needs. We spent time looking at student progress data, describing what was going well, and planning our approach to address some of their continuing challenges with regard to effective instruction.
Classroom observations were critical to the series as it continuously shaped our professional development efforts. It also provided administration opportunities for collaborative walk-throughs as they refined their coaching skills.
At the beginning of the school year, teachers from the elementary, junior and high schools participated in a two-days training session focused on differentiated strategies. The teachers actively engaged in learning strategies and techniques that promote:
- Flexible grouping and station teaching
- Learning styles and preferences
- Pre-assessment and previewing
- Vocabulary development
- Lesson design and tiered instruction
- Reflection and formative assessment
- Collaborative planning and teaching
- Managed independent learning and meaningful accommodations
Additionally, mini-sessions were offered. Smaller teams, organized by grade level or by content area, met to discuss their progress implementing some of the strategies. We spent time defining and refining grouping techniques, scaffolding stations, and exploring ways to improve curricular alignment.
All the teachers who participated in the two-days differentiated instruction training
“promised” to apply at least one strategy or technique they took away from the session as part of their ongoing commitment to student learning. Every few weeks over the next months, follow-up email was sent to each teacher to encourage reflective practice.
Additionally, some teachers received one-on-one coaching. Dialogue and reflection occurred on-site and in real-time.
KEY INGREDIENTS to Pewitt’s success and their differentiated approach to professional development
- Leadership was present (and actively engaged) at all of the training sessions
- Leadership reserved time to debrief and dialogue about next steps
- Teachers’ commitment to the instructional challenge (e.g. >50% response to on-line coaching, a majority of the teachers “promised” to try 2+ strategies, and 100% participation in mini-training sessions and/or one-to-one coaching)
“…we are already seeing some of the teachers putting what you taught into their classes.” – L. Johnson, principal at Pewitt Elementary
“I used [four corners] with my Integrated Physics and Chemistry kids in a lesson on energy. I used energy as the topic and the four corners were potential energy, kinetic energy, chemical energy, and elastic energy. They really got into it. I sort of tweaked it a little bit and let them use really large pieces of butcher paper and required that they draw examples in color or each type of energy.” – Coach Austin, Pewitt High School
Other teacher comments – “I’m using [the ABC grid] next week to intro a poetry unit.”
“The hands-on is going GREAT! The kids are loving it! I am planning a station lesson when I do perimeter that I am super excited about.”
“I have made conversation wheels with styrofoam plates, brads, and numbers 1-3 on the wheel.”
“…[I} have found that many [of my students] are visual learners. I have been incorporating more visuals, like Brain Pop videos, drawings, and reading material to go along with the content we are studying.”