I ran across a post today from Mary Ann Wolf at the Huffington Post about professional development. She says:
A stand-alone workshop has less than a 5% chance of actually changing teacher practice in the classroom. However, if you add on-going and embedded professional development, provide professional learning communities where teachers interact with their colleagues, and ensure on-going support from coaches and administrative staff, the chance of really affecting teaching and learning increases dramatically — to nearly 90% (Joyce and Showers, 2002).
While Wolf goes on to talk about the way technology has made this kind of ongoing professional development possible, I was reminded of another way to get quality professional development that is not a one-shot deal but rather an on-going process: institutes put on by local sites of the National Writing Project.
Any of us who have gone through an Invitational Summer Institute put on by our local Writing Project site know the truth in what Ms. Wolf said. If you go through the writing project, you have those colleagues and coaches and on-going opportunities to learn from each other. My Louisiana writing project friends continue to support me and encourage me. My new New Mexico writing project friends feel like long last family. They are here for me all the time. Because of my Writing Project experiences and these people who provide me support long after my first institute, my teaching is forever changed. I am forever changed.
If you have a chance to participate in a Writing Project institute of any kind, I encourage you to take advantage of it. It will be the best professional development you have ever had. And it will transform your teaching.