Changes coming to teachers' PD time

- Stacey Colwell, 28 May 2013 in news

COUNTY - Big changes are looming to the way South Shore teachers receive professional development.

"I believe this will improve our instructional strategies. I really do," said Jeff DeWolfe, the school board's director of programs.

"Generally, when teachers work together, good things happen."

The changes involve extending the typical school day by about 10 minutes in 2013-14, then using that accumulated time to send students home 90 minutes early 14 specific days through the year so teachers can focus on collaborative time with their colleagues.

"When staff participates in ongoing collaborative learning, there is overwhelming evidence that student learning and engagement increases," said a report from Mr. DeWolfe.

"Time for collaboration fosters a differentiated classroom environment allowing students to work from their preferred learning styles and talents."

He said among the other benefits are increased time to prepare for changes when schools are reorganized, a significant decrease in the number of times teachers will be away from their students for professional development, reduced substitute days and costs, more regular examination of student work so supports are in place sooner, and finding more effective means to address issues.

The changes are not expected to eliminate traditional daylong professional development sessions, although Mr. DeWolfe said their frequency should decrease.

The practice was instituted in the South Queens area this year.

Mr. DeWolfe said although there were some challenges at the high school level, the elementary and junior high school teachers there thought it had a "huge impact" on their practices, and that it was favourably received by the community.

For the future, advisory councils in the Bridgewater, New Germany and Chester ares have been consulted about implementing similar plans.

After-school programs are expected to be informed as well.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Department of Education, the Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators and the Nova Scotia School Boards Association all support plans to allow more time for what is referred to as "embedded time for professional learning."

Mr. DeWolfe said due to contractual agreements, the board cannot require teachers to stay for these sessions after school hours.

"They do a fair amount [after school] already, but we could not ask them to stay for this purpose."

The board was expected to send communication home to parents regarding the potential changes this week.

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