U Prep’s faculty professional development program includes a wide range of activities that provides diverse opportunities for knowledge and skill development. The program includes individual, small group, and whole faculty activities and complements both long and short-term school improvement efforts.
Individualized Teacher Improvement Program
The Individualized Teacher Improvement Program (ITIP) is the cornerstone of faculty professional development at U Prep. Each faculty member, in concert with the department and division head, identifies an area of teaching practice for improvement, based on the school’s Characteristics of Good Teaching. The teacher then follows a three-year sequence of study, experience, reflection, and demonstration, focused on improvement in that one area of teaching practice. The sequence includes peer observations of one’s teaching, professional development outside of the independent school world, and the development of a portfolio of work. The school pays for up to $2,200 worth of teacher-selected professional development activities for each ITIP. After completion of a three-year ITIP cycle, the teacher moves up one step on the salary scale.
Whole Faculty PD Days
Each year, the school identifies one or two themes for whole faculty work. Approximately three full and three half PD days are dedicated to these school-wide themes, allowing for sustained investigation of key topics by all faculty members. Activities are typically internally organized and include guest speakers, small group work, readings, sharing of information, and others. The organization of common PD experiences for all faculty members helps cultivate ongoing, daily conversations on these schoolwide themes. This year, U Prep’s two themes are cultural competency in the classroom and uses of technology to support teaching and learning.
Conferences and workshops
Individual teachers also attend conferences and workshops that are not part of their ITIP plans. These include subject-specific workshops and regional meetings of professional associations, special-interest conferences, unconferences, symposia, and more. These experiences are supported through our general faculty professional development fund and approved by the department head, division head, and academic dean. Some take place far away and incur travel and lodging expenses, whereas others are free and local. Often, U Prep faculty attend such events in twos and threes, which provides opportunities for reinforcing the experience and sharing back with colleagues at school. Whole departments and grade-level teams also attend PD events together.
At U Prep, faculty meetings provide an opportunity for professional development that is highly responsive to emergent needs. The school holds only a handful of division faculty meetings each year, so they are typically not used for basic information sharing. The agenda is not often determined far in advance, so division directors can use these faculty meetings for diverse purposes. Meeting formats vary.
Graduate Course Work
A number of faculty members pursue graduate degrees at local universities. Supported by an auction special appeal, a portion of these expenses are reimbursed by the school. Some teachers pursue graduate degrees in their subject area, whereas others study in the field of education. Advanced study not only benefits the individual teacher, but teachers also have a practice of sharing their experiences with colleagues.
Summer Paid Planning
Faculty members apply for summer grants to substantially change school program, in collaboration with their colleagues. Summer provides longer periods of time for focused work with colleagues, free from the time and schedule constraints of the school year. To some extent, such collaborative work also support professional improvement.
From time to time, a department will take a day away from school to do generative work, such as a grades 6-12 curriculum review.
How These Work Together
Different PD structures may complement and enrich each other. At opening meetings this year, those who completed summer paid professional development shared their experiences with the faculty and invited individuals to follow up with them later. The PD experiences included conferences, graduate study, and department work. Wanting to further explore these topics, upper school teachers suggested that we hold unconference-style faculty meetings this year. Teachers proposed topics, and teachers selected sessions they wished to join.