Since 2010, thousands of teacher-centered EdCamp conferences have been held across the nation, flipping the traditional top-down approach and allowing educators — and occasionally, administrators — to take charge of the direction and instruction at these free professional development sessions, Chalkbeat reports.
The training classes are proposed and led by the teachers, which keeps the topics on point with current issues and concerns, Chalkbeat notes. For example, EdCamp Newark gathered teachers from across New Jersey last week to discuss topics including teaching reading, partnering with administrators and a new state law that requires public middle and high schools to have an LGBT-inclusive curriculum.
Under the EdCamp philosophy, education starts with teachers. The conference series is designed to both inform educators about issues and strategies in education, as well as to empower teachers to have a voice, make the changes they feel are necessary and give them the tools to do it.
The participant-driven conference model, referred to as “edcamps," features a “news you can use” type of training and professional development for teachers. Instead of relying on administrators to set agendas and announce new policy, this method encourages those with first-hand experiences to have a stronger voice in the process.
This goes back to the idea that when teachers are given professional development choices that are more relevant to their work and their lives, they tend to get more out of the courses they're taking. Inspired teachers returning from a professional development may be more likely to implement their newfound knowledge into the classroom or, at the very least, be more empowered and engaged in their work — both of which work to benefit students.
Teacher-taught courses are particularly relevant, as the information is coming to them from the front lines and better represent issues and feelings shared at a local level. Other teachers understand their struggles and they can identify the challenges and offer realistic solutions. Oftentimes, these sessions turn into share-and-learn environments where all participants are pitching in ideas and experiences.
Administrators should encourage teachers to have a voice in their schools or districts, structure professional development around teachers’ suggestions, and implement short- and long-term goals to which the teachers can aspire. Setting measurable goals inspires teachers to apply training in applicable ways and implement its strategies, and it creates a more motivated staff determined to improve the learning environment.