Archived Information

CPRE Policy Brief: Helping Teachers Teach Well: Transforming Professional Development - June 1995

Finding Time for Professional Development

Watts and Castle8 outline five approaches that have been used to create more time for professional development:

  1. Using substitutes or releasing students. Some schools are effectively using one morning or afternoon a week for teacher development and other improvement activities. However this approach provides only small blocks of time and is often resented by parents.

  2. Purchasing teacher time by using permanent substitutes, retirees, or giving compensation for weekends or summer work. This is expensive, sporadic, and some teachers will not participate on weekends or during the summer.

  3. Scheduling time by providing common planning time for teachers working with the same children or teaching the same grade on a regular basis. This is often done in schools using instructional teams, but it could be done in many more schools if assistance was provided with block scheduling.

  4. Restructuring time by permanently altering teaching responsibilities, the teaching schedule, school day, or school calendar. This has serious implications for busing, union contracts, facilities maintenance, state regulations, and budgets. It also means changing public expectations--a reason few schools or districts have taken this approach.

  5. Making better use of available time and staff.

In contrast to K-12, postsecondary classes are typically not expected to meet daily and faculty rarely teach more than three classes a semester. In Japan and China, teachers spend only three to four hours in the classroom and have the remainder of the day for professional work. This option is often regarded as too costly, but the costs could be minimized by:

  • Substituting appropriate television programming for regular instruction occasionally;

  • Using adult volunteers or older students to provide extracurricular activities for children;

  • using occasional large classes for special topics, for exposure to arts, or presentations of outside "experts".

  • using independent study to let students pursue projects on their own; and/or

  • involving more students in community service activities.

8 Watts, G.D., and S. Castle. "The Time Dilemma in School Restructuring." Phi Delta Kappan 75:306-310 (1993).