How can you effectively connect teachers to training that meets their individual needs?


Tincher has employed a differentiated approach to professional development with our goal being to differentiate instruction for teachers, much as we differentiate instruction for our students – based on their needs and interests. Some of the professional development needs to be done for the entire staff, while other professional development pertains only to certain sub-groups within our faculty. With differentiated professional development, teachers choose from a menu of PD offerings based on their identified skills and needs, usually taught by in-house experts. Professional Development Weeks are designed around single themes such as Technology, Special Educational/Additional Services, and Cross-Curricular Integration.

Each year teachers complete a self-assessment/interest inventory in regards to professional development they need or are interested in pursuing. From these results, we plan professional development for the year. The PD calendar includes district required trainings as well as grade level trainings.

Each year teachers complete a self-assessment/interest inventory in regards to professional development they need or are interested in pursuing. From these results, we plan professional development for the year. Differentiated instruction is offered during our professional development weeks, with teachers choosing the topics specific to their needs and interests.  Individualized differentiation is offered at either grade level meetings or by the ETF when working with individual teachers.

We have created Professional Development Weeks centered around the themes of Technology, Special Education, GATE/Differentiation, and Cross-curricular Integration.RepStrat.bmp

The evidence of success is two-fold. First, teachers participate in an average of 3.2 sessions (2 are required). This represents an increase of 60%. Secondly, post-PD surveys indicate an average overall rating of 4.23/5 (approximately 85%). This is supported by trainers’ anecdotal observations.  Teachers react positively to being offered a choice of classes and not having to attend trainings based on topics on which they rate themselves as competent. Additionally, teachers have risen to the challenge and in-house talent has conducted all our PD.


  • Create a resource document of teachers and their respective fields of expertise that would be updated annually. This would facilitate the planning of the training. 
  • Poll the staff to see whom they view as the ‘experts’ on staff. 
  • Create a digital library of in-services that teachers could access on their own, at any time.


This strategy impacts the entire school as it applies to all faculty members. Teachers are able to tailor their schedule of training to their individual needs.  Given the increasing amount of required district and school-wide trainings, it is a positive approach that is well received by staff. Occasionally, teachers in very specialized positions are offered the option to do independent research if they feel they are expert in all areas of that the training being offered is not applicable to their practice.


  • Make sure that PD being offered is in line with staff and interests and needs. We accomplish this based on our annual self-assessment. 
  • Provide flexible scheduling options. Classes are offered before and after school.This allows teachers to fit training into their personal schedules. 
  • Identify the recognized leaders/experts on your staff. Often these colleagues are better received than a district support person that is unfamiliar to the staff. 
  • Keep the trainings short and offer them at different levels (beginning and intermediate/advanced) to increase teachers’ comfort levels.

At St. Philip’s I’ve gotten the most results integrating technology when I’ve modeled classroom management strategies using a particular tool for a teacher. This strategy allows teachers to visualize instruction in ways they were not exposed to in the past, identify opportunities they may not have thought possible, reflect in the moment more deeply than they would if they were responsible for the class, and sets clear procedure expectations for the students  which makes behavior management a bit easier for the first time the teacher leads a similar activity.



The way Technology Coach modeling works at St. Philip’s I first meet with the teacher to align on both short and long-term objectives for a particular tool. I also learn their typical classroom expectations, share my recommendations for any new expectations relating to the technology and ask for any input. I then lead a lesson modeling a technique or use of technology. I debrief with the teacher immediately afterwards (often while students are doing in-class work). Based on that conversation I gauge the teacher’s comfort level recreating the technique. Depending on their level of understanding and confidence I might model the activity again, meet for further coaching and support that day, or the teacher may be ready to lead a lesson next period or the next day. Regardless of the path we take, within a week the teacher replicates the technique while I’m in the room. I record my feedback and send it in a written email. We meet in person to discuss and set next steps. The teachers will often refer to my written notes to prepare the next time they launch a similar activity.


I’ve modeled lessons ranging from preschoolers using a SMART table as part of a set of learning stations, to preparing fourth graders to participate in a student-led videoconference, to using a student response system with seventh graders that maximizes their in-class time while the technology is set-up.



The biggest benefit of modeling for teachers has been increasing their confidence to use technology in the classroom. Just recently a new sixth grade teacher that was extremely hesitant to use technology as she mastered other teaching skills met with me to problem solve how she could meet her goal of mastering one in-class technology this year. I suggested a simple activity using laptops, realizing she needed the confidence to see her students performing productively with the added distraction of a laptop cart. Within three days she and I were drafting a curriculum to roll-out a flipped classroom model at least 3 days a week in her class. She has requested to have a cart permanently stationed in her room and is now sending me emails informing me not only of the benefits, but also problems she encountered and how she solved them herself.


There are two steps I would take next year to make this even more successful. I would prioritize modeling for new teachers closer to the beginning of the school year. This year I tried to give them time to get comfortable in their classes before stepping in. I believe if I had started sooner, even with a simple activity, they would have developed less anxiety about technology projects.  As I get to know the students better I find I’m better at anticipating and planning around potential roadblocks. I would start asking the teachers to brainstorm likely behaviors of particular students with me in advance to be better set-up for success.


My favorite aspect of this strategy is its transparency. Through our conversations and written communications my teachers clearly understand my approach. My most outstanding technology teachers are now replicating the way I model and taking ownership of their favorite tools to work with teachers in the same way I do.

This is something any school can do. Here's what I would suggest:

- Use this strategy with teachers who are receptive to integrating technology but delay prioritizing it or teachers who have a lot of concerns about integrating technology

- Teachers who are early adapters of technology may find modeling slightly stifling to their creativity. I will model for them only when they are encountering a specific roadblock. Otherwise I concentrate my energies brainstorming with these teachers and encouraging them to model for others

- Timeliness is critical to this strategy. Clear your schedule for the week so that you have enough time to check-in with the teacher you’re working with at least 30 minutes a day, or even an entire class period

- Set your teachers up for success by providing time for them to debrief their experiences and problem solve while the activity is still fresh in their minds. This may mean taking on a lunch duty or other commitment so that they can have an extra prep period


Some things to consider in advance:

- Are you comfortable giving clear, specific feedback to other teachers? If not, would role playing or learning specific feedback models make you more comfortable?

- There are many choices you can make when thinking about what to model. What aspects of a technology you are using do you think would be most impactful if you showed a teacher instead of simply describing it?


Questions about how to make this work at your school? Please ask me here via the community or follow the link to our discussion below.


Is this a strategy you already use or might use? Let's brainstorm together: Finding time to meet with a teacher or teachers multiple times in one week is a key factor to success in this model. How could you creatively tweak schedules to make that happen? Let us know here!



Katrina Allen is the Program Director of 21st Century Learning at St. Philip's Academy in Newark, NJ.

One of the most impactful systems we established at JFK that led to greater use of technology within the instructional program was to collaborate via the Thinkfinity Community.  This was beneficial for us because we felt this was an efficient and easy to learn strategy that all of our staff could use.  I created a private, school community group for our teachers/staff. Once signed on I encouraged them to write, share, and respond to posts.  I used the Grade Level Facilitators to promote these ideas in the early going.  Once everyone was comfortable with the idea of sharing via the community, everything flowed nicely.


It was critical that this approach be well structured, right from the beginning, as it was not the norm to connect to the online community every couple days to share on a group page.  Once I set up the group, I had to make sure all teachers/staff signed on/remembered their username and passwords.  This was the most difficult part because it was the most time consuming.  As soon as teachers/staff joined I prompted them to share anything and everything that they deemed valuable. 



One result of this process is that we are now able to stay in constant contact with content experts who are active within the larger Thinkfinity Community.  Many ideas came to fruition on the Thinkfinity Community Page.  Our second grade team was able to talk extensively with experts from Wonderopolis.  One teacher posted a homework Idea that utilized Wonderopolis, then the representatives from Wonderopolis jumped in and responded making it one of our most successful ideas to date.


There have been countless ideas, interactives, and resources shared through the community, not only between our teachers, but from content experts as well.


Another benefit from this strategy is how fast our teachers receive responses and help when they post a question on the Community page.  Teachers are constantly looking for new ideas, and interactives.  I have to say, almost as soon as one of our teachers posted a question or inquiry on the community page, someone came through almost immediately and either answered the question, or pointed us in the right direction.


If there was something that I had to change it would be how we approach our teachers in the beginning of the year.  The only issue we seemed to have with the Community was what our teachers thought could be shared on the page.  At first teachers thought anything shared on the Community page had to be related to Thinkfinity.  We had to clarify that the page was set up to collaborate anything and everything related to education.


The reason this strategy works is because it consistently impacts our entire school.  This model allows for everyone to be heard and have a chance to be involved. 


- Be clear about what the Community is about

-Get to all the teachers early, and model how the Community page can be used

-Keep moving conversations forward.  If a question has been asked on the Community page and is not answered within a few days it will usually get lost (especially if there is a lot of activity).  Try to keep things moving


-Questions about how to make this work at your school? Please ask me here via the community.


-How would you introduce an online community to  your faculty?


-What is the biggest challenge about this strategy?


Share your thoughts on this topic here


Picture of Grade Level Facilitator Meeting with the Educational Technology Facilitator to discuss strategies for collaboration through the community!:

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Mark Silviotti is the Educational Technology Facilitator at John F. Kennedy Magnet School in Port Chester, NY.

  1. Who are the ‘resident experts’ on the subject and how will they be identified?
  2. What qualities/skills are important to success as a team leader?
  3. Which teacher leaders would best represent the entire faculty?
  4. How do you represent/include all stakeholders? (grade levels, departments, specialists)


Tincher Replication Strategies


Establishing a team of teachers, in our case referred to as the Tincher Thinkfinity Team (TTT) is a realistic approach to fostering increased awareness and skills in technology for all teachers in a school. Our plan was to identify one grade level leader K-8, with the middle school teachers representing different disciplines/content areas who would work directly with the Educational Technology Facilitator (ETF) to support the other teachers in their respective grade levels or departments. 


Teachers invited to join the TTT agreed to successfully complete an on-line Social Networking course, to attend regular team meetings, to participate in professional development for the interactive white boards, a new initiative in our school this year, and to provide resources/support for their mini-teams. They were chosen for their interest, leadership skills, facility with technology, and demonstrated expertise with integrating technology. All staff members were invited to participate in the TTT meetings and the training for the interactive white boards. In addition to the TTT members’ classrooms, one science lab, two technology labs, and the library were outfitted with interactive boards. Teachers were required to attend training on the boards in order to have access to them. Based on this, an organizational chart was developed for the TTT (Examples).




By November, we decided to expand the program. Teachers were invited to apply for a position on the TTT, subject to the same requirements. Additional teachers were selected at each grade level. Special attention was given to math and science teachers.


Each lead teacher works with their assigned teacher(s) on an informal basis (before/after school, during conference period). Lead teachers or their assigned teachers can access the ETF for support if needed. The major benefits/successes of this model are:


  • increased accessibility of resource teacher
  • classroom proximity
  • compatible schedules
  • similar content/grade level expectations
  • specific content knowledge expertise
  • greater number of identified resource teachers


  • I would suggest doing an overview of the ‘small learning teams’ approach at the initial staff meeting.


  • Consider and plan for flexibility in roles so that teachers may move from a dependent/supported role to a more independent role. 


  • If possible, locate a ‘required’ Social Networking class for all teachers as this would provide a strong foundation for the teachers.


  • Consider having the “lead” teachers select the teachers whom they would support, or have the supported teachers choose a “lead” teacher with whom to work.


This strategy impacts the entire school much the way a dropped pebble impacts a pond – the ripple effect. As the majority of teachers become engaged in the project, there is a greater interest in the project overall, and the Verizon identity is quite apparent. Parents have also become engaged with the project and are already looking at next year’s classroom placement and hoping that their children are placed in a TTT teacher’s room. This creates added motivation for the project.


  • Have an end goal in mind
  • Identify willing participants and the in-house ‘go to’ people
  • Obtain commitment/buy-in from participants through in-house recognition, participation as presenters, and early participation in upcoming technology
  • Make sure the program is do-able (for example we needed some network upgrades) based on your current resources
  • Access available parent/community resources or support



Share your thought on this topic here.


Tim Schugt is the Technology coordinator at Tincher Preparatory School in Long Beach, California.