About Professional Development

I was really excited to see the title for this article fly by on my reading this morning.

What Does the Research Say on Professional Development, Anyway?

I’m looking forward to doing the reading.  What works; what doesn’t?  That would be the sort of thing that you’d expect from an article like that.

As I’m reading the results of other research, I see this paragraph.

As I read the article, I got the distinct sense that the forms of professional development that they’re talking about involved activities that are “done to you”.

So, I continue to read with expectation of where it might be headed only to suffer the disappointment that the results wouldn’t be released until August 4.

Until then, we can speculate and guess.  After all, the internet is built on speculation and other treatments of pseudo-truths and opinions.  <grin>

In my mind, I know what didn’t work for me.  I’m thinking the big, mass indoctrination events that teaches everyone everything in one full-day drive-by professional learning session.  At the end, the system can brag “We’ve all trained our teachers about #########”.  As I’ve noted many times, you train dogs, try to train cats, but you don’t train teachers.  You should be helping them to grow professionally.

Or, let’s go with the current in vogue concept of not training everyone at once; let’s train a select few and they can hit the classrooms and coach.  Will this generate the best results?

Or will it be something else?

I fully recognize that my background is in the maths and technologies.  I’m hard pressed to think of any concept that can be fully developed in a single session. I’ve been to training sessions lead by a person who certainly knows her/his stuff but had difficulty reaching and engaging an audience.  Again, with the training. 

I recognize that it’s expedient but is it effective?

I’ve been exposed to many formats on both sides of the professional learning.  My thoughts?

Professional learning works best when:

  • it’s self-selected;
  • the teacher identifies a need and seeks a solution;
  • it’s continuous and ongoing – no one shot deals here;
  • there’s a mechanism for connections with attendees after the formal session for continuous learning;
  • everyone in the room brings and shares an element of expertise;
  • you leave inspired to learn more and change your practice.

What I’m viewing as the most effective way to learn, at present, is an amalgam of a number of things.  For the formal face to face piece, I’m a huge fan of the edCamp model.  I distinctly remember my first edCamp.  It was edCamp Quinte.  I drove all the way to Belleville (after a twitter message to my friend Andy “Headed East”) and I spent the day learning with a group in the Belleville library.  I didn’t go for the personalities that might be there; I didn’t go with a specific learning goal; but I came away with a wealth of knowledge and, more importantly, the inspiration to learn more going forward.  I also went with the full expectation that I’d be a sponge and yet ended up leading a discussion about QR codes in the classroom.  Was it effective because I didn’t prepare a Powerpoint Presentation to step through but instead had a group sitting around a table sharing their ideas and thoughts?  I remember thinking afterwards on the drive home that the total was most certainly greater than sum of the parts.

Even more powerfully, I maintain connections with some of the people that I met there.  The learning and the connections didn’t end just because the day did.

As I talk to folks, this sentiment seems to be very popular.  They recognize that any model for professional learning needs to inspire, invigorate, and provide some mechanism for growth and learning into the future.

So, I’m really interested in the results that will be shared on August 4.  Am I on the right track?  Is there a better way?

We’ll see.

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