One of the ongoing struggles we continue to try to solve revolves around professional learning. In our district, like many, for years typical PD (professional development) is something that is done to teachers. Teachers have had very little say in what they learn, when they learn it and how they learn. Most of the PD I’ve experienced has been sit-and-get, a presenter at the front with a presentation, sometimes sharing handouts or resources that I could take back to my work (if I was lucky). We are awarded continuing ed credits based on seat time, not whether you learned anything.
It’s like school for students….exactly what we are working to change with this shift in teaching and learning.
So my big question is – what are we doing to change the learning our teachers experience? And how can we expect them to change the way they teach if they don’t have experiences with other ways of learning?
We have teachers (and other education professionals) who have this drive, who see something on twitter or a blog and learn all they can about it. What makes the difference in the two educators? How can we provide opportunities for teachers to learn independently?
Here are a few of my thoughts. I don’t claim to have all the answers (AT ALL!) but I think these might be some of the keys to making it happen:
- Teachers need choice. We need to stop saying EVERYONE attends all the sessions. It’s not right for everyone. Either they are ready for that learning, they aren’t ready to think about it yet or they’ve already done it. That’s 1/3 of a chance of getting it right. Not good enough.
- We need opportunities to learn from each other. Maybe teachers lead the optional sessions. Maybe through learning walks or other opportunities to visit other classrooms.
- We need to learn with people who teach different subjects and grades than we do. Too often we do everything in subject area teams or grade level teams, when really, if we always talk to the same people we plan with…we aren’t exposed to different ideas.
- Teachers need credit for learning – not for seat time. Period.
- Teachers who go out and learn – on social media, by reading books, by connecting with other educators, by being innovative, need to be given the time and chance to do this!
- We need goal setting and reflections that are not tied to test scores. Maybe setting a personal learning goal to guide our own professional learning through the year would help us focus and tie the learning together.
- One and done PD sessions don’t work for anyone. We need to have time to practice, use what we learn and refine it.
- And finally, we need time. It’s so hard when every moment in our school buildings is scheduled and encumbered. How can we carve out (and protect) time for professional learning?
These are some of the must haves I’m wrestling with as we work to plan what professional learning (I think I’m done with the term PD) looks like for us moving forward. We are batting around some ideas to meet these key points. I’m meeting with teachers and teams and committees. I’m asking questions and LISTENING to the answers and ideas. I’m not there yet, but I’m taking input. Please share your ideas. I want us to build the best structure we can for teachers to fill with their learning and that means I need to hear from folks with different experiences and points of view.