When it comes to education training, the main pathway to improvement is through professional development. Depending on where you reside or your school system, this typically consists of a few days to begin the new academic year and a few random days going forward that are often associated with student holidays. While the premise is positive, the result doesn’t always lead to sustainable change. I have a theory as to why this is sometimes the case.
Professional development (PD) is something that is typically “done” to educators. On the other hand, professional learning is something they actively WANT to engage in to grow. The latter involves choice, context, and practicality driven by an intrinsic desire to grow.
Think about this for a second. Most “PD” days are often scripted and, in some cases, dictated” based on mandates from various levels. What often results is little personal connection to the concepts or a feeling that there is no alignment with one’s specific role. When this happens, many people are naturally disinterested from the start. That’s not a good thing. Another glaring issue is that “PD” days often consist of one-and-done or drive-by sessions that offer little in terms of reflection, diverse perspectives, time to apply, and needed feedback afterward to see progress in the implementation of strategies covered. In this piece of #EDvice below, I dive into a mindset shift from professional development to professional learning.
Now I am not saying that PD doesn’t have value. My point is to reflect to determine if the resources and time allocated lead to evidence that educator practice is improving. It is essential to view adults just like learners in our classrooms. Thus, any professional learning should be personalized, interest-based, and aligned with a sound body of research. Below are three pathways to consider that meet these criteria:
- Create or advocate for job-embedded coaching to complement any workshops of stand-alone days.
- Develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN)
- Attend events such as the Model Schools Conference, where the program focuses on educators and schools who are doing the work and have results to illustrate efficacy.
- Move to well-structured Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) where data, research, and effective strategies are the focus.
Learning is a process, not an event or day. Keep that in mind when developing, implementing, or participating in any growth opportunity.