Is it just semantics? Many think so…until they are the one participating in the development or learning experience!
We have all been there, we’ve registered for a workshop, paid for a conference, etc., that sounded intriguing. We worked diligently to ensure our sub plans are prepared and organized, (we don’t want our students to miss a day of solid teaching, we even cleaned our classrooms up and shoved our “to-do” piles away so that the sub doesn’t have to be bothered by them!)
It’s the day of the conference, you are optimistically excited, enter the room, find your seat (near the back, of course) and settle in. The powerpoint slides with a list of outcomes are prepared and on the screen in front of you to read while you wait; you enjoy a friendly dialogue with your colleagues and enjoy the complimentary coffee and donuts. The presenter starts by introducing themselves and their experiences…here you go, you are ready, it’s starting!
After about an hour you realize you have been sitting, watching slides, listening to the presenter. This one-size fits all, information feeding, top-down, direct instruction is torture for you! You are participating in a “sit and get”, the antithesis of good teaching and it is NOT meeting your needs. What happened to the Standards for Professional Learning?
This my friends, would be a training. “Professional Development: connotes an event teachers attend to obtain a specific skill that they can, in turn, use in scripted ways and is specific settings.” (Murray & Zoul 2015)
Please don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for this “PD” or “training” however; will this really help you grow as an educator, change your delivery for instruction, impact student learning? Or will it provide you with one, maybe two ideas that you can bring back into your current practice?
Now, imagine a bit of a different scenario…
The summer is about over, which makes you sad; however, you are looking forward to the fresh start ahead of you with a new school year starting! You reflect over the past school year and decide you would like to modify a certain aspect of your teaching as you feel that making changes will better serve your students. (You create a professional learning plan!) You found an online “class” that addresses the topic you are interested in and sign up.
You can immediately start working on the class, no sub plans needed (or sub cost for that matter), no time away from your students. This really embodies the anytime anywhere philosophy, you log-in to the class and you are ready to start…
You read over the outcomes of the class and notice that there is a lot more collaboration involved than you had expected. This is an online class, shouldn’t you be able to hide behind your computer? This is no “sit and get” experience, you will not just be reading articles, watching videos and writing reflections. This is a very active learning experience, there is a group activity, discussion boards, live Google chats, and a culminating project where you actually have to create an action plan to implement what you learn throughout the class into your teaching practices.
You are officially inspired to create a change in your personal practice. This class mirrors best practices, increases knowledge base, and was personal to your needs…this is “Professional Learning!” You have engaged in an active learning experience, you synthesised the information to create an action plan, and better yet this teacher and resources are available after the class ends to help you implement the changes into your classroom. They are there to help as a coach and follow-up in the weeks after completion to answer questions, monitor and support you through implementation, and provide ongoing support.
It is not just semantics, there is a noticeable difference not only in the way participants feel during these learning opportunities but also in the outcomes that result in the aftermath. Online classes are not the only form of PL, it was just an example; coaching is another great example of PL. So….
As the start of the school year is quickly approaching I encourage you to create a professional learning plan that will transform your teaching practices. Go outside your comfort zone, try something new, collaborate with colleagues, spark change, own your learning…just as you encourage your students to do!
Congratulations to Patricia Karner, Anne Pasco, Tonya Forbes, Marsha Sommers, Stephanie Whitecotton, Tim Loversky, Joe Neukirch, Carla Johnson, Katharine Hertz, and Shonette Sims who were the first 10 to respond to last week’s blog post and won a $25 giftcard to Amazon!