Monday, 8 September 2014

Professional Learning: Passive Development VS Active Access

I have challenged some of the preservice and inservice teachers I work with lately in relation to claims that ‘professional development’ is the only hope for teachers to keep up with new learning and continue to grow as professionals. Specifically, in the context of educational technologies and innovative pedagogies, some argue that it is essential that teachers “be provided with PD”.

Sounds reasonable perhaps, but my point of contention is the notion that professional development comes in the form of a pre-packaged course offering, and that teachers must be ‘given’ the opportunity (and funding) to attend the course by those who make decisions about such matters. 

The three points to emphasise are:
Professionalism - teachers can take responsibility for their own learning, which is a pre-cursor to sharing responsibility for the learning of students
Personalisation - no course or PD session can meet the needs of all teachers, but an individual teacher can select a range of pursuits to satisfy professional curiosities
Pace - change is fast, learning is constant, and time is precious. 

The message I want to promote is to look beyond courses for professional learning, and to actively seek out alternative opportunities rather than waiting for these to be provided.

My challenge is not unique and has been made by others previously, particularly proponents of communities of practice and professional/personal learning networks.

It is often said that effective teachers must be learners, and it stands to reason that effective learners are self-directed and entrusted with choices and control over personalised programmes of learning. How might teachers actively access professional learning that is personalised?

A few ideas follow.

  1. Read a teaching-related text or access some Open Educational Resources (OER) on a regular basis
  2. Establish a book club to read and discuss professional texts with other teachers.
  3. Take it online – follow #edchatnz on Twitter or join the Virtual Learning Network
  4. Set up your own Tweet-Meet to discuss professional issues
  5. Check out Pinterest for teaching ideas and start to pin some of your own
  6. Set up a LinkedIn profile and connect with other educators and groups
  7. Set up a professional FaceBook profile, distinct from your personal FB and use it to gather, share, discuss and critique educational content
  8. Search for some good educational blogs, and consider starting one of your own in a specific area of interest to you as a professional
  9. Do likewise with scoopit, and curate your own resource collection
  10. If you really want a course, try a MOOC. At the very least you will gain some insight into what all the fuss is about.
Yes, all of these pursuits take time, but just a little time can make a significant difference to learning. It needn't be unmanageable, and is far more accessible than frequent course attendance.

How can you actively access professional learning?

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