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Professional Learning: Reimagined
May 8, 2014 | Volume 9 | Issue 16
Table of Contents
Effective PD Mirrors Effective Teaching
What would you think if you walked into a classroom with students seated in rows, taking notes while a teacher lectures from the front of the room? You might think this looks like a typical classroom. You might even marvel at how seemingly engaged the students appear, or you might be appalled to see teacher-centered learning in a modern classroom. Would you question whether this approach is the best fit for delivering the content? Would you wonder how well the teacher is meeting the needs of all learners in the classroom?
Now take that mental image and alter it slightly to reflect a professional development day. Instead of students sitting in rows, picture school staff—possibly the entire school staff—sitting in a crowded room, often for the entire day. Most teachers would never consider teaching children the way that we so often teach our adult learners. When we design learning for our students, we begin with learning targets and plan lessons with our individual students’ needs in mind. We build off the relationships we have worked hard to develop and consider the most effective ways to capture students’ attention and increase their engagement. When designing professional development for our peers, we often make the mistake of shifting our role from teacher to presenter. We present professional development. We lead or conduct meetings. Instead, we should be teaching teachers.
To redefine professional development for teachers, we need to start by seeing teachers as students who need to be engaged while working toward identified learning targets. We also need to accept that the path to the target will not look the same for all learners. We therefore need to differentiate the means of achieving the target, allowing teachers the flexibility to complete the work at different times, using different approaches—and never through a full day of lectures.
The following are some ideas for creating more personalized professional learning opportunities:
The biggest complaint in education, and especially about professional development, is lack of time. Some districts are addressing this by providing student release time to adjust the school day to allow for professional development or by holding more professional development days during the school year. Time is a gift that is almost always received with gratitude, but it is also not the only solution. To redefine professional development, we must also look at structure. We must let go of a one-size-fits-all model and move toward differentiated, personalized professional development. That is professional learning reimagined.
Sara Gammack is a professional development resource teacher at Wayzata Public Schools in Hennepin County, Minn.
ASCD Express, Vol. 9, No. 16. Copyright 2014 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
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