Professional Learning for Teachers

Professional Learning Opportunities and the Teachers They Create

Over the course of the past few years, there has been a significant movement in the frameworks governing professional learning. This change has been more of a movement in the overall design of professional learning as opposed to a change in the content or tactics itself.

Educators’ practises need to be improved, and new insights into an ever-evolving profession are provided, both of which can be accomplished primarily through continued professional education. Even if the vast majority of the content has not changed much over the course of history, instructional design, educational policy, as well as classroom instruments and structures, have been subject to ongoing change. How are we supposed to cram all of the materials, techniques, and exemplars into only a few professional development days when there are so many things that need to be done in the classroom and there is only so much time in the school calendar? We don’t, to put it plainly, which is the answer.

Learning chances for professionals should not be rushed through in the same manner as if we were all trying to prepare for an exam with only a few minutes left to study for it. In its place, professional development ought to take the form of a diverse assortment of singular threads that, when woven together, form the fabric of an educator’s professional career. Instead of dreading it, we ought to be looking forward to it and making it a priority in our lives. The majority of the time, teachers have a natural yearning to expand their knowledge and develop professionally. The desire to be a lifelong learner and model the practise for our students so that they can one day mimic this concept is the essence of the guiding principle and philosophy that propels education ahead. This thought is the driving force behind the advancement of education.

PD Based on Options

What does it look like to learn for life when you only have so much time available for professional development during the course of a school year? The solution is not complicated at all. In addition, it is happening everywhere in the world, most frequently on a Saturday. If you’ve been wondering what the answer is, you should know that it’s Edcamps. This does not mean that the Edcamp model has been perfected in every way, nor does it mean that it can be adapted to fit the needs of every educational institution or student. Having said that, there are two essential components that every school ought to pay close attention to.

The first component is a setting that encourages collaboration and provides opportunities for individuals to tailor their own professional development. Learning in the workplace, just like learning in the classroom, should not be symbolised by an authoritative figure who dispenses information to be ingested and processed in isolation. Instead of seeing themselves as top-down managers, school leaders who are responsible with establishing professional development for a school should view themselves as facilitators of learning. This begins with collecting the input of a group of individuals through the use of a PLC that is centred on professional development.

This concept was developed by Assistant Superintendent Tracey Calo, who works at Grafton High School, which is located in Grafton, Massachusetts. Our community of professional learners gets together on a regular basis to talk about different tactics and ideas for incorporating meaningful and purposeful professional development. Over the course of the past year, professional development in the Grafton Public Schools has taken the form not of an imposed requirement but of a series of chances for teachers to select learning paths from a menu of available paths. This menu was initially developed by the administration through the creation of a request for proposals (RFP). The request for proposals is distributed to all staff members, and any educator, administrator, specialist, or other staff member can submit ideas for session topics. After that, the ideas are collected and shared with the staff in a Google form that enables selection and customization of one’s learning experience.

Focus, engage, listen, think, and then take action.

The second component of effective professional development is making enough time for meaningful dialogue and debate. There are a plethora of options available to extend learning outside the confines of any given school as a direct result of the proliferation of virtually ubiquitous networks and connection. Nevertheless, I’m not going to tell you that participating in Twitter discussions and using Voxer is the “best professional development ever!” Twitter and Voxer are both excellent platforms for communicating with others; nevertheless, they are essentially time-saving efficiencies that can be used to the education process. They provide handy means of connecting with one another, but in the end, they are driven by loud voices with minimal listening, processing, and acting.

When I refer to dialogues, I have in mind exchanges between two people who are attentive and involved on both ends of the conversation. A straightforward dialogue has been the catalyst for some of the most valuable professional learning experiences I’ve ever had. Attending an Edcamp will allow you to witness this phenomenon in its natural state. An Edcamp generates both the time and the physical space necessary for everyone’s voices to be heard. Collegial conversation as well as critical feedback can take place as a result of this. A further benefit of these offline interactions is that they run at a pace that provides ample opportunity for thought and processing.

In the end, the opportunities for professional development should be an inherent part of the working life of an educator. However, it is also the responsibility of school administrators to make time and space available for teachers so that they can develop professionally and participate in discussions revolving around shared views. Learning for professionals should also be an individualised experience in which each educator has the freedom to choose his or her own learning path and the opportunity to network with peers who share similar values and perspectives. It is not enough to just pass on knowledge to students in order to fulfil one’s responsibilities as a teacher. You are rather someone who demonstrates to your pupils on a daily basis what it looks like — and what it means — to be a learner who is constantly evolving.