The AE Inspired Series 01: Professional Development
Recently I attended a one day “professional development” workshop that, in my opinion, was unsuccessful professional development (PD). This reflection is one in a series and will focus on the change we can bring about through PD. Successful Professional Development (PD) will share some of the following principles.
Sustained PD certainly offers long-term benefits as opposed to one-off PD sessions which may be forgotten by participants five steps out the door. Integration of the PD content comes through higher order cognitive processing as beliefs may need to be changed, participant attitudes may need to be addressed and knowledge may need to be updated. For effective integration, there should be sustained and periodic PD and quite frankly, the longer the better.
In most cases professional development may be more effective through collaborative practices networking people and resources for a goal. Isolated PD may be effective if an educator has effective support and motivation to sustain themselves. Collaborative practices can help elmininate barriers such as these and promote a community of practice with sharing and contributing to each other’s PD an essential component. Collaboration will probably also increase exposure to a wider range of experiences and diverse information from which to divergently reflect. There is nothing like reflecting-in-action in one’s professional development. Online collaboration could be found on linkedin, facebook or you could create your own network on ning or edmodo. Twitter chats are extremely useful to introduce yourself to like-minded professionals.
Learning should be contextualized and personalized so that PD is meaningful to each individual participant. Teachers need to see environmental relevance for them, their students, and their classroom. They also need cognitive relevance. Pushing PD which is against teachers’ beliefs or own learning goals is an uphill battle. Likewise delivering content that is already known or includes an insurmountable knowledge gap won’t be effective. Penuel et al. (Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007) make recommendations from their study that content needs to be localized and tailored to local standards and practice. They also make recommendations to target cognitive factors as these lead to increased changes in practice and knowledge of teachers in their study.
Lave and Wenger’s Situated Learning Theory posits that social interaction, whether intentional or unintentional, is crucial as knowledge can be created and shared within the community (Lave & Wenger, 1990). Smaller groups can offer specificity for members and has been proven as an effective medium of PD for Interactive Whiteboards integration (Triggs & John, 2004). Small in-house communities were formed to address the needs of the teacher participants. See collaboration section for tech housing for communities.
It is my belief that a bottom-up approach for PD is ideal. Whilst this relies on all educators’ professionalism, there are far more benefits listed above with which a teacher’s own drive will push them forward. Management and administrators need to support this flattened approach by being enablers. They need to ensure basic needs of time, materials, and/or resources are allocated appropriately and there may be a need to keep the PD-flow on task.
With the above components, PD can become a lot more effective. This post focused more on the principles behind the PD rather than the tech used to support the PD. All we need to do is to apply our PD to the teaching and learning that is happening around us every day. We can’t rely on yesterday’s practices to help us prepare for tomorrow’s future. A cliché, I know.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Penuel, W. R., Fishman, B. J., Yamaguchi, R., & Gallagher, L. P. (2007). What Makes Professional Development Effective? Strategies That Foster Curriculum Implementation. American Educational Research Journal, 44(4), 921-958.
Triggs, P., & John, P. (2004). From transaction to transformation: information and communication technology, professional development and the formation of communities of practice. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 20(6), 426-439.