Professional Development by Design

I just talked to my Principal about my excitement and interest in technology, professional development, and 360° learning in education (i.e. student centered learning, PLN’s, etc). Afterwards, I noticed that I was pitching him on my view of Professional Development by Design in the near future (if not right now). I am set to host a rare Professional Development session in the next month but I am still unsure about what information it should contain, the format, and the duration.

From a teacher’s perspective, I am very dynamic and like a lot of interaction. As a learner, I like the same but my attention span is decreasing. I might have to break up my session into a few short segments to make sure there are lots of opportunities for my colleagues to take something away. But what happened to this thought process when I attended professional development sessions in my past? It seems like more than one facilitator dropped the ball. Or did I as the participant?

Professional Development by Design should replace the current Professional Development that exists in education. I have been teaching for eight years and I find it disheartening that one of the most consistent practices I have seen, in my educational environments, is the format and irrelevant information presented in the professional development sessions in some schools. I am sure I am not alone. This reflection is in no way an insult to any of my past employers, but is intended to serve as my opinion of past real experiences in order to set the stage of what I ideally would like to see in a professional development session.

To elaborate, the highlights of some past workshops I have attended include: thoughtful and provocative discussions, group work where we shared what was discussed on a more intimate scale and a forecast of technology in the future of education at the current pace we are going. On the other hand, some low points are as follows: repeated and monotonous subject content (e.g. curriculum development, aligning state standards, lesson planning, etc.) for more than one session in a school calendar year, lecture-based with little to no interaction or group work, and subject specific workshops that were made mandatory for colleagues who couldn’t benefit from the information. Very scary to say the least, but why did/does this continue?

Personal Learning Networks, Webinars and Podcasts are all examples of OPD; On-going Professional Development. These have been around for a short period of time in comparison to the more traditional way of holding a professional development session. They are different from traditional ways of Professional Development mainly because they are on-going, tailor made for the individual, and ubiquitous. These OPDs are ideal because of the aforementioned reasons but also because they are living. How awesome would it be if every faculty member interacted with a resource to enhance their professional development regularly? I believe this design would benefit the administration and the students equally because the information obtained would be: current, easily shared, easily obtained, and specific to the individual.

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