BLOG POST BY PTAC MEMBER DANIEL WOLESLAGLE
What’s Wrong with PD?
Professional development, the cornerstone of any well-functioning school system, and an indispensable part of keeping up with a world that is moving exponentially faster each year. As we begin to integrate 21st Century Learning Design into our schools, I am often left to wonder, “Why aren’t our teachers learning the same way?”
I believe that I, like most other teachers, am on a constant quest to update my skill set with the best possible tools for my students to be successful. While my classroom may function like a real-world simulation full of project based learning and successful technology integration, the professional development sessions that I often attend function more like they are run by Ben Stein in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Review the data?...Review the data?...Bueller?
I believe that I am much like Frodo of the Shire. I have taken up the mantle of the unknown adventure, and I set out to teach professionals like students. Along the way, I discovered three “quests” for great PD and, unlike our friendly hobbit, never plan on returning to the old ways.
So let’s examine professional development from the lens of a classroom teacher. As any first year teacher would tell you, students are only capable of learning when they are engaged. Once I really thought about this, I realized that I was often being taught strategies on how to engage students in deep learning by never allowing myself to stand at the board and lecture by someone standing at the board and lecturing me. After some retooling and a lot of going back to the drawing board, I have personalized the learning for each student in my classroom. In professional development we need to build time in for teachers to be able to learn, build and practice the necessary skills that are most relevant to them in a safe and structured environment. There is no better time to do this than when the information is fresh in our minds. It is because of this that I make sure that every session that I am involved in allows at least half of the time scheduled primarily for teachers to work.
Now that we have teachers who were eager to learn and who have had the time given to them to figure out what they need specifically, the next step is to get them to apply it in the classroom itself. After all, new ideas are only valuable if they can actually be implemented.
Well, I don’t know about you, but time is about the most valuable commodity that I have as an educator. If we are spending time training educators, we should have an expectation that they are using that training. Otherwise, was it really worth training everyone on?
Every training should, without exception, end with educators having a plan of how they will be implementing the skills or tools that they have just learned in their classrooms and schools the next day, week, month and year. This is how we will know that they have truly understood the information.
Now, the difficult part. Just as with 21st Century Learning, the outcomes for modern professional development should not be the same. Each person will have their own unique perspective, ideas and style that they bring to the table. We will ensure that learning has taken place and everyone is getting a maximum return for their time. After all, you don’t walk all the way to Mordor just to go home.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a team to run a school. Allow professionals to forge the fires of learning and create their own professional development based on what they are using in their classes. Create teams, build lessons, explore new ideas and encourage professionals to be the leaders in their own development. This is how 21st century learning leads to 21st century ideas.
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee