Sunday, April 27, 2014

For PD to be Effective in Today's Schools, it must have...

When educators talk about professional development, I often hear groans and whispering and disdain for the day.  Maybe I am the outlier but I enjoy professional development opportunities. Maybe it is because I viewed these days as Professional Learning opportunities - a chance for me to learn and improve my craft. When I think back on some of the best professional development opportunities I have had, I came across three common characteristics:

First, the Professional Learning must have be of high interest. No one wants to sit through learning opportunities when it is not interesting.  Give me a choice for what I want to learn and grow. Allow me to have autonomy as to what areas I want to grow and learn and develop as an educator.  Just as every student does not need the same instruction on skills, don't assume that all teachers needs the same skills development. Give us the autonomy to be masters of our own learning and allow us the flexibility to meet our own needs.

Second, the Professional Learning must have an element of connection.  There must be a connection to the presenter or facilitator.  There must be a connection to those in the same learning experience.  There must be an emotional connection. There must be a mental connection.  As MK Mueller writes, "Your attitude is based on your thoughts and beliefs. Attitude is mental, not emotional or behavioral.  Emotions and behaviors are the results of our thoughts and beliefs."  Having the right attitude, emotions and behaviors lead to a personal connection to learning.  In addition, there must be a chance to connect personally with the other people. Sharing ideas, stories, laughing, learning and collaborating are vital for a high level of connections.

Third, the Professional Learning must be timely.  Provide me opportunities that will impact what I am doing right now or what I will be doing in the near future.  One of the best learning opportunities I had was during my third year of teaching.  Our principal wanted to implement the workshop model in writing for the next school year. In May, he took a group of 7 of us, to see Katie Wood Ray talk about her book About the Authors during a one-day seminar.  We listened, took notes feverishly, and walked away from that day excited and eager to start the workshop model when we returned. Probably the best part of the entire experience was the 4 hour car ride home where we all brainstormed how this would like.  Our principal planted the seed and we were the change agents in the school.

When I think of these three characteristics, I cannot underestimate the value of my Twitter PLN and the #edcamp experience.  Both of these learning experiences allow me to learn when I want, how I want, and with who I want.  These experiences allow me to be in charge of my learning - and that is the ultimate goal, correct?

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