Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Reinventing Professional Learning for teachers

At the ISTE 2013 conference I attended a session on reinventing PD for teachers. It was conducted by TCEA, which is a member-based organization devoted to the use of technology in education. Our primary focus is on integrating technology into the PreK-12 environment and providing our members with state-of-the-art information through conferences, workshops, newsletters, the Internet, and collaborations with higher education and business.

The slideshow from their presentation can be found at 

Their basic thesis was that professional learning for teachers ought be modelled on the same principles as best-practice learning for students. Standing up the front and lecturing cannot be the only (or even primary) model we use. This picture makes the same point! Our professional learning must model what should happen in the classroom - and if the 'teacher' talks at the students for the whole lesson ... As has been noted elsewhere, the main activity that students do at school is pretend to listen. Is this the main activity of staff at professional learning sessions?

There were a couple of unintended learning points in this session. The first was the need to plan your location in order to serve your goals. They were trying to deliver a session modelling interactivity, collaboration and movement in a room jam-packed with staff shoulder to shoulder in rows of seats. The second was to ensure that your infrastructure can support your goals. The session was focussed on online technology, but there were so many devices trying to access the bandwidth simultaneously, the system couldn't cope! Very frustrating.

However, getting past those issues, their model was exactly right. Put the learning into the hands of the learners, stop lecturing, facilitate collaboration, get active exploring, articulate your learning by teaching others and include a call to action - what will you do now?

My takeaways for professional learning:

  • Limit the 'stand and deliver' sessions. Ask one another during planning - is this the best way for this learning to happen?
  • Get administrivia out of professional learning time - deliver it some other way
  • Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
  • Mix the groups up - contact between people from different sectors/teams generates innovation.
We've got two days of professional learning starting tomorrow. I am looking forward to it. UDL. Differentiated Instruction. Technology workshops. My hope and prayer is that our teachers find it stimulating, helpful and enjoyable. That would be a win!

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