Rethinking Contemporary Teacher PD

What does traditional Professional Development look like? (workshops, conferences, staff meetings, seminars) The features of this approach (which many teachers still view as the only way to update their professional skills and knowledge) seem to be:

  • With an expert
  • A set time, place and duration
  • Handouts with step-by-step instructions
  • Responsibility for learning lies with the facilitator (as in if they are good,” I learnt a lot from that presenter today.”)
  • Everyone in the session experiences the same journey
  • Obtain a solution / formula / approach that can be used tomorrow, a pre-constructed toolbox
    “small picture” solutions or “big picture” gospel
  • Delivered by local “experts” or well known international “gurus”
  • Top down

So, what’s the alternative? What differentiates contemporary professional learning from the traditional? Which new (and not so new) approaches should educators be seeking out? So could this mindset look like this?

  • Anyone or anything is a source of learning
  • You build your own toolbox
  • Equal partnership with others in learning
  • Professional/ Personal Learning Network as a source of professional dialogue
  • Apply inquiry learning principles to oneself as a learner
  • Sharing from but beyond your own classroom
  • Learn by teaching others
  • Small bite-sized snippets “just in time” (video clips, screencasts, mini-tutorials)
  • Continual learning and re-learning (free ranging)
  • Zoom in and out between “small” and “big picture”
  • Learning through networked discovery (as in many ideas / concepts are discovered through connection, rather than strategically planned for)

How's that look for starters?

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16 thoughts on “Rethinking Contemporary Teacher PD

  1. Graham Wegner

    @Skip, I do intend to pose this list of possibilities to my staff and do some of presentation that points to and showcases the different options a self directed learner can take. Ironically it will initially probably be via a top down staff meeting presentation but I think I’d have to start in familiar territory! This post evolved out of a conversation with my principal after (yet) another staff request for “training” in using Office 2007 and the basics of ActivStudio 3. Her paraphrased retort went something along the lines of “Somehow we need to get these teachers away from depending on PD provided in these traditional options and get them to be using contemporary self learning methodologies.” As always, my blog is a place for raw thinking and my network is who I trust to help make these ideas become more coherent and workable.

  2. Darcy1968

    It is complex.

    The notion – most Baby Bomeers have – that learning is linear is the fundamental paradigm that needs shifting IMHO. In other words, where’s the course, text, instructions, teacher etc. who will take me through this – step by step – and that I will ‘know’ what to do is just not going to work. ‘Just in time’ learning rather than ‘just in case’ will need to become the norm.

    The other issue is one of authority. Who has the credentials, authority or nod to be considered an expert/instructor? Allowing anyone to be the teacher is an issue for many as it undermines one’s own position (maybe).

    It is complex.

  3. Darren Draper

    That’s a good list, there, Graham.

    As one responsible for conducting “traditional” professional development, what can I do to make it more compelling, more participant-centric, more alternative?

    I agree completely that the alternative to pd is far more compelling – but struggle to make the alternative fit into the framework of the traditional.

  4. Graham Wegner

    @Darren. I’d like to explore your question more fully in a blog post soon and tie it to some of my recent thinking. I do think that your Open PD program is not traditional PD and bridges the gap between informal and more formal settings. You don’t compel anyone to be there, there are plenty of options for self exploration – and I’m the one trying to work out how to introduce the second list to my staff!!

  5. alexanderhayes

    “…..You don’t compel anyone to be there, there are plenty of options for self exploration”…

    PPerhaps it’s a matter of examining who the transgressional change agents are in your ssector. It’s also about looking at how you ( Graham and readers ) are linking to change agents in the sector above….and beyond.

    It’s interesting to note what constitutes “outside-edness”.

    Time to remove those 2006 /2007 badges Graham and insert some links to living communities.

    We all know how talented you are…..sincerely.


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  7. Tony Searl

    Permission to use your post? I enjoyed it and found it useful.

    We are attempting a very basic 3 week PBL starting tomorrow for staff to engage with web2,0 and changes in learning following the style of your second list, may go belly up but its worth a shot.

    I will be asking the “experienced quoir” or the already converted who blog or integrate great stuff in their classrooms to contribute after a week or so. Our staff can then read and see that the voices in the echo chamber are real and doing amazing things. The posts will then be reviewed in a future traditional top down staff meeting so staff can reflect on our shared learning.

    Out ICT Committee is now the Just in Time Learning Team, ‘drop in drop out Wednesdays’ have also tentatively started and many staff are on board in that they are open to change, although we have not yet gone too far down the ICT integration route, as we just dont have the infrastructure in place. This is slowly changing and the executive are all on board so it looks promising.

    We are building change around QTL not technology per se and staff are now seeing the need to change pedagogy first because the learnersa are different, not just using more technology poorly.

  8. Graham Wegner

    @alexanderhayes You challenge me every time you leave a comment here. I think that you are right – the Blog Awards badges smack of personal insecurity and pointing out to sources of inspiration and learning is worthy of consideration. (When I have the time!)

    @Tony Permission to use anything on this blog is given in advance. If I can pull it together, I’m going to have a go at producing a mash-up that distills the basic ideas from this post with examples from the web.

  9. Bryn Jones

    There may be a transition phase between the two alternatives you suggest and that is where we encourage teachers to participate in a self paced online learning with more structured content and support. Within that structured content they make their own decisions about what to participate in and get support as needed.

    The leap to the networked world of your second alternative may be too big for many teachers without that transition. The world of Twitter et al is still a long way from where most teachers are.

    That’s the transitional approach we’ve tried to take at ICTPD.NET and have found it to be quite effective but it is still a challenge to convince many teachers to engage with online environments.

  10. Graham Wegner

    @Bryn. I totally agree that there needs to be a transition phase – believe it or not, I was thinking about some of your emails promoting Atomic Learning as a perfect example of “Small bite-sized snippets “just in time””. I think that Darren Draper’s and Roblin Ellis’ Open PD is another transitional option, many of the offerings from edna fall into this category. Not everything has to be part of a read/write PLN.

  11. Dean Groom

    I have found that PD is a bad phrase to use. What I do is take a task or activity (often an assessment task), and then re-model it for the teacher concerned. I have a staged approach in which the teacher is able to observe the class and later to get more hands on in supporting the learning. It has several ‘sessions’, but it starts with developing norm expectations for using ICT, then scaffolds the class toward the goal. I start with the end in mind.

    It is almost subliminal PD. The teacher sees it largely as ‘support’, but in effect it re-models how they go about setting a task, monitoring and supporting it and how to ‘cap’ the technology mastery skills based on the age of the students and ability.

    After a few sessions, it starts to become clear that the teacher is able to focus on ‘the learning’ and less about ‘the content’. Eventually they take over the class again. Its not confronting and in no way smells like PD.

    As I now have a dozen or so teachers open to the idea, then what I’m doing as EdTech is seen as a norm. So it gets easier each time.

    One issue with PD as you’ve outlined is that it often is never supported of followed up in the classroom. Especially if its first day back or last day of term.

    Learning should be on-demand, but works best if it is not too obvious at first what you are really up to.


  12. Bryn Jones

    Hi Dean

    The model you suggest would certainly be popular with teachers and quite effective but I am curious to know what kind of school you work in. I don’t know many schools that could afford the cost of human resources that your model implies.

    Warm bodies are very nice but they are expensive. The PD models we propose need to be afordable and sustainable for all schools.



  13. kate

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