My first Sunday at home since July. Feels weird, but good. What shall I do? What shall I do?
Last week, Scott McLeod asked the question, 'Why is staff development so bad?" and Tim Stahmer follows up at Assorted Stuff. Both posts are well worth reading. A couple reactions/thoughts regarding staff development...
1. Professional development should be considered the responsibility of the professional, not the organization. Seems like I remember someplace in the dark recesses of what passed for my formal education, I was told that in order to be considered a "professional" one had to take responsibility for one's own learning. Tim laments that "teachers must get their training on their own time and often using their own money." And the problem here is....?
I will bet dollars to doughnuts that you, dear reader, consider perusing this blog some sick form of "professional development" and that you aren't reading it during school time. Dedicated professionals have always learned both in formal and informal ways, have done most learning outside the school day, have paid their own costs, and have made it a priority.
This is called being professional. Teachers need to act like professionals if they wish to be regarded as such. Sorry, but it's the truth. The logical consequence of professionals not taking their learning seriously is that they are so ineffectual they will no longer be employable. Well, that's the theory.
2. Organizations should facilitate individual/individualized staff development. Tim suggests an IEP for every teacher, something I have been advocating for some years, especially in the area of technology. In articles from 2000/2001 issues of Leading & Learning, I described our district efforts to create "professional growth targets" as a means of organizing technology staff development initiatives.
To meet a professional growth target for a year, we expect teachers to take about 30 non-school hours to learn enough to move at least one level on one of the Rubrics for Restructuring. The teacher, principal and other specialists jointly plan how those 30 hours are spent, and how the gain in knowledge and skills can be demonstrated and documented.
Tools to help make this happen are in the articles.
This worked pretty good for a couple years in our district, Here is what teachers told us about the approach:
At the district level, we have assessed the viability of such an individualized staff development approach. By using a survey tool, we found of the 38 respondents that:
70% felt they had successfully completed the PGT
70% thought the plan was clear
81% found the work they did meaningful
55% found the work they did learning about technology also helped them in other educational areas
78% found there were sufficient PGT options from which to choose
44% found these PGTs more rigorous than those in the past; 33% found them as rigorous
And then it fell apart, and I am not quite sure why. Mostly, I think, it was a lack of monitoring on the part of administrators as to whether any work was actually done. It's easier to just count heads in a formal staff development session. Our staff development folks, including our computer coordinator, didn't really buy into it. There was a general lack of trust that teachers would do the right thing. It was ahead of its time. i did not have the personal charisma to keep selling the project. Who knows?
Interestingly enough, our current Professional Learning Communities have some of these same elements, except now it is small groups rather than individuals who are planning and being held accountable for professional learning. A step in the right direction.
And I've not yet given up the fight about IEPs for teacher technology competencies. We just need to somehow thread them into the work the PLCs are doing.
3. "Sit and git" has its place within the larger plan. First a disclaimer: I make pretty good beer money by going to conferences and giving one-time workshops and breakout sessions. I also enjoy attending these (sometimes).
Sit and Git, Spray and Pray (whatever the clever derogatory appellation du jour for short sessions offered during professional development days or conference is), such learning opportunities ought not to be simply dismissed as ineffective and drop kicked from the educational ball field. Like classroom lectures, good short sessions can be effective in meeting specific purposes. Those include:
- Introducing participants to a new concept, theory or practice with the expectation of self-directed follow-up. (What is meant by authentic assessment.)
- Teaching specific, useful skills, especially if practiced within the time allotted. (How to design a good rubric.)
- Bending a mindset or encouraging an action. (Assessments can be used not just for ranking students, but to actually improve the learning process.)
Concrete, even discrete, learning opportunities have a place in professional development, provided they are part of a larger profession growth plan or teacher IEP.
OK, it's after 10AM. What did I once do with my Sundays?