Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Professional Engagement?: Shifting the Paradigm of Professional Development

I have, recently, come to the conclusion that the only way to shift the paradigm that defines Professional Development is to change the terminology we use for it.  My observation is that Professional Development for teachers has largely mimicked the way we have taught.  And, the experience for many teachers largely mimics the experience that education has been for many of our students: you show up and wait for the learning to happen (maybe via osmosis?) without much real effort on your part.
The problem with this paradigm is that, of course, all true, valuable, useful, learning requires active engagement and at least a minimal level of buy in.  This, we have learned for our students can be via student input on things such as lesson design, project choices, and methods of being evaluated.  We seem to be figuring this out from the teaching end of things with the Danielson evaluation model reflecting as much.  The Common Core State Standards and the ISTE Standards for Students reflect the importance of student engagement, choice, depth of learning and understanding.
So... how do we change this very deeply embedded paradigm for teachers?  It is really quite understandable that the paradigm exists, as it is how we were taught and it is how we have been teaching (many of us for many years) and it is how Professional Development has been meted out to us for all of our professional career; little input (or no input) into what the Professional Development experience is or how it will be delivered; little or no requirement for teacher engagement in the experience.  Many teachers view Professional Development as something that is done TO them, not something they do for themselves, and therein lies the problem.  You cannot develop as an educator without consistent, regular (most likely daily) learning, particularly in today's technologically advanced world.  We can't properly prepare to teach our students unless we are working hard to learn ourselves.  I am not sure what the proper term for this is, but I know that there has to be something better than "Professional Development".  "Lifelong learning" doesn't seem focused enough on the task at hand which is doing everything we can to prepare ourselves to best teach our children.  I'm leaning towards "Professional Engagement".  It seems to more accurately reflect what really needs to happen.  Those of us who teach need to truly be "Professionally Engaged".
The following graphic was presented by Kristin Daniels (@kadaniels) at ISTE this year and really emphasizes the importance of a "new look" Professional Development plan.  I like the term "Personalized Coaching" as an alternative to "Professional Development" as well!

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