Whether you are an educator, leader, parent, teacher, student, what type of professional learning do you want?
Out in the field, we hear that people want professional learning that is _________ (fill in the blank).
- In person
- Timely and innovative
We know professional learning should model the deeper learning experiences we seek to create in schools and for our students (see Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning which includes research about how professional learning can be transformative for teachers and EdLeaders and should model the experiences we wish to create, nurture and support in students).
Breaking this down a bit more, professional learning:
- is connected to other aspects of the school or organizational culture
- is blended with educators using BYOD or tech to learn
- is focus on deeper learning experiences (that is, it should be embedded and in depth and connected to deeper goals and outcomes)
- is scaleable
- stimulates dialogue and conversation for truly lasting transformative experience for the learner.
So, what do transformative professional development experiences look like?
They are personalized and customized.
This means each individual (or a group) is working on their own goals related to their own personalized learning plan.
They follow, model and teach a process someone could use in the classroom.
Bottom line: Professional development should be led the way we should be teaching. If it’s not, then it’s problematic.
They are blended.
Professional learning should be BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and tech should be incorporated. We use it all the time and students do too. I once led a professional development session at a conference where two people in my workshop created an iMovie about our session topic over lunch. They came back and showed their movie to the rest of the group. This was all done from their phones. They then had a tangible product to show their staff at an upcoming staff meeting at their school. Win, win!
They are competency-based.
This means there is a clear map of competencies, multiple ways to learn and multiple ways to demonstrate competence.
They allow for time to create, share and reflect.
The act of creating connects the head, hands and heart which is a powerful way to learn. All professional learning really should follow the motto: Learn Something, Feel Something, Do Something. Sharing our work with others is important and powerful. Finally, as a species- we are hard-wired for reflection as a way to augment our learning. I’d argue that reflection is a critical path towards deeper learning. A 2015 study from Harvard Business Journal says that “results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning…In fact, these beneficial effects seem to be lasting. Why do reflection efforts generate an improvement in problem-solving capacity? We propose that the link between learning-by-thinking and greater performance is explained by self-efficacy, or a personal evaluation of one’s capabilities to organize and execute courses of action to attain designated goals.”
How do we do all this in professional learning?
Well, it turns out that might not be the best question. One of my favorite books on the subject of professional learning and transformation is The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters by Peter Block.
Some example “how” questions that limit us in our professional learning capacities:
- How will we do this?
- How long will this take?
- How much will it cost?
Block argues that people keep asking “how?” as a defense against living their life. In the book, Block encourages us not ask the “how” questions as a crutch and limitation and instead encourages us to act on what we value. A “how” question can be replaced by questions such as:
- What can we create together?
- What do we value and believe to be true?
- What kind of effort are we willing to expend based on our values and beliefs?
Block wants workplaces (schools, organizations and businesses) based on positive values and elements of choice that include mentoring, investing in relationships and realizing that individuals prosper when the whole community is prospering. Asking the “bigger picture” questions takes us out of the limiting “how” questions and into the bigger “what if” questions that allow us to design projects with meaning and act and improve on our work with a strong sense of integrity.
This is the kind of professional learning I want to design and lead and the type of professional learning I seek for my own personal and professional development.
We want to hear from you! If you have a resource or meaningful PD experience, leave a comment below.
Getting Smart offers strategic consulting, creative content and professional learning opportunities for your organization. If interested in comprehensive learner experience services, please contact Bonnie Lathram or tweet her @BeLathram.
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