What is the best/worst PD you’ve ever experienced?
After some initial chuckling from the audience and some time to discuss, two attendees shared a “best” PD experience with the whole group:
- Keystone Technology Innovators (This is an excellent program for teachers here in Pennsylvania.)
- A technology conference (I don’t recall if it was ISTE or our state conference, PETE&C.)
The two people I was sitting with (from my own district) referenced district PD where teachers designed hour-long workshops to shared out their expertise.
This is a fascinating question with responses, that, if we dig beneath the surface, prompt us to wonder about how we might be (effectively or ineffectively) structuring professional learning for our teachers and leaders. Admittedly, I have no idea what the others in the room shared, and my sample size of 4 is a statistical failure. That stated, here is what I found most interesting.
The experiences that were shared:
- …were all opportunities created by others outside the teacher/learner.
- …were somewhat “drive-by,” lacking extended learning that resulted in some kind of product or deliverable – a project.
I want to be careful to reinforce that I’m not judging and saying these experience are of no value. That’s the learner’s job to decide. But should these experiences really represent the “best”? Here are some questions we can start reflecting on:
- Agency: How many in the room had a “best” experience that reflected learner agency? I would not consider the experiences I heard high on the scale for agency. If agency is the “hinge point” for a shift from school-centered to learner-centered, are we modeling that as adult learners? How do we experience agency in our own learning as professionals? Are we comfortable organizing our own learning? Should our “best” learning experiences be designed by us, for us, or should we be OK “showing up” to those designed by others?
- Beliefs about learning: Do we know ourselves well enough as learners to articulate what good learning feels like when we experience it? Do we experience those beliefs at the core of our own professional learning? What is our (the learner’s) responsibility to ensure those beliefs are, in fact, at the core of our professional learning?
- Vocabulary: I’ve become much more sensitive lately to analyzing my own word choice. And I do use PD/professional development frequently! I wonder in my particular context whether the term professional development encourages or discourages the highest levels of learner agency? Language matters and “PD” might be reinforcing the idea of the system “doing” learning to professionals. Is the phrase professional learning more conducive to this idea of learner agency?
How do high levels of learner agency in professional learning translate into high levels of learner agency in the classroom? Are we providing opportunities for our teachers and leaders to experience high levels of learner agency in their professional learning?
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