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Matthew Miles described professional development as it existed 1995 when he wrote the foreword for Thomas Guskey and Michael Huberman’s book, Professional Development:

"A good deal of what passes for 'professional development' in schools is a joke-one we would laugh at if we were not trying to keep from crying.  It is everything that a learning program shouldn’t be: radically under resourced, brief, not sustained, designed for 'one size fits all,' imposed rather than owned, lacking any intellectual coherence, treated as a special add-on event rather than part of a natural process, and trapped in the constraints of a bureaucratic system we have come to call 'school' (p. vii).

What do you think?  Is Professional Development in 2015 still a joke?

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I worked in the '80s for an educational service agency that sells professional development programs to school districts. My observation was that most of the PD programs failed to meet teachers' perceived needs for one or more reasons:

  • Teachers were required to attend a program on particular professional development day regardless of whether any offering that day met their needs.
  • A typical program was an introduced a topic or program but didn't give enough depth that the teachers could use it without a great deal of work on their own.
  • Programs that focused on information teachers could use immediately tended to be supplemental activities rather than the core competencies that teachers must teach well.

A conversation I recently overhead between two teachers who had attended a professional development day program the week before suggests there have been no significant changes since the 1980s.

Linda,

I agree 100% and really appreciate your insights.  I have also noticed that in higher education settings, teachers often feel that the "generic" concepts of improving teaching and learning do not directly link to their subject discipline concerns.  Because teachers are often feeling overwhelmed with work loads and program specific problems, the relevance or association is nebulous.

Patricia Cranton (2006) stated in her textbook Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning that educator developers in higher education should be encouraging critical reflection in teachers and not just giving out answers.  I agree with Cranton's perspective.    

One person I've come to depend on for useful ideas in higher ed is  Mary Ellen Weiner, who operates the Teaching Professor Blog at FacultyFocus.com.

Her posts are not limited to my teaching area  (nonfiction writing) but I find a great deal of what she says in my area is either directly useful or gets me thinking about something in a new way.

PD is a source of contention at all levels, from Elementary to Secondary to Admin.  I have been present at some that were immensely valuable and impact-full but also, at others that were a complete waste of time.  Most that were educator directed, with relevant tasks, and had a direct impact on classroom, were valuable.  Those that involve some kind of promotional aspect, like telling people what other people are doing or have done are useless.  Educators want to know the how not the what and who.  There are generally at least a few takeaways from most PD but for the most part the practice needs to be refined and improved such that educators go into the event with an expectation of value and not a waste of time.

Yes, educator directed, relevant, and time efficient are very important at all levels of pd. 

Brady, I  attend many online courses and webinars in fields outside education. From what I've seen, your observation about what people want from professional development, regardless of the field, is "the how not the what and the who."

Interesting question. I tend to agree with the camp that questions the format used in most schools today with the one size fits all presentations rather than working on individual's needs for development. That being said, I can understand how hard that is to accomplish. It might be impossible to do but if days could be set aside for teachers in which all the local Intermediate Units would have a ton of great programs in professional development to choose from, then teachers could choose what they needed.

Our district has gone to a break-out format. Sure, we sit for an hour and listen to someone discuss something that could be presented in 10 minutes. After that, we can pick which session fits our needs as an educator. It is the GREATEST! Then, at our following team meeting we discuss what we learned or how we are using it. Imagine that! We go to professional development and develop and grow. 

"Teachers Teaching Teachers:
Professional Development
That Works"

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin459.shtml

Thoughts?....

PD is often hit or miss. I have gone to great PD where I left excited to put ideas into effect, but I have also attended some PD where they are not saying anything new, or even worse saying things which I think are wrong. At some schools PD is just ticking a box for admin and real change is not expected.

I have worked at some really good international schools that have brought in expensive authors, but they were unaware of our context (wealthy, international students). They spoke about public schools in Australia and how important it was to write the goals of each lesson on the board to motivate students (Our students are already super motivated).

I really like the PTC training, but its super expensive so if the school is not paying, then it is beyond most people's budgets.

When I was a new teacher I used to read books from the ASCD, but now I find that these books are quite elementary and wont really add anything to my teaching. I've been teaching 14 years and 11 years internationally.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for good PD or authors to check out.

Recently I watched a few videos by Alfie Kohn and am trying to make my lessons even more student centered. I don't like everything he talks about, but some of his ideas are good.

Hi Edward

I thought I responded to this a few days after you sent it.  If it happens again and you don't hear from me within 48 hours, please send another message.

I have written some definitions down to be sure we're talking about the same thing.  I read your essential questions and I know what you want to accomplish, but I believe what you want is an enduring understanding (attached paper).

Would it be possible to use memoirs as a pathway to the enduring understanding?  I was looking at types of assessments and it seems like constructed responses would meet your needs.  That way, the memoir also serves as the assessment.

Their memoir is the assessment.  The student using their memoir could assess Used/Bent/Broken conventions with a rubric.  If they don't believe they have bent/broken a convention, have them deliberately break or bend one in one part of their memoir.  Don't break it on purpose when writing.  Pull it out of the memoir and show what it would look at when broken/bent (assessment).   

Your students do have memoirs.  I would try to frame memoirs with children's books.  "The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss could make that point.  They have “lived” experiences. "Oh, the places I've been!"  I am not encouraging them to write a look-a-like Seuss, that's just so they can see they do have stories to tell. 

I have more information, but I would like to use my e-mail directly, andrea.ray@netzero.com.  I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

Andrea

Hi Edward

I thought I responded to this a few days after you sent it.  If it happens again and you don't hear from me within 48 hours, please send another message.

I have written some definitions down to be sure we're talking about the same thing.  I read your essential questions and I know what you want to accomplish, but I believe what you want is an enduring understanding (attached paper).

Would it be possible to use memoirs as a pathway to the enduring understanding?  I was looking at types of assessments and it seems like constructed responses would meet your needs.  That way, the memoir also serves as the assessment.

Their memoir is the assessment.  The student using their memoir could assess Used/Bent/Broken conventions with a rubric.  If they don't believe they have bent/broken a convention, have them deliberately break or bend one in one part of their memoir.  Don't break it on purpose when writing.  Pull it out of the memoir and show what it would look at when broken/bent (assessment).   

Your students do have memoirs.  I would try to frame memoirs with children's books.  "The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss could make that point.  They have “lived” experiences. "Oh, the places I've been!"  I am not encouraging them to write a look-a-like Seuss, that's just so they can see they do have stories to tell. 

I have more information, but I would like to use my e-mail directly, andrea.ray@netzero.com.  I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

Andrea

Attachments:

Thanks Andrea. I just sent you an email.

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