Job-Embedded Professional Learning

As the tools, resources and goals in education are changing, the roles of teachers and leaders must too.  In an effort to do this, there has been a lot of focus on redefining professional development to better meet the needs of teachers and leaders.  I am all for this conversation and have written about it here and here.  I see some great ideas that offer alternatives to stand and deliver sessions and information heavy staff meetings such as flipping faculty meetings or providing choice options for an all day district PD.  This focus on learning together rather than sharing information is headed in the right direction but I still think that we need to take it further to really integrate these new ideas into practice. 

It is critical that when learning something new there are experiences that model the desired learning, opportunities to collaborate and share ideas and flexibility for educators to personalize the learning for their own needs.  These can be powerful learning opportunities but it seems to me that most of the conversation is still focused on professional development as an event rather than a continual process of learning.  As research from Joyce and Showers (1983, 2003) highlights, to truly integrate new learning it is critical to carve our time to allow for trial and error, collaboration, coaching and feedback to allow educators to apply the learning. It is the application of the new learning that breeds innovative ideas and practices that work for your unique context and begin to make an impact for the learners across schools and classrooms.

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In most cases the procedures and policies still convey that we expect teachers and leaders to “learn and do” rather than engage in ongoing activities that foster learning as job-embedded and part of a teachers day.  There is a time to learn new skills and sometimes we have to be trained on specific programs but this is not where professional learning should end, it should be the beginning. If we really value learning, we need to make it a priority and a part of our work as educators- not 5 professional development days a year or at our weekly faculty meetings, but all the time.

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