Teach As We Say, Not As We Learn

If we expect our students to learn something new every day then what should we expect of our educators? Is it enough to offer 30 hours of professional development to our staff throughout the school year? That equates to 6 days of teachers learning about their profession. It’s how those 6 days are often spent that needs to be rethought.

For many school districts across our state, a professional development day is when one educational expert lectures an entire teaching staff for hours. Teachers sit in rows, Powerpoints are shown, jeans and sandals are worn. The expert stands on the stage and fills the teachers’ heads with knowledge. This is exactly the way we do not want our educators teaching our students, yet this is the way that we teach our teachers. During these professional development days, most time is spent at the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy. Teachers are told to remember and understand this information so they can take these new strategies or concepts back to their classrooms.

Why does this cycle continue? Mostly because it’s the way things have always been done. I get it. Districts are financially strapped. There is not enough funding to call in 10-20 educational consultants to work with small groups of teachers. This is the “Professional Development” model. It is a one-size-fits-all, check-the-box, one-and-done style of learning.

What then is “Professional Learning”? Professional learning is a continuous cycle of learning for educators. It’s receiving new information. It’s applying and analyzing the information. It’s working with fellow teachers to be metacognitive and creating new lesson plans, new units, new ways to measure student learning. Professional learning is a different culture of thinking from professional development. It is ongoing thinking and well laid out planning, a cycle of continuous improvement.

How can we make this shift without additional funding? We need to use the resources available. Create a 3-5 year improvement plan and use the sum of the best teachers and administrators to facilitate professional learning throughout the school year that follows up on the identified needs and themes for each district. Shift the thinking that professional development happens a only few times a year by creating a culture where professional learning happens daily. Create the time and space for teachers to be metacognitive about their learning.

How would you describe the difference between professional development and professional learning? How do you think we could change the ways in which our educators learn?

You can connect with Ryan Horne on Twitter @RyanHorne0076