Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Power of Teacher-Driven PD

Remember the last time someone recommended a good book, a movie or shared a great recipe with you. We are much more likely to act on a personal recommendation from a friend or colleague regarding trying something new, than on one from a stranger or so called "expert" who tells us what we should be doing.

I think this is one (of several) reasons so many teachers feel that Professional Development(PD) is something that is "done to them". And I think this is why getting good  teacher-led or teacher driven PD is so important This comes in several forms, from department sharing, small PLGs  (Professional Learning Groups) within a school with a specific focus,  to specific workshops lead by facilitators  and also teach meets, eduignite evenings, educamps and of course the varied Twitter chats linked by hashtag. In Australia #aussied, here in NZ, a fantastic example is #edchatnz started by  Danielle Myburgh @MissDtheteacher. This culminated in a very successful Edchat conference in August 2014. There are now numerous Twitter "teacher chats" happening around the world every day/night. In NZ there is #scichatnz or  #BFC630NZ for example.

Let's be honest, PD is something that needs to be undertaken in schools due to the very nature of our profession. The introduction of NCEA, alignment of standards, Literacy or technology initiatives, changes in Govt policies all require us to up skill as professionals.
However, it is not always a case of one size fits all or that all who need PD want it, or who want PD are able to get it. In this case I am referring to departmental or school PD budgets and policies. It is not always possible for all teachers who want to attend out-of-school sessions to go, even though attending workshops or conferences would be of great benefit professionally. personally and obviously to the school.
So why is self-directed PD beneficial to teachers? It is about striving to find new knowledge that 
makes sense to you, answers your questions, solves a problem and it is also about teachers making connections and moving outside their classroom door.  It may only be a  Saturday morning to attend
an Educamp or a Sunday morning to listen to Michael Fullan.  Perhaps it is reading a book written about teaching and learning that inspires a teacher, what ever it is sometimes that inspiration is all that is needed to make a change and that is the key. "Change is not hard. it is uncomfortable"  Grant Lichtman.  Changing how we teach and what we teach is what we need to be doing, if we are preparing our students for their future.

I think this is where teacher- chosen PD can fill the gaps as well as allow those teachers who wish to share their knowledge or who want to up skill in some way, to be involved. Whole staff PD, in the stuffy staffroom, after school, during the week reports are due is not ideal PD. So how can we do better?

Small groups/workshops that teachers have chosen to attend where a  facilitator or colleague shares resources or skills are much more beneficial. Can the workshop be linked to a personal or professional goal. Can  the skills or knowledge be used directly in the classroom. Can this be linked to and used as evidence for teacher registration. Another way is choosing professional learning that has a clear link or context to what you are doing( or want to do) in your classroom, once you have that "new learning".

I have been involved in running techie brekkies, lunchtime drop-in sessions, after school "PD",  educamps and day long workshops. And I have attended fantastic teacher-led sessions at NZATE conferences and ULearn. And there are great opportunities to share at Educamps and Eduignite events. In my job I run PD for teachers and as I plan these sessions with my colleagues, I am always mindful of walking in the shoes of those busy teachers who have set relief, have marking and or reports to do, an assessment due etc. I want to make sure that they get bang for their buck. Or as close to it as I can get!

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