Professional learning or professional development? I believe in the former. Used to experience the latter. Not to claim victimhood, but when one knows better, one must do better. I now know better. Professional learning > professional development.
What’s the difference between PL and PD? The source of the ultimate responsibility. We have done a revoltingly good job removing the teacher from her/his own professional learning when we professionally develop. Typical professional development is top down. Someone else decides what one is to learn, designs the learning, imposes the learning, assesses the learning. The learner is not part of the equation. No determination of interest, need, experience, expertise. Zip. And we’ve done such a great job with this model, it’s really tough to break good educators out of this stultification. We’ve created a system where educators expect to simply sit and absorb. Play the game. Then go about business as usual.
Professional learning, on the other hand, is all about the learner. David Geurin sums it up perfectly, “Great teachers are great learners, too. They don’t wait for the school to ‘develop’ them. We’ve all been to mind-numbing professional development sessions. We’ve also observed educators who don’t make an effort to engage in professional learning. Maybe you’ve been professionally disengaged. Maybe the culture of your school doesn’t reward growth and progress for teachers. It makes me sad that so many educators have lost sight of why they became teachers in the first place. You can make a huge impact, and one way you can do that is to continue to learn and grow. Don’t expect your school to own your personal growth. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to be a learner. It’s up to you to become your best. Of course, every school should support educator learning, but with all the tools available today, you can connect and learn no matter what your school is doing to support your growth. Take the initiative to be a learner.”
And then he really hammers the point home, “The responsibility for growing personally and professionally ultimately rests with the individual and not the organization. We will provide support and encouragement, but you will get out of your professional learning what you put into it.”
Our district is hosting Jenni Donohoo next week (October 13, 2017). We can’t wait to learn from her more about Collective Teacher Efficacy. “The belief that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.”
Following our morning work with Jenni, we’ll be hosting our own EdCamp. We think these two learning opportunities fit together in service of professional learning. The research based, Hattie reinforced, Donohoo clarified Collective Teacher Efficacy, leading into an educator driven EdCamp. Educators choose the topics for learning. They learn from each other. They share resources. If it’s a good EdCamp, they leave with more questions than answers. They collaborate, share, challenge, argue, network, and LEARN. Sound like some of the stuff we want kids to do.
And yet, our challenge remains to slay the passive beast of professional development. Sit. Get. Absorb. Leave.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Final note. Emphasizing David Geurin’s stone cold fact, “…you will get out of your professional learning what you put into it.”