Imagine you’re a chef and you’re about to participate in a cooking class with Bobby Flay to get some professional development. You’ve been a chef for years, but you’re seeking to expand your knowledge of the culinary arts. The trip is booked and you’ve packed your favorite cooking utensils and a camera to capture the moments. Most importantly, you just can’t wait to get in there and cook something new. You’re confident you will leave Flay’s class equipped with innovative recipes and new strategies to better your restaurant.
As it turns out, this won’t be the case. When you arrive, you discover you’ll be listening to a culinary representative speak about why the culinary arts are important, outlining traditional ways one can improve as a chef and a diagram dissecting some of Bobby Flay’s best culinary creations. No Bobby Flay, no chance to practice on your own, no inventive new recipes, no skills to take home, and nothing to capture what you didn’t already know. You’re crushed: you were promised a learning experience you didn’t receive!
I experience this feeling often when attending professional development (PD) sessions at large education conferences.The workshops advertise the “most innovative” educator PD, but I typically leave disappointed, disengaged, and sometimes even confused. Case in point: I eagerly attended a PD session earlier this year titled, Disrupting Traditional PD: Innovative PD for Educators. Unfortunately, this session did not disrupt anything nor was it innovative. I left wondering how the facilitators missed it. It included the usual players: chart paper placed on tables, wordy PowerPoint slides, and scattered scented markers for stop-n-jot moments. While some of these materials can foster meaningful and deep conversations, educators are really craving actionable PD: What is something new I can learn that I can bring to my classroom tomorrow? If 21st century teachers are tasked with personalizing instruction and developing lifelong learning mindsets, why can’t they experience a similar approach to their own growth?
As a former educator, I attended PD before school, after school, and during planning periods: almost all were lackluster. Today, I lead Learning and Development at Kiddom, so I actively search for non-traditional PD opportunities to share with our educator community. My ongoing lackluster PD experiences have inspired me now more than ever, to build better professional development experiences for our educators. I believe PD should be a space where teachers are given the opportunities that students have in dynamic classroom environments. Educators’ learning objectives should be relevant based on their prior experiences. What is learned should be actionable, and should expose teachers to resources they haven’t seen, read, or used before. PD should by design assume educators are self-aware, can manage their own time, and are interested in their own growth. And finally, the experience should model what teachers are there to learn about. Is it a blended learning session? Then blend the learning and incorporate technology so participants can actually visualize a model. We expect teachers to model in the classroom, so how can we expect teachers to walk away from PD and implement what was learned without a model?
Today, Kiddom’s professional development spans across blended learning, standards-based grading, social emotional learning, and using educational technology to personalize learning. And we’re in the process of designing these PD experiences to better utilize educators’ time, since by nature of the profession, little time is allocated for anything beyond planning, teaching, and grading. We’re designing PD to allow educators to identify what they’re seeking and then “choose their own adventure.” We’ll offer mini-courses complete with supplementary materials to meet learning goals. When an educator participates in a Kiddom-designed PD, they will explore, plan, research, experiment, and learn. And in the not so distant future, we’ll offer credentials to educators who complete multiple sessions of PD on various topics. These credentials will highlight 21st century educator skills and further validate the time spent developing and improving pedagogy. I know that if I’d been given the incentive to receive ongoing credentials and achievements, I would have been more motivated to “do the work,” instead of brainstorming my next lesson plan. I believe that with ongoing education, teachers can and will lead the charge in elevating their own profession.
So let’s utilize 21st century resources in tandem with chart paper and post-it notes. Let’s challenge ourselves in the same way we challenge students. Change will make us stronger, which will make our school communities better, fostering lifelong learning environments for everyone. And finally, we can’t design personalized PD experiences without your input, so I have questions for you:
1) What have you always wanted from PD?
2) What quips do you have with PD? How might you suggest solving them?
3) What are you interested in learning more about via PD?
Leave your answers below. We’d love to hear and learn from you!