DAILY INSIGHT: End passive PD!

By Jen LaMaster, CIO Advisor

In the end-of-the-year rush, many of us fail to take a breath and be present in the moment. I am admittedly horrible at slowing down. I get caught up in all the stress and rush of year end. To help with the stress (and ensure our marriage makes it to year 20 in 2014), my husband and I rented a little cabin in the woods to rejuvenate and reconnect this past weekend. Of course, we still talked about our academic administration lives (he is chair of a university communications and English department)… but somehow the conversation outside the school walls always seems more reflective.

As a college type, he has a hard time with our K-12 theory of professional development. The idea that a teacher just sits and passively waits for development to fall from the sky of the PD office is very foreign to the PhD. The things we call innovative—personal learning networks (PLNs), personal curation and research—he calls standard, day 1 PhD lessons of the professional growth model. I’ve said it before and am saying again: We in K-12 have to get over the idea that PD equals Training.

Training: the process of bringing a person, etc., to an agreed standard of proficiency, etc., by practice and instruction

Just what I always wanted when I was a child… training to a standard of proficiency. Bliss!

What if we took a hint from Fleet and Patterson?

Rather than conceptualizing professional development as either enabling participation in formal upgrading of qualifications (an approach that might be seen as ticking off the boxes involved in getting a piece of paper) or as providing steps towards acquiring a recommended change in practice (perhaps a mandated curriculum document), other possibilities may be more useful. For example, the recognition of staff as owners of personal professional knowledge, with intellectual and emotional investment in possible contributions to their own development…

(emphasis mine)

So how to move away from Training to Professional Growth? Here are my thoughts on the Building Blocks of Professional Growth…

Personal Learning Networks
(or, as university types call them, colleagues)

Methods to build a PLN

  • Twitter – find a #Chat and start learning. The good people at Edudemic have created an excellent list of educational hashtags here. Not sure how to get started with Twitter? There are several decent tutorials on YouTube, including this one from Paul Hill.
  • Attend a conference – particularly one for your content area or school’s teaching paradigm.
  • Eat in the faculty/staff lounge – get out of the classroom and interact with some in-house colleagues.

Curating Scholarship (seriously it’s called READING)

For whatever reason, many of us stop reading professionally once we obtain the last required piece of paper for certification (another sign of how we’ve internalized the training model, but I digress). With today’s resources (i.e., the Interwebs), there is no excuse for not keeping up on current educational theory and practices. It’s just a matter of setting a reasonable goal (say, one article per month) and actually doing it. I use the term curate because this pillar is more than just reading. We need to “select, organize and present … using professional or expert knowledge.”

  • Web-based tool such as Pearltrees, Diigo or Evernote work well for web curation. Find a great article online? Hit the browser-based extension and bookmark according to category.
  • Peruse Amazon.com or your favorite publishers (I like University of Chicago Press and Oxford University Press for the hard academics) for upcoming books in education.
  • Find a blog you enjoy and actually subscribe to it! This way, each time the brilliant blogger writes a post you will receive notification.
  • Ask your school librarian – trust me, they love to help find articles and research! If the topic interests you, it probably will interest them as well (we are a bunch of information collectors as a breed).

Sharing Scholarship

It’s really not enough to sit and hoard information… we have to share it! Get active and present at conferences you attend. Jump into the conversation during a Twitter chat. I have said it before; we are our own best resources.

Resources for Sharing

  • Recently I started using Scoop.IT! for sharing/curating my web surfing. Paper.li does a similar thing. Think self-curated magazine on a topic.
  • Link your Curation tool to your Twitter of Facebook account. Then your colleagues can see what you are reading—and your family will think you are really smart.

Creating Scholarship

The final pillar is creation—what we ask our students to do every day! Think high-level Blooms here—analyze and synthesize what you’ve learned from colleagues, conferences, research and reflection. Write an article, a blog, a book chapter. Promotion and tenure at university requires creation of knowledge for the future … why should we in K-12 sell ourselves short? We have a lot to say down here in the trenches.

Resources for Creation

  • Many free blogging sites are available… Blogger, Edublogs, WordPress
  • Respond to a call for papers!
  • Take all those notes and ramblings from your blog and write a book! Heck, self-publish… iAuthor or Amazon have tools for self-publishing. Who knows? You may change the world!

Jen LaMaster is director of faculty development at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

See this and other blogs by Jen at Ed Tech Reflections.