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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Making Teachers Better At Their Craft

In a previous post, I posited that Professional Development is actually Systemic Indoctrination.

My reasoning behind my belief is that districts provide/require teachers to attend certain training, even if the teacher does not require training in the learning provided.  That is an indoctrination technique.  I am not saying that one cannot learn from the sessions, I'm simply saying that many teachers would likely benefit more from something different than the opportunities provided by their district.

Teachers should be the best learners in the classroom.  One of the keys to being the best learner is to know what you don't know, and identify ways to learn what you don't know. 

I submit to you that teachers have relegated their responsibility of learning what they need to learn to become better teachers to their administrators.  Administrators, well-meaning and money conscious, provide PD that will help the most people for the least amount of money.  That is part of their responsibility.  The problem is that when the PD offering does not meet the needs of everyone, it is actually a waste of money.

Assume a normal school setting.  Among this group of people, it is believed that all teachers can benefit from some type of classroom management refresher course.  Teachers will be awarded 2 Personal Learning Units (PLUs) for attending and completing the required work; work that is kept "private" and seldom worth sharing anyway. 

The "advantage" to the teacher is they do not have to research anything to get some of their required re-certification PLUs.  The benefit of the administration is that they know what the teachers should know, and can "judge" accordingly. 

The defacto result is that administrators determine what they want their faculty to know, how they want their faculty to approach teaching, and when the learning will occur.  This is an outdated model of PD.  The cost, relatively speaking is cheap, and what could be better?

Well, I have developed (and continue to do so) my professional capacity for free, through my Personal Learning Network (PLN).  As I have stated here, and directly to my Superintendent's new blog, I have learned more from my PLN than I did in my M.A. degree and Ed.S. degree.  This is mainly due to the fact that through my PLN, I had already discussed, participated in projects, and/or created online resources for my students before I entered the academic programs.  So when I say, "I got my degrees for the pay raise" I'm not kidding.  It was the only way to get paid for what I already knew.  Again, I chose my educational pursuits, with advice from a Superintendent who told me to go into a tech-related degree, because anyone can become an administrator, but not all administrators can understand technology.  That was in 2001.          

Teachers, like doctors, could benefit from learning about the new developments in their field.  The doctor for whom my wife works heard about robotic surgery from a colleague.  He read about the prospect of using it in his practice.  He later attended a conference on robotic surgery, and is soon going to a clinic to get hands-on opportunities to use the technology.  He will be the first to use robotic surgery (in his field) in our community.  He chose what he wanted and needed to learn, he is fully engaged and committed to learning it, and the future benefits will be rewarding personally, professionally, and monetarily.  He did not wait for the hospital, where he has surgical privileges, to decide he should learn this.  He is treated as a professional, and as such he is able to determine his true area of need for improvement.

The question administrators should begin asking is not, "What professional development do we want to offer our teachers so they can be re-certified?," but rather, "Teacher, what professional development are you going to seek out this year?"  Why not begin allowing (requiring) teachers to build PLNs to discover what is happening in the field of education?  Why not allow (require) teachers to conduct action research, write articles, develop class wikis/nings or YouTube channels, or blog for PLUs?  That could cost the district much less (maybe nothing), be more rewarding, and contribute resources to other teachers.

We ask our students to "do" work.  We know that creating is the new highest level of thinking.  Why not use this approach to Professional Development?  If teachers are the best learners in the classroom, why not allow them to prove their learning through the new tools Web 2.0...3.0 provide. 

It's time for school districts to catch up to the opportunities to provide true learning, teaching, and education.

Posted via email from rrmurry's posterous


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