I have been the beneficiary of amazing professional development that has truly shaped who I am as a teacher, as well as, the recipient of the most inane, incipient professional development that has made me want to gouge my eyes out.
I know, a bit hyperbolic, but if you are a public school teacher, I’m sure you can relate. I think we educators are particularly sensitive to bad professional development because our time is so limited that the waste of any of this precious resource feels like a true affront.
I could write extensively about what constitutes a bad workshop, but instead I would like to highlight what I believe to be the single most important characteristic of truly valuable PD – teacher empowerment. In my opinion, in assessing the relative worth of any professional development, the critical question is, “to what extent do adult learners have a significant amount of voice and choice in what and how they learn?”
The importance of this single characteristic is so engrained in me that when I think about the body of work I have been committed to throughout the years, both as a learner and as a facilitator, I can see this common thread throughout. Teachers are always active participants in the process, and their resulting ownership makes the learning more likely to stick.
SRI Intentional Learning Communities (also known as the SRI Critical Friendship model) are 8-12 teachers meeting on a regular basis to make their work public, share dilemmas and successes and make meaning of educational research. These groups are facilitated by a trained coach whose job is not to deliver content, but to manage collective inquiry.
Instructional Rounds are a process used by schools to gather data about the health and well being of the school, then to analyze the data to come to a consensus on a problem of practice to focus on. During this process, the teachers’ voices are elevated and they become active agents in the school improvement process, as opposed to passive objects.
The Buck Institute for Education’s PBL 101 workshops provide information around a framework for effective (or as they say “Gold Standard”) project based learning, but they are intentionally designed to model the active learning experience that our children should be experiencing and teachers design a substantial project of their choice that they can immediately put into effect.
All of these professional development opportunities have in common set embedded structures that allow flexibility in discourse, which in turn is responsive to the needs and passions of unique contexts and individuals. So I’m excited to announce that the CITY Center For Collaborative Learning will be introducing to Southern Arizona the most fully actualized version of self-empowered learning that I’ve yet to experience, in the form of an Edcamp.
Edcamps have recently become a worldwide phenomena. On their website right now, in the next months they have Edcamps happening in Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Florida, California, Illinois, North Carolina and even Zambia, Africa!
Their mission is simple but powerful: to create an international network of educators dedicated to participant-driven professional learning for themselves and others that accelerates student growth. Part of the power of Edcamps is that they plan themselves. If you are able to convene a space and spread the word, dedicated learners will come and self identify what questions they have, and the dialogue that results is authentic and passionate. All conversations that are happening are only happening because the participants are fully invested in that moment. There actually is a norm that if learning is not happening for you, the law of two feet requires you to go to where your learning will be best accelerated. Thus, participants leave feeling they have spent their time doing exactly what they needed to do: learning exactly what they needed to learn in that time and place – The ultimate in empowered learning.
To learn more about Edcamps in general go to Edcamp.
To learn more about the September 12th Edcamp Tucson event: Edcamp Tucson
To register for the event (tickets are free but limited) Edcamp Tucson Registration