Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Future of Teacher Professional Development

“Professional development is going to look a lot more like what we envision for our students,” began Dr. Judy Zimny, the Chief Program Development Officer for ASCD. 

What if teacher professional development (PD) was formative in nature?  I’ve written about that topic before, arguing that the “gotcha” mentality has contributed to the adversarial relationship between teachers and administrators. 

If formative teacher evaluations were all about helping struggling teacher get good and good teacher get better, and if teacher professional development were tied to those evaluations, then what would professional development look like?

Teacher training couldn't continue along the same paths as they have.  They could no longer be whole-school, one-shot workshops in the library where the guru of the day poured out her/his canned presentation, typically the same presentation s/he delivered at the conference where the principal fell in love with this latest silver-bullet of school reform.

Instead, teacher PD in 2030 will have to be differentiated and on-demand where teachers alone or in small groups find and engage with the professional learning that they think is relevant for their practice.

I can’t stop thinking about all of the PD sessions I ran last year as my school worked through our Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation.  This was important work for us.  We had been receiving a string on one-year probationary WASC accreditations, living every year under the threat that WASC may withhold our accreditation, leaving our graduated limited to only community college options.

As important as that work was for the school, it was neither relevant nor useful for our cadre of first-year teachers who needed to know where the photocopier was, how to schedule a field trip, how to engage their classes, and even how to simply settle the kids down at the beginning of the day.

A 2030 school would have a road-map of beginner PD for these novices to follow under the tutelage of their school-based mentors. 

A 2030 school would have a cornucopia of PD options for its journeyman-level teachers.  These teachers would self-organized into professional learning communities for the semester or year and submit a PD plan to their administration, detailing in which areas they plan to grow, how they will do this, and what evidence and products their administrators will see to show that their time was well-spent.

Master teachers in a 2030 school would be the novice mentors and event the PD gurus for their site.  These hybrid teacherpreneurs would be compensated for their expertise and time by the school paying for one or two hours of their work day to engage in their independent research on curriculum, and instruction.  The pay-off for the school would happen when the teacherpreneur facilitates high-quality PD for the school’s novice and journeymen teachers. 

Organizations like ASCD could help.  ASCD is wildly popular for their conferences; over 10,000 educators are here in San Francisco this weekend.  They are less well known as a provider of in-line PD.  In the world of teacher learning, in 2030, ASCD will play a much larger role, providing web-casts and virtual classrooms and collaboration spaces for journeymen teachers to use to implement their PD plans, as well as supporting master teachers in their research and development. 

The resources are already here.  ASCD could crowd-source their various on-line PD series.  Master teacerpreneurs from all over the world could up-load webcasts or host virtual sessions.  These teacherpreneurs would be compensated based on the number of discreet views of their products or attendance in their sessions.  Teachers would pay a modest fee for an annual subscription to the ASCD Virtual University.  Schools in 2030 might purchase site-level subscriptions to support all of their teachers.

Just like the differentiated instruction our best teachers provide for their children, meeting each where s/he is in her/his learning career, our best schools will meet their teachers right where they are in their professional careers, helping each one become even better!


12 comments:

Dave Orphal said...

Dawn Wilson from Jacksonville Florida is presenting on "The Learning Academy." I suspect this is going to align with these ideas...

Dave Orphal said...

What are 5 Words or phrases you associate with "Professional Development"?

Some of the comments heard at Dawn Wilson's sessions were:
Reflection
Learning
Motivating
Growth
Network
Team Building
Empowering


Pretty positive and powerful ideas...

Dave Orphal said...

The Learning Academy does two things:

1. Providing great PD for their teachers, and
2. Identifying great teacher-leaders to remove from the classroom to become district coaches and administrations.

I HATE goal #2. Teacher-leaders need to stay in front of children! That's why I promote the concept of hybrid teacherpreneurs!

Teacherprenuers continue to spend a part of their workday working with our children. Additionally, they are honored for their expertise by paying a part of their salary to be out of the classroom helping their fellow teachers become even better.

Iris Koller said...

Perhaps because I come from a special education background, individualization, beginning where a teacher is, celebrating successes, and supporting growth is just a part of my DNA. From the time I began "evaluating teachers" it has always been about what he/she is doing, what is working and most importantly developing a plan as to what next steps might foster their growth.

It has always been frustrating to me that this has not been the norm.

Dave Orphal said...

Thanks Iris,

Of course your right, there are wonderful islands in education who are already doing the kinds of professional development I dream of, or at least some aspects of this...

I've met wonderful administrators who are personally invested in being educational coaches and use formative teacher evaluations.

I see great promise for this kind of professional development becoming the norm.

Steve Francis said...

In Hong Kong we collaboratively developed rubrics of what great teaching looked like. This avoided the 'gotcha' mentality as the teachers themselves new what their strengths were and areas for development.

The next logical step is tailoring PD to meet those needs as you have so nicely advocated here.

This fits well with Blanchard's Situational Leadership model - matching leadership style to needs.

Steve Francis
steve@happyschool.com.au

Dave Orphal said...

Thanks Steve,

That would be a wonderful system for my school district. In California, we have Standards for the Teaching Profession, but we haven't made a rubric that gives examples of what a "Novice," "Professional," or "Master" teacher would look like in each of the standards.

This looks like some GREAT work that my union (California Teachers Association) could do...

Eric... I'm looking at you ;-)

I ask my union to do this for two reasons:

1) Doing work like this helps CTA further its transition from a trade union to a professional association.
2) We're going to have to bargain a revamp of each district's evaluation system anyway, so let's use this time to come to some agreements about what "beginning," "good," and "great" teaching looks like.

Nili Pearlmutter said...

Dave Orphal wrote: In California, we have Standards for the Teaching Profession, but we haven't made a rubric that gives examples of what a "Novice," "Professional," or "Master" teacher would look like in each of the standards.

Actually, you do have that. (Not that it's not worthwhile for teachers to make their own.) Check out the New Teacher Center. They created a continuum that is used as a formative assessment tool, with categories for each standard that describe what practice looks like at five levels of mastery. I believe you can find it for sale on their website. http://www.newteachercenter.org/index.php

Dave Orphal said...

Awesome, Nili! Thanks! I know about the great work the New Teacher Center is doing, but I didn't know this.

Dave

Jan O'Neill said...

I remember a seminar with Dr. Deming way back in the 80's when he asked the 800+ managers & engineers in the room "How many of you are dead wood? Please raise your hand!" He went on to lecture on the impact that bad systems have on good people. Even "stars" do poorly in bad systems, much less those who are novices just trying to understand what they're supposed to be doing and "tribal elders" who have been beaten down so long they've given up. In The Power of SMART Goals (Solution Tree, 2005) we outline a process for differentiated professional development that's strategically focused on what students need to learn. It's collaborative, purposeful, data driven, visual & visible, and most importantly, owned by the teachers in the context of their work with students. There's no need for top-down evaluations, rewards and punishments, when teachers--who are passionately mission driven--are authentically engaged in helping each other improve their practice within a culture that celebrates innovation and shared accountability.
Thank you for your contributions to this important conversation, Dave--especially in this crazy era of performance rewards and bonuses.

Dave Orphal said...

Thanks Jan,

You and I agree that there are some shining stars out there of schools and districts who are serious about helping struggling teacher get good and good teachers get better. But like all shining stars, they exists in a dark evening sky!

Formative teacher evaluations, and differentiated teacher professional development should be the norm, not exceptional exceptions. Making this happen is going to take some work.

Bill Bowen said...

I just came acres your blog and read this topic. However, I also read the previous entry and the "gotcha" mentality you propose administrators exhibit. I am sorry that is there ape of administrator you have encountered. I for one, do not approach my staff in this manner and take the time to look at data all year long. Student progress is one of the best measures of a teacher's ability. But one must keep in mind that we are working with students and some will not make progress and need interventions. Even then more intense support (special education) is needed and a small percentage of students will not make the gains we all would like to see. I can only encourage my administrative colleagues to continue to support teachers through their actions and offer professional development that is meaningful. We to have many mandates we need to make sure happen, but let’s work together so we don’t have to “gotcha” anyone. support (special education) is needed and a small percentage of students will not make the gains we all would like to see.