School district leaders face the enormous challenge of understanding and responding to how professional learning has been impacted by the global pandemic. This at a time when professional learning is so critical for educators who are navigating uncertainties around in-person consistency, increasing responsibilities, and shifting instructional modalities.
How does professional development get labeled in your school or organization? Too often, I hear: boring, unproductive, compliance-driven, not based on my needs or interests. Research on professional development shows that the “drive-by” workshop model does not meet the needs of teachers. No two people learn the same way, though many leaders do not change the way they provide instruction for professional development. Just like education should be personalized for students, professional learning should be personalized for adults. Effective professional development or learning (semantics to me) needs to improve educators’ professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness. No matter if you are a teacher, school leader or district leader, below you will find ways you can reframe professional learning in your school or district.
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During the last 100 years in the workforce, we needed farmers and factory workers; which is why our classrooms replicated the workforce, designed to have a teacher at the front of the room and desks in rows. Times have changed, and we must make shifts to the role of the teacher in order to prepare today’s students for a different workforce. To succeed, students will need a different set of skills such as creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. They will also need to be able to adapt to change, be resilient, and to work effectively in a variety of environments – which is why we need to change the traditional role of teacher-as-expert standing and delivering content from the front of the room to a facilitator who designs customized approaches for students.
For many districts and schools, choice boards, playlists, and pathways are used interchangeably to describe instructional designs that provide students with a menu of options to guide and own their learning. Yet we ask educators to use these design practices very differently. We often define other terms, like the different blended learning models, and the different levels of student compliance. How is it that we have not created clear distinctions between choice boards, playlists, and pathways yet? We all want our students to have the best educational experience they can, and that starts with them showing ownership over their learning. But before students can engage with instructional design geared towards putting them in the driver’s seat, we as educators need to calibrate the differences between choice boards, playlists, and pathways to ensure we’re providing teachers with the right supports.