“Which Comes First?” — #EdChat Summary: 01-10-12

Topic: Which should we support first for the best result? A reform in student learning (teaching methods) or a reform in teacher learning (professional development, or PD)?

Back into the swing of things with the first #edchat of the new year! The gang didn’t waste any time getting back in the saddle, either. I saw most (but not quite all) of the regulars joining in the discussion at one point or another, even though some (like myself) were a little tardy to the party.

This week’s discussion was an interesting one for two reasons: 1) it asked educators to choose which is more important for a teacher to do: teach or learn, and 2) it treaded on ground that we had already covered before (recently), making for a slightly more in-depth conversation than I think would normally have been possible.

Last time we talked about professional development for teachers, we had to spend a lot of time just bringing those of us (I was a newbie at the time!) who didn’t know much about teacher PD up to speed. A lot of good information was given out by the old hands, and if you missed the discussion on EdCamps and UnConferences (or simply would like a refresher) I strong encourage you to go back and read my summary post.

This time was different. This time the conversation focused more on how to improve existing PD and implement new/better ideas properly. Why? Because everyone seemed to agree pretty quickly that obviously the most important thing to improve is teaching – but that you can’t improve teachers if you aren’t training them to constantly improve themselves!

So this week’s discussion boiled down to a great chat about how to both improve educator PD and how to speed along implementation of all those great ideas floating around out there. And all of this in service of the students.

Main themes from the discussion:

  • Is it possible to improve one without the other? The consensus seemed to be: probably not. And it was universally agreed that, even though the ultimate goal was to help students learn, focusing just on teaching and ignoring the PD side would be attacking the symptoms and not the cause. Teachers can only teach as well as they are taught to teach. Thus, to improve student learning, you must first improve teacher learning.
  • What kind of PD are we talking about here? Right away it was decided that we weren’t even going to waste our time talking about “bad PD.” By that, I mean single sessions where some “expert” gets up and talks to a whole bunch of teachers about what they should be doing to accomplish X, Y, and Z goals set by the administration, the state, or the federal government. That’s useless. So when we use the term PD, remember that we’re talking about “good PD.”
  • What is “good PD?” That’s a good question (and one that we sort of answered last time we talked about it in November 2011). But to simplify things down and summarize a bit, it seemed like most educators agreed that good PD was an ongoing process initiated by the teacher, guided by a mentor, and facilitated by administration. To get more specific than that, you’ll have to look into the transcript of the conversation when it’s available.
  • Teachers need to take responsibility for their own PD. This was a major theme; perhaps even the biggest theme of the discussion. Teachers are supposed to be experts in their field. Experts never stop learning. They can’t, because if they do they’ll get overtaken. Of course, administrators need to remember that it is their job to help facilitate this process (and to push, when necessary), but the bulk of the responsibility falls on the teachers.
  • What about students? This wasn’t really discussed, but I think it’s a legitimate point so I’m sticking it in here. Almost everyone seemed to agree that teachers should have at least some role deciding what they learn about. This will help them care more about what they’re doing. So I wonder: does the same apply to students? Or can we not trust them to pick and choose the important stuff? Maybe that’s a topic for another week.

My favorite tweets from the discussion:

<> Initial reactions:

drdouggreen This is a chicken and egg issue.

tomwhitby @drdouggreen I don’t see it as chicken/egg. I believe the emphasis must be on ongoing teacher training in order to impact student learning.

birklearns What are we calling PD? One-time events that happen during the year, or ongoing? I believe we can significantly impact ongoing PD.

USCTeacher Probably can’t do the first one before the second. Student learning is the priority, but if teachers can’t facilitate that, we need PD first.

<> Ideas for Improving PD:

1st4ceu RT @ebonstorm: Professional development should not be considered a punishment. Done right, it should enhance the teacher’s abilities and options.

John_DAdamo Professional reflection is what makes PD worthwhile. Dialogue about what consists of good PD can in/of itself become good PD.

CTuckerEnglish So often I leave PD sessions with a million great ideas but hit hurdles implementing them. An ongoing support network would be awesome.

CTuckerEnglish So much money is spent bringing people in for PD. RT @CriticalSkills1: Mohr said “The wisdom is [already] in the room.”

hadleyjf We need to model “Active Learning,” and no more “Sage on Stage” in PD.

tomwhitby In NY every school is required to have a mentoring program for new teachers as a form of PD. Is that true for all schools in the country?

vpigreenie @tomwhitby No, it is not true for all schools in the country. I would guess it is actually a rarity more than a norm.

<> Who should be in charge of PD?

jonbergmann What if PD was for teachers to learn ANYTHING they wanted and we supported their learning. I bet this would change the way they teach.

John_DAdamo @love2learningp @tomwhitby How do we build a culture that values self-directed PD? Including when admin may not support?

ghostexecutive RT @doctorjeff: Dictating what a learner should be curious about is a huge mistake right out of the gate, and you reap what you sow.

mikevigilant A tweet scrolled by too fast for me to get to, but I like the idea of teachers dictating what they do (and don’t!) want PD for.

drdouggreen @tomwhitby If you are a professional, shouldn’t you be responsible for your own development?

tomwhitby Left solely to their devices, teachers may not be leaving those damned comfort zones. Little reform can result. PD needs direction. Guided and directed PD should be the priority for reform.

cheflincoln Should implementation of PD be included in teacher evaluations?

mikevigilant @tomwhitby Nobody trains me because I’m the only one at school who does what I do. If I waited for instructions, I’d be fired by now.

<> A couple links:

inquirebook @testsoup Check out how @amydawnpark had her 4th graders create their own rubrics for a decomposition lab. http://t.co/lQvNRmqt

drdouggreen @amykfmurphy I find tons of sources for quality PD online. Take a look at http://t.co/DMYqOAZP to see what I find.

To follow the complete discussion, look for the full archive here.  They’re usually posted up by the end of the week.

Looking to discuss #edtech in depth? Check out the LinkedIn group: Edutech Trends, Visions, Passions.


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3 Responses to “Which Comes First?” — #EdChat Summary: 01-10-12
  1. Tom Whitby (one of the excellent #edchat mods) wrote a GREAT piece inspired by this conversation yesterday. I strongly recommend taking the time to read it: http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/no-chicken-or-egg-choice/

  2. This is a great summary that you have done. Thank you. One of the many real benefits of #Edchat is the number of reflective posts generated after each chat. I offer my reflection on this summarized #edchat: http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/no-chicken-or-egg-choice/

  3. John

    The master is in the house, ladies and gentlemen!

    Thanks for the kind words, Tom. We’re trying to do what we can to contribute to the ongoing conversation that you and others like you have begun.

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