Teachers are learners too.

By | March 22, 2011

I’m just digging in to Jim Knight’s newest book, Unmistakable Impact. Already I’m hooked. The book resonates with the gentle reminder that in order to change education for the better, we must work as partners from a place of mutual respect.

Here’s a quote I want to remember and think on further as I think about how to build good learning experiences for teachers:

“Professional learning that dehumanizes its participants carries the seeds of its own failure. When a select few do the thinking for others, when people are forced to comply with outside pressure with little or no input, when teachers asking genuine questions are labeled resisters, when leaders act without a true understanding of teachers’ day-to-day classroom experiences, these dehumanizing practices severely damage teacher morale.”

Lately, I’ve been exploring ways to make the interactions I have with teachers in technology professional development offerings more about the partnership and less about the push of information. We’ve developed a frame for that kind of work as part of our district Digital Learning Collaborative, but there are still some tweaks and adjustments I want to think through, especially in the classes I teach in support of the DLC. Technology professional development classes can tend to be heavy how-to sessions and that’s got me thinking about what I can do differently. I’m exploring how to enhance the standard training model and make it into a more reflective and personal experience while still conveying enough information to help people move forward.

Four things I’m working on as I revise the PD classes I teach:

1. Providing opportunities for personal reflection and group feedback into multiple points of a session.

2. Developing session takeaways (the handouts and such) in a way that the final collection is personalized for each individual.

3. Building in the opportunity for participants to create an action plan that answers what they’ll do with what they learn.

4. Framing courses around central questions in teaching rather than functions of a particular piece of hardware or software.

My hope is that by revising sessions with these 4 things in mind, I’ll be modeling the process of learning as a conversation focused on meaning-building rather than a transference focused on fact-acquisition. I’m also hoping it’ll provide better opportunities for teachers to come together in a way that humanizes and values their experiences.

It’s going to take some time to redo things, but I’m thinking it’s important. It’s also going to mean rethinking what’s essential in a course so that the time spent on each element isn’t rushed.

As I develop and try new things, I’ll share them here. I’d be interested in how you’re rethinking technology professional development too.

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