I recently read 3 related blog posts. First, Scott Bedley’s take on PD gluttony (find here). Second, Karl Lindgren-Streicher’s response (find here). And third, Travis Phelp’s reflection on both (find here). Reading all 3 got me thinking about my own views of professional development. I can relate to all 3 perspectives. Like Karl, I have experienced some career-altering conferences that have left me on fire. Like Scott, sometimes I wonder why I go to certain PD opportunities and what is my limit. For me, the conversation really is about development vs learning.
Professional development seems to resonate in a negative way for many educators. It is something we HAVE to do or are FORCED to do. Professional learning to me is rooted in connecting Scott’s desire for personal growth, Karl’s hunger for learning, and Travis’ desire for real interaction. But sometimes I think the format in which PD is delivered is the missing link.
Don’t get me wrong, one of my major goals from attending events and conferences is to hear and learn from people way smarter than myself. However, I struggle that many PD experiences are the exact opposite of the types of learning experiences that we hope to create for our students. So many times, PD is a listening experience. We all know that experiential learning is best for students, but many times, PD isn’t modeled in this way.
Now I know, most adults will say, “well that’s just how kids learn best,” but we all know that is bs. As a learner, I want to get my hands dirty and make a mess! I think our PD has to be similar experiences. Listening plays a part, but doing is far more important.
I am a huge fan of the Edcamp model and I believe it gives a solid framework for changing the PD structure. However, I have been to amazing Edcamps and I have been to hijacked Edcamps. These are the ones that end up mirroring the traditional format: sessions with”agendas”, in crowds, and lots of listening.
For me, if we want to push our students thinking, then our own thinking about professional learning has to change. More importantly, how we structure it has to change! There will always be a place for large conferences like ISTE and CUE and most of the educators I talked to that went to CUE walked away with a positive experience. Most of that had to do with the connections they made and who they learned with, not necessarily how they learned (Travis does a great job of highlighting how he learned). In relation to this, I have also heard some amazing educators share their learning. Michael Fullan was just at my school last week and it was a valuable experience! However, I think this has to be just a piece to the PD puzzle.
In conclusion, I think I am somewhere in between Scott and Karl. I don’t have a burning desire to be at the large conference scene (but I accept it’s value), but I am not ready to separate myself from those types of learning experiences. I am blessed to be a part of a Voxer group called “LeadWild”. It is a group of crazy rockstar educators from all over the U.S. There is one thing I can tell you, I have learned more from that group than any PD or conference I have gone to this year! They have pushed my thinking, given me tools to put into practice, and allows me to reflect on my learning by doing. I need to push myself to make sure all of my PD experiences do the same thing, I just want to make sure I can get my hands messy while doing it.