Professional Development: My Way, Every Day!

For a long time I’ve been looking at models of professional development that go beyond the one-shot after-school workshop. As I’ve studied models of adult learning and become more familiar with the ways that teachers are successful at improving their practice, I’ve realized that good professional development experiences share a few core qualities:

  • They are sustained, occurring over weeks, months, or even years.
  • They are gradual and incremental, involving a lot of short but connected steps with moments of reflection and integration in between.
  • They are collaborative, involving questions, support, and conversation with other teachers in similar situations.
  • They directly meet the teacher’s needs, offering solutions to real problems in our every day experience in the classroom.
  • Over time, they change the way we see the world and therefore what we do with our students each day in the classroom.

As I become more invested in reading and tracking blogs through RSS, I’m coming to realize that those 15 minute sessions browsing headlines in Pageflakes and posting comments on blogs are starting to add up. Every day I have a little opportunity to see what others are doing and to ask myself why I do what I do and how I could do it better.

When a teacher starts using an RSS aggregator to keep on top of news stories, blog posts, and wiki updates, she is really taking the reins and becoming the editor-in-chief of her own professional development journal. “I want to learn about differentiating instruction in a social studies classroom and using a SmartBoard. I found six or seven experts in each area and they are going to be frequent contributors to my journal. When I don’t understand or disagree, I’m going to let them know and listen carefully to their responses and the comments of other people like me. At the end of the year, I’m going to know a lot more about these topics than I do now.”

The best part of it is that the singular voice of the workshop lecturer or methods text (shudder) gives way to a cacophony of differing agendas, viewpoints, backgrounds, and ideas. We are forced to confront the complexity of our classroom experience and to forge – and frequently thereafter to re-visit and re-evaluate – our own understandings and practices. Simple answers provided by gurus don’t long satisfy intelligent teachers: they need to pick and choose from a buffet of best practices and ideas. Our RSS professional development journal does just that.

2 thoughts on “Professional Development: My Way, Every Day!

  1. Hi. I’m interested. I’m a graduate student in early childhood development. What is an RSS aggregator? Do you mean something like Bloglines? How would i do what she is doing?
    Thanks, Anita

  2. Yes, Anita. Bloglines or Pageflakes (my personal favorite) or Google Reader. Any software/web site that can stitch a lot of rss feeds into one ‘virtual newspaper’ of which you are the editor-in-chief!

    Take a look at the public side of my PageFlakes account, for example. I’ve told Pageflakes that I’m interested in news, the New York Jets, educational technology, skiing, teacher blogs, and Iraq. Those are the sections of my newspaper and I’ve also chosen the reporters who I would like to write for me – people whose work I’ve read and whose ideas I respect. Anytime I go to read my “paper,” it is updated with their latest posts, news, etc. I get professional development (and some enjoyment) a little bit at a time when and where I want it.

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