Developmental Professional Development

The great educator @RoyanLee said last summer, something along the lines of, “professional development should be developmental”.

That’s one of those things, when you hear it, you say, “well, of course, how else would it be?” Now consider your local or provincial professional development apparatus. Consider your life in a corporation, if you are in the private sector. Consider the last PD session you went to. Do you feel that you are being developed, as in acted upon, treated like an economic asset to be grown in value? Do you feel like a container, to have knowledge dumped in, until you are so full you feel like you might explode?

Or do you feel like you are developing? Do you have choice in what and how you learn?

I scribbled this Daniel Pink quotation down recently.

I love that feeling of autonomy, or having a deep and personal purpose for learning. I have learned lots and lots of mathematics recently, because I want to, and it makes me feel powerful and purposeful. I am learning about Bitcoin lately, because it’s interesting. I stack up books like people with woodstoves stack up wood. I have photos and screencaps and links everywhere to books I want to read.

As professionals, we will always be mindful of non-negotiables, be they laws, policies, curriculum documents, or even common sense. Bitcoin, at this point, has no place in my work. My learning outside of work is far different from my learning inside work, but the question is, should my learning at work, be more like my learning outside work?

Learning outside of work has never been easier. Right now, I am in the Creative Learning online community, and a MOOC about Truth and Reconciliation. I am teaching and taking an online course as well. I watch lots and lots of videos about topics I am interested in, many of them education related. My personal and professional learning identities are melded, blurred, stuck together. You might know this feeling: you start to read a book or article that has nothing about teaching, and find yourself thinking about…lessons for your own teaching. Learning is in that sense a mirror. I see myself reflected back at me in the books I read, the videos I watch, and in the courses I take.

Teachers are by and large a reflective, thoughtful, and conscientious group. Lifelong learning is the norm for us. In our jobs, we do many hours of professional development, of both the voluntary and involuntary kinds. “Professional development” does not always equal “professional learning”: we are “‘developed” by our employers, but we “learn”, because we are human.

This is a teacher’s life:


Reflecting more.

Reflecting lots.

Reflecting again.

And again.

If professional development is to truly become developmental, we need to start where we teachers are in their own thinking and learning, not where they think they should be. The Powerpoint is not the PD itself. The Powerpoint should just be the start of a conversation. Professional development should be timely, appropriate, and collaborative. I should feel an intense sense of purpose in my professional learning.

I recently asked on Twitter what sort of PD we prefer. The answers were telling. Teachers overwhelmingly spoke of a need to have their voices heard, and to have choice in how and what they learn.

Teachers know exactly what they like in their own professional learning. They like lots of choice, to see the immediate value to their practice, not to “sit and get” in a lecture or lengthy Powerpoint format. They don’t want to be lectured, or made to feel they “don’t get it”. I still see, day in, day out, on eduTwitter, slides from all over the world that make me cringe: crammed with edubabble and bullet talking points.

Choices in our learning path are needed. Let me pursue a course of action, of study, of learning, to develop myself.