Thinking About Professional Learning

If you were not able to join us live this evening,  the session recording is now available [here].  A summary of some of the thinking we shared, and some of the questions that arose from the discussion are captured below.  Please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments.

I’m not sure we answered any of the questions we used as provocations this evening, but the discussion was rich, and it led to more questions.

We began with this question:

“How does a shift occur from a mindset where learning is provided to a culture where learning is sought?”

This applies to students and teachers.  It’s a big shift!  But we are seeing a critical mass now believing that this must go forward.  Consider this link shared this evening:

Or, consider this story about China telling its students to quit school: .

Raghava KK spoke eloquently on this very topic last weekend at #Educon.

Agency, or ownership of learning, is a powerful concept when we consider both student and adult/educator learning.

We know that parents need to be involved in the shift.  They are products of a system built in the 1800’s, but it is the system they trust.  How do we bring them into the conversation of what education needs to look like in the year 2015?  How do we address their concerns about “preparation for high school” and “preparation for university”?

Is the inertia of higher education a brick wall preventing change? Is the focus on marks as the filter for higher education opportunity stifling learning?

What is the importance and impact of “tradition” on the work we are doing in trying to change to a culture of learning?

Student teachers exist in the higher education system.  How does this affect their thinking about what education can be?

We hear university professors complain that students don’t have the critical thinking skills they expect, yet the entry filter into university is a two digit number that may have nothing to do with critical thinking skills.

Will our elementary students in Ontario today be the drivers of change?  Will they stand up for quality opportunities for inquiry over memorization and test taking?  Will they resist a system that forces them to memorize answers instead of encouraging them to ask questions?

How much curiosity will they be able to retain?

How can we disrupt the thinking around professional learning.  Do we need a new name for PD days?  What might that look like?

PL (Professional Learning) Day? SD (Self-Directed) Day? PLC Day?

Do you believe that all educator professional learning should be directed by what knowledge and skills the data indicate that students need to succeed (i.e., that all professional learning is based on student learning needs)?

Can professional learning be based on the passions of the educator?

Are you working in an environment where your colleagues challenge your practice to make you think deeply about what you are doing?

Are we valuing professional capital (Fullan and Hargreaves) enough?  Sal Khan says that the nations who will be strong in the future are those who have nurtured innovation and creativity among their people, as we shift from and industrial to an information society (

Do you think that “Professional Development” creates a culture of learned helplessness? Have we taught educators to wait for someone to teach them?

Have we done the same for our students?

Is this the only PD really needed: “The opportunity to learn where to find something when we need to learn about it”?

If we want kids to explore and learn, why would we sit back and wait for someone to teach us?

Should schools create a culture of teacher-learner agency?

(From Wikipedia, “In the social sciences, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices”.)

We’d love to hear your thinking about this.  Feel free to comment, and please join us live next Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST for more thinking and learning on this topic.  More details will be posted here.


4 thoughts on “Thinking About Professional Learning”

  1. Reblogged this on Learning About Learning and commented:

    Last evening we brought education leaders together in our regular Tuesday evening #OSSEMOOC open mic session. We discussed some current issues in professional learning, using many of the questions from Professional Learning Conversations at #Educon 2.7 as a guide. Here is a summary of the conversation in Ontario. Please join in by adding your thoughts to the comments section in this blog, or to the original post here:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lots of questions here that I would like to answer in the form of a blog post. You are asking so many important questions that have to do with the reform of our educational system.

    When it comes to PD, we need to grow a great deal.

    Here is a challenging question: “Do you think that “Professional Development” creates a culture of learned helplessness? Have we taught educators to wait for someone to teach them?”

    To a great extent I believe this is still true. However, there seems to be a bit of a split between PD offered to teachers and PD offered to administrators.

    I am now seeing examples of learning networks being set up to explore questions important to educators. Teachers are being given, in some situations, the opportunity to set their own learning agenda and work with others to develop and explore new ideas. I see this especially in math instruction.

    It is a good step, but I think we need to go further. Teachers should be allowed to define and develop their own learning plans.

    Here is another good question: Is this the only PD really needed: “The opportunity to learn where to find something when we need to learn about it”?

    I would say it is. The most valuable PD for teachers is PD directed and monitored by teachers. Fullan has written about this. Several of the Capacity Building series articles focuses on the importance of teacher inquiry.

    When it comes to PD for administrators, I don’t see any change. Almost always, our professional development consists of sitting passively while someone talks to us. There is no inquiry, no action, no learning. How can we be expected to lead in our schools when the model we are continually exposed to is so antiquated?

    There may be some hope. Christine Waler has outlined an inquiry framework for administrators. I don’t know much about this model, but it really needs to be explored and copied if administrators are going to be involved in active inquiry and discovery.

    Are there models for administrators out there? I hope so, I would love to hear about them!

    Liked by 1 person

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