Feb 052016

Professional Development

Professional Development – Why Don’t We Differentiate Professional Development?

Professional Development – January 15, 2016, By Pauline Zdonek


The reason professional development is not differentiated is simply because traditional education and traditional educators can’t let go of the, 20th century, flawed, ineffective and inefficient, one size fits all, sage on the stage methodology.

Not only is one size fits all PD boring, but the learning research shows that participants don’t learn this way. At best, 20-30% of the total participants , the “middle” only get superficial initial understanding which is soon forgotten.

When the real learning objective is individual participant, information fluency, behavior change, resulting in individual performance improvement outcomes, specific to advancing student success outcomes, plowing the one size fits all paradigm seems to make little sense.

There are better ways, but participants must understand what does and doesn’t work and insist on what works, in and out of the classroom.

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professional development

Photo credit: Laurie Sullivan via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Professional Development – As I prepare for another afternoon of district-provided professional development activities, I always make sure that I bring plenty of work to do (papers to grade, lesson planning, etc.). This isn’t because I have a bad attitude and hate professional development (PD). A great PD event can really energize me to improve my classroom instruction. However, the sad fact is that the majority of PDs I attend are repetitive, simplistic, or downright boring. I bring other work to do so that I don’t get irritated when I feel that my time is being so carelessly wasted.
Wasted Opportunities

I am not alone. According to the Center for Public Education’s Teaching the Teachers report (PDF), almost all teachers participate in PD throughout the year. However, a majority of those teachers find the PD in which they participate ineffective.

Thinking about this in the car on the way home after another wasted opportunity made me angry. Why is so much of the teacher professional development that I attend such a waste of time? Because, as Teaching the Teachers reports, a majority of PD is provided in a workshop model. And workshop models are inherently ineffective. It amounts to giving everyone the same information, regardless of their prior knowledge, skills, experience, and leaving it up to them to determine how (or if) it is implemented.

For us teachers, think of this in terms of teaching a lesson. I’m going to teach you how to add fractions, regardless of how much you know or don’t know about the concept. For those who don’t even know what a fraction is, you’ll be so confused that the whole lesson will pass you by. For those who already know how to multiply and divide fractions, you’ll spend the whole lesson bored to tears. Either way, I’m most likely never going to ask you about fractions again.

We wouldn’t teach our students this way. And if we don’t expect our students to come to class at the same level and learn in the exact same way, why do we expect it from teachers?
4 Suggestions for Differentiation

Professional Development – Read the Entire Article, Here


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professional development