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Professional Development and Adult Learning

Professional Development and Adult Learning


In this lesson, students will explore an overview of professional development, and adult learning through professional development.

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Source: Globe, Clker,; Thinking Person, Clker,; Sad Face, Clker,; No Child Left Behind, Wikimedia Commons,; Speaker, Pixabay,

Video Transcription

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Hello there, and welcome. In this lesson, we'll take a close look at professional development as it relates to you and I, the adult learners. Let's get started.

Sometimes we want something so badly, but when we get it, we realize that it doesn't quite live up to the hype of what was expected. When you're a child, it might be the toy that you saw advertised. As a teenager, it may be the freedom that you've longed for. For an adult, it could be that high-paying job.

As a teacher, I've sometimes gotten that feeling when I've wanted a specific professional development. I've gone in with the highest of hopes only to be disappointed because it wasn't what I expected or needed. My hope is that, in this lesson, you will learn to avoid that situation, and more importantly, we'll show you and your colleagues the steps you can take to create your own learning opportunities.

We'll begin by looking at the relationship between the No Child Left Behind Act and professional development. The first thing you should know is that high-quality professional development is formally defined in No Child Left Behind. Furthermore, the law requires schools to submit annual reports citing the percentage of teaching faculty that comply with their definition of highly qualified. This portion of the law is meant to ensure that every student has a highly trained, highly qualified teacher in front of them, but the law doesn't stop there.

The law also requires that professional development should have comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers and principals effectiveness in raising student achievement. This reflects more recent state policies that have caught on to the notion of teacher quality. Research indicates that the most important variable to a student's academic growth is the quality of their teacher. Therefore, districts are doing whatever it takes to provide professional development and support to teachers so that they can help improve student learning and meet expected standards for performance.

Professional development goes by other names as well, including professional learning, professional growth, or continuing education. Whatever you call it, it's considered a major tool for improving students' achievement and for continuous improvement in schools and districts. Understanding adult learning theories will help you engage adult learners and their professional development. Remember, as teachers and administrators, we are all facilitators of learning, as well as receivers of learning.

We often use the term lifelong learning, and when teachers participate in professional development, they too are learning. As learners in any field, practitioners need to continue to grow. That is even more true in a field like education, where the world we live in is constantly changing. As adults, we do learn differently than children, and becoming familiar with those differences is quite beneficial.

Teachers are professionals. Therefore, they deserve well-designed professional development. In order to achieve this, I offer you these characteristics.

Teacher voice. The more involved teachers are what the design of PD, the more invested they will be in it. This includes all stages, such as planning, implementing, and evaluating learning opportunities. This also creates a greater sense of empowerment and self-efficacy.

Also, when teachers are involved in determining the actual focus and design of PD, they are able to connect the professional learning to classroom practice. Is sometimes difficult for teachers to accept professional development from organizers that are not in the trenches, so to speak. As a result, these quality, well-designed sessions will lead to increased student learning and improved achievement.

Through collaboration, teams must determine if a professional development is aligned with school and district missions, vision, goals, and initiatives. Just like for our students, a sense of ownership means a lot. Remember, we are learners, too. By working collaboratively and creating alignment, teachers gain a greater sense of responsibility and commitment to their entire PLC, including students, schools, and districts.

There is yet another important characteristic to a well-designed professional development. Taking into consideration adult learning principles, especially Knowles's Six Principles of Learning. His theory can act as the template for designing a learning opportunity that your colleagues will remember for all the right reasons.

And finally, it is best if the professional development can be sustained over a longer period of time. This means you will want to avoid the one-and-done workshops and focus more on professional development that's ongoing. This gives participants the chance to digest what they learn, reflect, and then learn some more. This type of model is far more effective.

Over the course of a career, effective teachers must align their professional development plans with school and district goals, assess their practice, learn new approaches, and implement new concepts. One way to do this is by using a continuous process called Plan Do Study Act. The PDSA cycle follows the following steps.

Plan the goals, resources, and measurement tools. Do carry out the plan and collect data. Study the measurable results, and Act, which means to decide to continue or adjust actions. I've used PDSA as both a teacher and administrator whenever an area that needs improvement was identified, and I can tell you that this approach works.

So now it's time to go ahead and summarize. We opened the lesson by introducing No Child Left Behind, and how the language in that law relates to professional development. Next, we looked at PD, and how adult learning theories can influence them. Then, we covered the characteristics of a well-designed professional development, including such things as teacher voice, collaboration, and sustainability. Finally, we reviewed the Plan Do Study Act protocol.

And now for today's Food for Thought. What opportunities do you seek out to grow professionally? What PD opportunities can you create for others? To go a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, check out the additional resources section that come with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks a lot for watching. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Professional Development and Adult Learning"

(00:00-00:09) Intro

(00:10-00:51) High Hopes

(00:52-02:01) No Child Left Behind

(02:02-02:52) Adult Learning

(02:53-04:46) Characteristics

(04:47-05:27) PDSA

(05:28-06:23) Summary/Food For Thought

Additional Resources

Professional Development and Teacher Change

This article explores the conditions necessary in professional development to create and sustain change.

Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education: Professional Development

This is a US Department of Education article on best practices in professional development for teachers as adult learners. In addition to best practice strategies, this article provides useful links to additional resources.