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Professional Learning

Professional Learning


In this lesson, students will examine teachers and professional learning, characteristics of professinal learning and models of learning.

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Video Transcription

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Hello and welcome. In this lesson, we're going to take a close look at teachers and professional learning, and specifically the characteristics that make up professional learning for adults, as well as models of learning. Let's get started.

One of the best experiences I ever had was my college orientation weekend. I can't believe it was over 25 years ago. For someone who had never been away from home, I had a lot to learn. As a younger adult, my orientation leaders coached me through the weekend and modeled what living on campus was going to be like.

From choosing classes to eating the dining hall it was all new. I was ready to learn. I was motivated to learn. And I needed to learn all this stuff that I didn't know. I think that was the first time I experienced learning as an adult.

As educators, we are always striving to get better at what we do, which is the essence of professional learning. Professional learning is defined as the development of skill and knowledge related to one's profession. If you were a mechanic, your professional learning would include anything that improved your ability to fix cars. For teachers, professional learning is any activity that helps to develop your skills, knowledge, and anything else that can make you a better teacher.

The term professional learning can be a synonym for professional growth, professional development, or even continuing education. Most districts are aware of the value that professional learning has on the adults they employ. And those opportunities are even built into district calendars.

Traditionally, the teacher is the adult learner. However, it can also be the teacher that is facilitating the adult learner. Notice I said facilitating and not presenting. This can take the form of coaching, active participation in a PLC, critical friends, or a study group. These are just a few. There are many more professional learning opportunities and models for teachers to use that may vary in content and structure.

Living in a digital world has its advantages. In addition to meeting with colleagues informally at school, there are online, self-paced programs out there that you can take advantage of, like this one. Some of them can even lead to formal qualification.

Do you want your professional learning to improve? Follow these tips and you'll be on your way.

First of all, a teacher's own professional learning is most successful when aligned with the vision, mission, and goals of the school district. These goals should be sustained and revisited often.

You've heard the expression that it starts at the top. And in the case of professional learning for teachers that's true. Research shows that two of the largest contributing factors for an increase of student achievement is teacher collaboration and adult learning. Adding these features will help to create a successful school and a successful district.

Schools and districts are constantly exploring new ways to create professional learning experiences for their teachers. With so many models to choose from, the best fit may depend on the specific needs of teachers so there is no such thing as a one size fits all approach. What the following models do have in common, however, is that they can all be traced to theories and best practice for adult learning in professional development.

Today, the field of education is filled with Professional Learning Communities, the most common model. A PLC is a group of teachers and administrators who are organized for the purpose of instructional and school improvement.

Schools, or even districts, can be considered a PLC. However, within those are even more. For example, school improvement teams, school action teams, collaborative teams, data teams, grade level, and content teams are just a few examples. Any of these embedded PLCs are considered a community of practice with a shared vision, mission, and goals of their school and district.

Another model that can be extremely effective in helping one grow professionally is called learning partners, or critical friends, group. As more and more teachers open their classroom doors in an effort to observe and learn from one another, this model continues to grow in popularity. During my

Times as an instructional coach, I insisted on new teachers taking the time to visit other classrooms, and then debrief with them, discuss, and plan ways to practice and solve problems. Critical friends group actually has specific protocols that structure the conversations and encourage colleagues to challenge one another in an effort to improve practice.

When groups of teachers and/or administrators come together to discuss a professional topic or concern, it can be called a study group, or a network. For example, some teachers decide to watch a webinar and come together and discuss it. Or maybe they're participating in an online course, so they decide to form a group and work collaboratively on projects and review material. Another example is when a group of educators form a book club on a relevant professional topic. With the advent of social media, you can even participate in these groups virtually through things like Twitter.

Sometimes the topic these groups discuss can be focused on issues related to their own school. Typically, these study groups, or networks, are less formal and not as structured as PLCs or critical friends groups.

Some districts are fortunate enough to employ coaches to help teachers improve and reflect upon their practice. The coach is considered a leader, however, has a non-evaluative role. In other words, it is usually a peer that has the ability to collaborate, observe, and offer feedback in a way that can be non-judgemental and non-threatening. This individual can also be referred to as a peer leader.

And finally, mentoring. A mentor is an experienced and trained individual that shares their knowledge and experience with a colleague who needs or wants to get better at what they do. There are many programs that use this model, primarily with new teachers being paired up with veteran teachers. However, it could be extremely beneficial for any colleague.

So it's time to go ahead and summarize this lesson. We began by defining professional learning and preceded to the main objective, which was to expose you to some of the models that are used for the purpose of professional growth and learning. They are PLCs, learning partners and critical friends groups, study groups and networks, coaching models, and mentoring.

For today's Food for Thought, I'd like you to think back to your first year of teaching, or if you're new to the field, think about your student teaching experience. What opportunities for professional learning were you provided with? What did you do on your own to improve?

As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the Additional Resources section that come with this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set.

That's all for this lesson. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Professional Learning"

(00:00-00:13) Intro

(00:14-00:46) College Life

(00:47-02:10) Professional Learning

(02:11-02:49) Characteristics

(02:50-03:15) Models

(03:16-03:55) PLC’s

(03:56-04:32) Critical Friends Group

(04:33-05:16) Study Group/Network

(05:17-05:43) Coaching

(05:44-06:04) Mentor

(06:05-07:03) Food For Thought/Summary

Additional Resources

17 Tips To Motivate Adult Learners

This article by Christopher Pappas offers strategies for designing professional learning opportunities for adults.

Teaching the Teachers: At a Glance

Research indicates that effective professional development needs to occur over time, be supported by coaching, be connected to the teacher's content, and occur within the context of professional learning communities.