Last week, we had a school-based Professional Learning Day. We decided to try the “unconference” approach and we established the schedule for the morning sessions when everyone arrived. One of the morning sessions that I attended was a session about Digital Portfolios. During that session, we shared ideas and we all agreed that portfolios would be an awesome way for kids to archive and share their learning. Some of our staff have experience with digital portfolios and they were able to share what they had done with their students. This evolved into a conversations about how teachers could do cross-curricular projects and have kids document what they are learning using their portfolio. We also talked about assessment and how we could use the student reflections to assess their learning…a fantastic conversation.
During this wonderful session, comments were made about a lack of time for meaningful professional development. “If I only had time to collaborate with someone, set this up, and manage it with everything else that I have to do…” Why do teachers feel overwhelmed and feel that they do not have time for their own learning?
I think we need to look at PD differently. PD shouldn’t be a hundred different things. PD should be focused and should be driven with a goal in mind. If your goal is to get your kids using a digital portfolio and you want to collaborate with other teachers on this, then that should be your focus for the school year. Sure, you can learn about other things too but your professional learning goal should be paramount and should receive the majority of your professional learning time. If you need extra time to collaborate with a colleague or consultant, talk to your admin about providing coverage for you. Take advantage of your PD time to continue to work and learn. We want our kids to be learners and our kids should see us as learners. We should be open to talking to our students and our colleagues about the learning that we doing. In my mind, every teacher should be able to answer the question, “What are you learning about this year?” If the answer to that question is, “I’m learning about assessing my students’ learning using digital portfolios,” then that is amazing!
It thus seems clear that effective professional development requires considerable time, and that time must be well organized, carefully structured, purposefully directed, and focused on content or pedagogy or both (Birman et al. 2000; Garet et al. 2001; Guskey 1999).
The quote above was taken from this article. An excellent read about professional learning and the affect on student achievement.
What are you learning about this year? Have you written a goal and have you thought about the time required to achieve this goal? Who can help you achieve that goal?