Over recent weeks I’ve been so busy that I’ve largely ignored Twitter. To my detriment. A quick return to it this afternoon found me following two links via tweets from @palbion. The two links were
- How effective is the professional development undertaken by teachers?, and
- Removing the lids of learning.
The first is a blog post outlining the many limitations of professional development as practiced in schools and many other locations (e.g. the L&T PD at Universities) and suggesting how it can be fixed to become both “useful and cost effective”. This post troubled me greatly. I agree that much of Professional Development is essentially worthless. But at least two aspects of the post troubled me.
The assumption that impact on student learning outcomes is the only true measure of the value of Professional Development worries me significantly. It’s simplistic in that it reduces the complexity of schools, teaching and teachers to a single measure. The practice of such abstraction is always going to lose something. But worse, if you focus everything on one particular measure and it becomes a target, it’s useless. i.e. Goodhart’s law
But what really bugged me was that the solution to the woes of Professional Development was better Professional Development. I disagree. I think you have to get rid of Professional Development and replace it with learning. i.e. the teachers (and academics) essentially have to continue learning. Here’s my provocative proposal
Professional development is mostly a solution provided by management due to flaws in the system that management preside over.
i.e. the education (or university) system – in its broadest understanding – is set up to make it difficult for the members of that system to learn and more importantly make changes based on what they learn.
The post actually makes the point itself when it says
Fortunately there have been a raft of reports (e.g. from EPPI and from Ofsted, among many others) that tell us exactly what to look for, and the good news is that great teacher learning is a remarkably similar beast to the great pupil learning.
Slide 19 of the Removing the lids of learning presentation by Dean Shareski contains the following quote from Stephen Downes
We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.
I suggest that you can replace “education” with “professional development” and as a result you identify the solution to the problem of Professional Development.