Elements of good practice professional learning

It’s always good to confirm what we know about our own learning!   Although there is nothing new in this article, For PD, the days of one-and-done are dead and gone! (eSchool News, September 2017) it is a sensible summary of good practice and steers away from the one-session-fixes-all approach.  We know that approach does not work, and usually, we know what works for us.  Four best practices are suggested:

  • Collaborative learning
  • Creative engagement
  • Goals that feel important
  • Online access

Lloyd and Cochrane (2006) in their paper Celtic knots; interweaving the elements of effective teacher professional development in  ICT, suggest that effective professional learning relies on four elements, which are said to be interdependent:

  • Context – relevance and immediacy
  • Community – collaborations
  • Time – prolonged, ongoing and sustained and as well, just-in-time and providing adequate time
  • Personal growth – giving the learner opportunities for increasing knowledge, skills and understanding

There are definite correlations with the eSchool article.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s (AITSL) 2014 report Designing professional learning is aimed at producing the “how to” of professional learning.  The report provides guidance on designing professional learning that suits the context in which you are working, with an over-riding view that:

“Research has found that job-embedded professional learning is proving  to be more effective in improving teacher practice in schools than many of the ‘traditional’ external professional learning opportunities. This means a shift towards professional learning that is primarily school-based and focused on improving teacher practice, where schools become learning communities and professional learning is part of teachers’ everyday work. This change creates a need for a greater understanding and awareness of learning design.”


Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014) Designing professional learning. Vic: AITSL. Accessed from: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/designing_professional_learning_report.pdf?sfvrsn=83c1ec3c_0

Drake, C. (2017). For PD, the days of one-and-done are dead and gone! eSchool News. Accessed from: https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/09/21/pd-days-one-done-dead-gone/

Lloyd, M and Cochrane, J. (2006) Celtic knots: Interweaving the elements of effective teacher professional development in ICT. Australian Educational Computing 21(2), p.16. Accessed from:  http://acce.edu.au/sites/acce.edu.au/files/pj/journal/AEC%20Vol%2021%20No%202%202006%20Celtic%20knots-Interweaving%20the%20elements%20.pdf





The Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit

I like the notion of a modern professional learner, a person who recognises that we learn, not only through courses but also through experiences, on-the-job, partnerships and collaborations,  and the internet.  The Centre for Modern Professional Learning’s infographic explains well the myriad of ways in which we learn and tools we could use.

Source: http://modernprofessionallearning.com/toolkit/

Under the image in this website are links to a guide for using each of these tools and sites with links to further information and tutorials. What a valuable resource this is!

Personalised professional learning

Today, there is a thought-provoking post from Edutopia: Why don’t we differentiate professional development?  Pauline Zdonek’s comments caught my attention:

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.)…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.

“One-size-fits-all” professional learning does not work, and we have known that for many years through experience, anecdotal evidence and research.  This was a hot topic in the nineties and early two thousands!   In 1999, NCREL (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory) produced a toolkit Professional Development: learning from the best; in 2002, Dennis Sparks published Designing powerful professional development for teachers and principals for the National Staff Development Council, which produced a set of standards for meaningful professional learning.

What have we learnt?  How many colleagues have been “talked at”, in our beginning-of-the-year professional development sessions?

In 2014, AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) produced Designing professional learning, a report to…

…help readers design, revise and evaluate high-quality professional learning by clarifying the elements of learning design that significantly increase participants’ learning outcomes and their use of those learning outcomes in classroom practice.

This report provides an excellent basis for developing robust and meaningful learning experiences.

Ideas on presentation…or what not to do!

Rebecca Ritchie, Senior Designer at Macquarie University writes an amusing account on making PowerPoint presentations interesting in her blog post Ideas you can steal to make your presentation not boring.  We all know the “rules” but we continue to see presentations that bring to mind “death by PowerPoint” – too much text, too much animation, too many bullet points.

Be sure to follow the link to Death by PowerPoint for Don McMillan’s video demonstrating what not to do – it is very funny.


Re-igniting the Fire

Confessions of a Cognitive Heart – I relate so well to this post!

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach talks about the struggle to remain creative with one’s use of technology in education and in professional learning.  She discusses the excitement that came from watching and, even more important, being involved with the first wave of social media and connection.  Then the “new wave of learners”!

“At first, it seemed they were enthralled with our messages and a few (now thought leaders in the connected spaces) took the ideas and ran with them. They became the new “us” (the ones who were sharing transparently) on Twitter, which became the new blogs, and in 140 characters of cognitive bliss they began to teach us all.”

Then, she states, things changed!  Instead of original ideas, there were “echoes” – nothing creative, nothing new but a repetition and regurgitation of the older ideas.

I loved the opportunities for professional learning and followed my favourite academics and practitioners…BUT…  I don’t really want to hear about walking the dog, or the dinner menu.  I stopped reading for a while – my loss, not those I follow!

Sheryl took up the challenge and embraced changes to her work, attitude, research, content and performance.  The passion came back.  Share her wisdom with fourteen reality checks – there’s good advice for us all.

Professional Learning Communities

This post, Professional Learning Communities bring benefits for teachers, students from Education Dive K-12, made me reflect on professional learning communities. PLCs are not a new concept. Richard DuFour and his team were promoting the idea of professional learning communities in 2004, with three big ideas outlined in this article:

  1. Ensuring that students learn
  2. A culture of collaboration
  3. A focus on results

Professor Louise Stoll, University of London, worked with a team of Australian leaders, through AITSL to explore and share strategies for developing creative professional learning communities. These leaders participated in dialogue around the latest research focused on collaborative and creative professional learning and leadership.  Here are the series of three video clips from her workshops.