Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Framework for Embedded Professional Development


Life-long learning is an essential characteristic found amongst effective educators and something that should be modeled for our students. With so many changes occurring in the field of educational technology, curriculum, pedagogy, and law, it is imperative that educators receive opportunities for growth in their school. Additionally, they should be provided with the knowledge and foundation to develop a Personal Learning Network. This will enable them to learn more according to their diverse interests and passions.


Time seems to a common theme when it comes to lack of teacher participation in after school professional development opportunities. This is completely understandable as many teachers are involved with students after school through athletics, extracurricular activities, and extra help, not to mention grading and getting materials ready for the next day. During a conversation with teacher leaders last year about improving how professional development is offered in a meaningful fashion, a model from the business world was suggested.  This would incorporate training and other professional growth activities embedded within the school day.


Image credit: http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/File:Lightbulb_idea.jpg

After some thought and discussion with colleagues in NJ, the light bulb went on for me . I quickly realized that the current school schedule presented the perfect solution to make better use of the time available in order to offer meaningful professional development during the day in the form of non-instructional duties (waste of valuable time in my opinion). The plan that my administrative team and I are now developing drastically reduces the amount of non-instructional duties the teachers have, such as lunch, hall, and in-school suspension duty.   It also reduces the periods during the week that staff members will perform those duties that are retained.  This change would then free up virtually every teacher for 48 minutes 2 or 3 times per week depending on the semester.  


The vision then for staff members during this professional growth period will be to create innovative learning activities, develop interdisciplinary projects, and engage in professional development.  At the heart of the professional development piece could be PD 360, which we are currently researching. We are ecstatic about this more effective use of time.  What do you think?  Any feedback and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

17 comments:

  1. Eric,
    I love where you are going with your framework. I think that job embedded professional development is critical. It helps to build a community of learners and it also reframes learning as "part of the job." By making professional learning a part of the "regular" day, it becomes just as important and good instruction.

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  2. I'd like some additional information about your plan. For example, you are freeing your teachers from lunch and hall duty, but presumably, you will still need 'adult' supervision? How will you do that? How will you pay for that?

    Also interested in how or if you will assess your teachers' PD? Will they be maintaining a portfolio? Will they have to share with their colleagues? Will they have to lead their colleagues through some learning activity?

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

    AJ from Toronto

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  3. I too commend you for your reflective thinking in this critical area. But I raise the question also regarding the tracking and monitoring of the Teacher Professional Learning time, the quality of the learning and most importantly how does it transfer into practice? So many good intentions similiar to this have eneded up being massive amounts of time spent on planning units of work used across grade levels regardless of the needs of their students. Personalization must stay at the core of this prcess and a vision that the learning is so that ALL students can achieve the very best that they are capable of. Carmel Crévola

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  4. I think you should consider putting a team in PLP. They could develop an action research project around your brilliant non-instructional duties issues and become your PLN champions for teacher directed, crowd sourced PD. Not to mention they could share their findings and plans globally and scale it for others thinking about this too.

    Eventually, we have got to build capacity in our own to lead the way in terms of sharing and learning what we need to know. The wisdom/potential is in your own school. PLP focuses on capacity building, champion building, and collective efficacy. We eventually hope to model ourselves out of a job.

    Brilliant place to find teacher collaboration time. How will you cover the non-instructional tasks?

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  5. Great questions everyone! Let me first address the tacking/monitoring issue. As this is still very much a work in progress I foresee the teachers submitting summaries of independent PD and projects completed (i.e. portfolio as suggested by AJ). This information would then be shared at monthly faculty, interdepartmental meetings, and reflected through blogging. PD 360 has a very effective tracking and monitoring component, which is why we are seriously considering it. We would then use observations and classroom walk-throughs to help better determine if there is a transfer into practice.

    As far as duties being covered, this will work on a rotating basis. For example, instead of having 2 teachers in the cafeteria there will now be only one. We are also fortunate to have a school resource officer in the building, which provides us flexibility. My admin team and I would then pick up the rest of the slack, especially in the cafeteria during lunch. I personally can't wait to spend more time talking with my students during lunch.

    The bottom line here is this year will be a work in progress, but you have to start somewhere :) Thank you so much for your feedback.

    (Sheryl: I would have to see if there is any funds for PLP, but a fantastic idea).

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  6. You are motivating me to let my teachers have a duty free lunch (with one on duty and me!) but that means I will have a 2 hour lunch duty. (Feeding 600 elementary students in two hours is the best we have found we can do). I have five sections of each grade and if I allow 4 of the 5 to do job embedded professional development during the 25 minutes of lunch, they can eat and perhaps discuss strategies, articles, etc.... I appreciate how you are making consider something I wouldn't have 15 minutes ago!

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  7. I really like the sound of this. Adult learners, such as teachers, learn best when their professional development is self-directed rather than imposed. I see your model honoring that fact and trusting that it will happen. Thanks.

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  8. Eric,
    Great post and a great idea to give your teachers more time for their own professional learning during the day. From a technology standpoint, I could see this as valuable time for teachers to observe their colleagues that are implementing various types of instructional technology. This can create a space for valuable feedback and conversations to occur. As you know, your teachers that have had success with technology integration are going to be your biggest asset for other teachers that might be reluctant or just new to the idea. This plan gives your teachers a space to share the great things they're doing. Will the 2-3 times per week always be pre-determined or will teachers have choice for perhaps one of those 48 minute periods each week? This makes me think of Google's 80/20 rule. Just wondering. Looking forward to seeing how this model of embedded PD evolves for your teachers!

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  9. Eric, go for it! We have what we call as Common Prep (16 times per year) where we have an on-going, embedded, technology focus for our staff. We are also carving out time for departments to meet during the school day about 12 times per year, using subs and other staff covering. This is their PLC time. We are on the front end of this process and hope it goes well. We also meet monthly as an entire staff in the morning before school and center those times on passion, teamwork and what our kids deserve as themes. It has to happen the way you are planning or staff don't truly and fully engage. Accountability can happen with all of the technology at our fingertips.

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  10. We get so mired down in traditional practice we often overlook opportunities for innovation and impactful change - this is awesome. Even if coverage is only 1 time a week, its still more than last year. A staff committed to change will maximize this. Great idea and inspiration for others.

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  11. I like that you're going to be helping cover some lunch duty. I think that is a much more feasible way to get myself involved than my current bus duty role. They're tired, they're being hushed and it's hard to call buses and see faces, :) Next year I'd already planned on zoning myself out of it, but this will be a great replacement. I just hope the day to day doesn't interfere with me getting in there! ---8Amber8

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  12. Paulo Freire writes in his book, "The Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage", that educators have a moral obligation to "stay abreast of current events least they lose the authority they represent". I believe educators have the responsibility to continue to perfect their craft. Teaching and learning go hand in hand!! Two words best describe the need for continuous pd, due diligence!!

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  13. By making the effort to take something off their plate you are really showing your teachers how much you value the importance of their professional growth. That right there is the first step. Right now I work in 6 elementary schools so I get to "see" a lot of good strategies in play. The schools that make PLC work (and work effectively) are the ones where teachers have consistent protected time that never changes. One school I work in has almost perfected it. It's quite amazing. The teacher contract hours are from 8:30-3:45. Students don't enter the building until 9:20. PLC teams meet with the administrative team once every two weeks from 8:30-9:45. During that time, resource (art, aides, etc.) are pulled to cover classrooms until teachers are released from the PLC meetings. All meetings are focused as well. The administrators come with questions to ask to help keep the meeting from going off task. In between meeting times, teachers work on goals (est during the meeting), read a common text, blog, etc. It's AMAZING! It's a Title I school and these kids are outperforming most of the schools in our district. It's amazing! Truly amazing!

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  14. Enjoyed this post. My question is: Can interactions with your PLN to be considered 'job-embedded professional development?' I guess I'm wrestling with whether or not one needs to be physically at school in order for the professional development to be considered 'job-embedded.'

    Regardless, I am interested in finding out how your teachers like this model and if they feel their practice improved as a result.

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  15. Debbie: Interactions with a PLN are and will be considered. The ideas generated from those conversations and interactions will be logged in a journal and evidence will be provided about how this is being integrated into practice.

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  16. Eric, I agree that interactions with your PLN could/should be considered 'job-embedded pd.' I am doing research on social media and professional development and need to back up that claim with some sort of proof as there is not much, if any, research to cite. Would it be okay to quote you on that? My email: debbie.fucoloro@gmail.com

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  17. Indeed in Professional Development we need to be enthused as we work with human beings who from time to time fall short of our reasonable expectations. We sometimes feel we are not making any headway with our charges. New ideas and new ways of looking at what we do can enthuse us to carry on.

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