Sunday, October 19, 2014

Professional Learning School Leaders Need and Deserve

During my ten years as a school leader, I dreaded professional development days in my district. I am not sure any educator looks forward to these monotonous experiences (developed under the guise of learning!) that are supposed to provide us with new skills and knowledge to do our jobs better. If in-district professional development wasn't bad enough, I also attended my fair share of workshops and conferences that were a complete waste of time. I attended many of these events just to meet the required hours of professional development. The problem here was that the experience focused on hours of time on task, not on the learning itself. More often than not, PD is something that has been done to us rather than something we as educators, want to engage in. These experiences made me and others come to the conclusion that professional development, or “PD,” as it is often referred to, is broken.

The overarching problem stems from the fact that PD is driven by external forces and outside agendas. These forces can come in the form of mandates from the federal and state governments or broad needs defined by the districts we work in. Whatever the case, the end result is rarely an invigorating learning experience, and time is rarely well-spent. It is uncommon to leave PD sessions with applicable ideas and strategies that we can implement immediately to positively change school culture.

The key for me was taking control of my learning and engaging in activities that aligned with my professional passions. I experienced firsthand the value of these learning activities as sustainable change and cultural transformation took hold at my school. My epiphany, so to say, changed my entire outlook on modes of professional development and led to the discovery of a practice area in digital leadership. All resulting learning activities focused on practical pathways that helped me to do what I was already doing better. The best part of this journey was the tangible results that followed.

We need to get at the heart of what embodies great leadership and engage in learning experiences that have professional value to us while honoring our precious time. You can attend all the compulsory PD events imposed by outside pressures or take a different path that will truly make a difference. To begin the process of correcting this pervasive issue, let's agree to move the focus from professional development to professional learning. The next step is to identify the most pressing needs for our schools and districts that align with potential improvements in professional practice. Finally, the time comes to zero in on quality learning experiences that will enhance your leadership skills, supporting you in the construction of new knowledge and the acquisition of dynamic skills to move your organization forward.

My observations of the inherent problems with traditional PD have informed my thinking about my consultancy (Aspire Change EDU) by developing valuable digital leadership learning experiences in response to requests from leaders across the country. The goal is to break the mold of traditional PD. Instead of traditional, sit-and-get training, We provide learning opportunities that are interactive, hands-on, collaborative, relevant to practitioners’ daily roles, designed by innovative practitioners, and packed with practical strategies that can be used immediately.

Our overall goal at Aspire Change EDU is to provide the best support for leaders and aspiring leaders in schools today. Reach out to learn how we might be able to support you. 


  1. This sounds fantastic! If I can help out in any way (with 30hands or personally), please let me know. Eric