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Matthew Miles described professional development as it existed 1995 when he wrote the foreword for Thomas Guskey and Michael Huberman’s book, Professional Development:

"A good deal of what passes for 'professional development' in schools is a joke-one we would laugh at if we were not trying to keep from crying.  It is everything that a learning program shouldn’t be: radically under resourced, brief, not sustained, designed for 'one size fits all,' imposed rather than owned, lacking any intellectual coherence, treated as a special add-on event rather than part of a natural process, and trapped in the constraints of a bureaucratic system we have come to call 'school' (p. vii).

What do you think?  Is Professional Development in 2015 still a joke?

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I worked in the '80s for an educational service agency that sells professional development programs to school districts. My observation was that most of the PD programs failed to meet teachers' perceived needs for one or more reasons:

  • Teachers were required to attend a program on particular professional development day regardless of whether any offering that day met their needs.
  • A typical program was an introduced a topic or program but didn't give enough depth that the teachers could use it without a great deal of work on their own.
  • Programs that focused on information teachers could use immediately tended to be supplemental activities rather than the core competencies that teachers must teach well.

A conversation I recently overhead between two teachers who had attended a professional development day program the week before suggests there have been no significant changes since the 1980s.

Linda,

I agree 100% and really appreciate your insights.  I have also noticed that in higher education settings, teachers often feel that the "generic" concepts of improving teaching and learning do not directly link to their subject discipline concerns.  Because teachers are often feeling overwhelmed with work loads and program specific problems, the relevance or association is nebulous.

Patricia Cranton (2006) stated in her textbook Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning that educator developers in higher education should be encouraging critical reflection in teachers and not just giving out answers.  I agree with Cranton's perspective.    

One person I've come to depend on for useful ideas in higher ed is  Mary Ellen Weiner, who operates the Teaching Professor Blog at FacultyFocus.com.

Her posts are not limited to my teaching area  (nonfiction writing) but I find a great deal of what she says in my area is either directly useful or gets me thinking about something in a new way.

PD is a source of contention at all levels, from Elementary to Secondary to Admin.  I have been present at some that were immensely valuable and impact-full but also, at others that were a complete waste of time.  Most that were educator directed, with relevant tasks, and had a direct impact on classroom, were valuable.  Those that involve some kind of promotional aspect, like telling people what other people are doing or have done are useless.  Educators want to know the how not the what and who.  There are generally at least a few takeaways from most PD but for the most part the practice needs to be refined and improved such that educators go into the event with an expectation of value and not a waste of time.

Yes, educator directed, relevant, and time efficient are very important at all levels of pd. 

Brady, I  attend many online courses and webinars in fields outside education. From what I've seen, your observation about what people want from professional development, regardless of the field, is "the how not the what and the who."

Interesting question. I tend to agree with the camp that questions the format used in most schools today with the one size fits all presentations rather than working on individual's needs for development. That being said, I can understand how hard that is to accomplish. It might be impossible to do but if days could be set aside for teachers in which all the local Intermediate Units would have a ton of great programs in professional development to choose from, then teachers could choose what they needed.

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