Getting professional development and professional learning in the right sequence

Teachers require the right balance of Professional Development and Professional Learning to grow. Whilst it is more difficult to determine the balance for each teacher because it will differ (think differentiated learning for teachers) our work in schools and centres quite clearly shows there is a right sequence if you seek to create highly motivated teachers both and able and willing to participate, contribute and ensure the success of any new initiative.


The Wrong Way: Using Professional Development to drive Professional Learning

Unfortunately this is the typical model existing in most schools and centres. Leaders start by providing teachers with Professional Development opportunities and hope through these initiatives to arouse enough passion and interest in staff so that Professional Learning emerges from it. This rarely happens successfully in reality. The typical landscape is shown in the following diagram. The outcome is a ‘doom loop’. As the cycle continues more damage is done – damage to the social capital sitting in the school, return on financial investment and long term damage to professional relationships. The outcome is a Professional Development Community.

Here’s a typical sequence:    

The Smart Way: Using Professional Learning to drive Professional Development

The first step is to provide all teachers with opportunities to develop their skills, knowledge and abilities to Partnership Learn.

When teachers have the capability to be partners in a Partnered Professional Learning relationship they are able to ignite each others’ performance and come to conclusions themselves that there are gaps in their own practice and patterns of gaps across their school. This is the basis of all Professional Learning. This differs from the reflection provided by Learning Circles which are an example of contrived collegiality.

Having come to these conclusions themselves teachers (who are almost always driven by the desire to provide their students with the best possible learning opportunities) move themselves from ‘bliss’ to ‘anxiety’ about their practice. They seek Professional Development opportunities themselves but rather than seeing these opportunities as Professional Development almost all teachers will come to see these opportunities as very much part of their on-going Professional Learning.

Smart school leaders realise building internal capability is their leadership challenge. Developing a continuous learning and improvement cycle in their schools and centres is the answer. The landscape for future schools and centres is shown in the diagram below. Unfortunately this rarely happens for teachers. The following diagram shows the destination smart school leaders, leaders who understand the future of schooling and who have developed a new paradigm for the new era we are entering into, are moving their schools and centres towards. The focus for these leaders is initially less about pedagogical development and instructional practice development and more about developing an adult learning culture where pedagogy and instructional practices can thrive. This is the Professional Learning Community.

The leadership challenge is to break the ‘doom loop’ – to break the Professional Development cycle. We can assist you to develop the landscape below in less than a year.