PD Content as a reflection of a community’s values #edchat

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(part 1 of this series here)

Time is precious.

From what I see, most schools have between three and six fall professional development days a year built into their schedule. If you add in time for early releases, or late starts, or after school PD, you maybe get to 5% of the teachers’ work year spent in professional development. With this time at a premium, schools have to prioritize. The content that they choose for their professional development time here is an awful lot about the things of a value.

In theory, anyway.

In practice, for many schools professional development really is a reflection of the values of the administration. The administration decides what is going to be content for the PD. In too many schools, this ends up being a large group having to sit through a PD session by the administration in which the teachers have limited voice and choice to decide on what they are going to learn about.

Yes, how the content is chosen already demonstrates the values of a community. Schools that operate by a system where one person (or a small, select group of people) choose the content demonstrate that they value control. Schools that only have one offering for an entire group value conformity. Administration that operates in this way sends important messages about how dependent they believe their teachers are.

Similarly, schools that systematically engage in making sure that teacher voice and choice are reflected in their PD offerings also demonstrate certain core values about how they see their teachers as professionals. They believe that teachers can exercise autonomy and that leadership can be shared amongst multiple members of the community.

Then you actually get to the content that the teachers get to engage with. Schools can choose to spend PD time talking about new regulations. They can spend time talking about collecting, reading, and interpreting data. They can spend time talking about the use of educational technology. They can spend time looking at differentiating instruction. They can spend time discussing discipline.

Each time a school engages in a PD effort, the amount of time it devotes to that effort demonstrates the value it places on it. Some schools choose very few topics for teachers to engage in, and emphasize depth of learning. Others choose to cover different topics every single time and value breadth of learning.

Here’s a graph that kind of places me on the right path towards understanding where things might fall just by looking at the indicators of autonomy/dependence and breadth/depth.

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Looking at that chart, where do you think your school falls? What kind of values is it demonstrating by the content it chooses? What benefits does your school’s values have over another set of values? How are those values reflected in the instruction that happens in classrooms?