Professional Learning for the Future


The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) cited ongoing professional learning, including dedicated time to practice new skills, as one of the 14 necessary conditions for schools to effectively leverage technology for learning (see full list here), and we have made the case earlier in this wiki about how and it what ways curriculum and pedagogy will evolve. Teachers will need to evolve as well to sustain the vision for Education-2025.

At Global Connections 2025, we see the future of professional learning for teachers will necessarily take two paths, one for the short term and one for the longer term. In the short term, as technology and web 2.0 tools become more a part of the teaching and learning within the classroom setting, teachers will need training and development to stay confident and capable in both using and teaching these new tools. In the longer term, teachers will have to learn how to approach what they do in new ways. In reporting about the future of education, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation predicts that the future of education is not in better schools informed by technology, but "entirely new types of learning environments" in which teachers, rather than needing to get better in the traditional ways, need to learn how to re-imagine their positions in relation to learning. This will involve both being a content expert AND and expert at guiding individual learners.

Effective Teacher Training Programs

Linda Darling-Hammond (2010) argues that quality preparation programs make a difference by ensuring that the teacher is effective in the classroom and that he or she stays in the profession. Her review makes the case that teacher quality can be linked to improved student learning, and that teacher quality can be linked to teacher preparation programs. A quality program in her analysis is one that allows teacher to "practice in practice," or directly apply what they are learning in mentored teaching experiences in the grade-level or content area and with the same type of student they will be teaching when they are done with the training. Ken Zeichner (2010) takes this idea a step further and identifies a "third space" where P-16 practitioners collaborate directly with university theorists, constructing knowledge together absent of traditional hierarchies. In the video below, educators make the case for quality teacher education based on the idea that we are currently in a "different moment" in education - a paradigm shift between the focus being on teaching to the focus being on learning in the 21st Century.

Another way in which theory and practice are merging is with laboratory schools, often started by University faculty and used as places for new and experienced teachers to work with the faculty to put theory into action. Examples include Stanford New Schools, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, and Uni, the University Laboratory High School at the University of Illinois.

In a review of the book //Teaching 2030// by Barnett Berry, Tina Barseghian (2011, Nov. 22) highlights the five things teacher preparation programs must do to create highly successful teachers.
  1. Informed by need - teacher must be prepared to teach in subjects that need teachers.
  2. Investments in clinical training - new teachers need practical experience under the guidance of mentors and coaches.
  3. Changing the context of content - teachers need training on explicit strategies for things like assigning homework and communicating with parents, not just in "teaching" specific content.
  4. Seamless connections between pre-service training and professional development - teachers need explicit training in environments and with students whom they will be teaching in their jobs.
  5. Learning and leading in historical context - new teachers need to understand their roles in leaders and agents of change. They need to see themselves in a larger system, capable of educating and leading colleagues.
Below is an deeper explanation of the five changes from Teaching 2030.

Effective Professional Development

Say "professional development" in a room full of teachers, and you'll likely see a lot of eye rolling and hear a sigh or two. While many programs are well-intentioned, professional development can often be short-sighted and not linked to ongoing change in practice. In a review of effective professional development - professional development that changed knowledge, practice and student achievement - Laura Desimone (2010) concludes that there are common features to programs that work:
  • Focus on content - how students learn the content.
  • Active learning - involvement from the teachers including opportunities to get and give feedback.
  • Coherence - should be consistent with beliefs, and state and district reform and policies.
  • Duration - at least 20 hours of time.
  • Collective participation - teachers across one grade level or curriculum group.

Different from pedagogy

When thinking about high-quality professional learning for the future of education, it is useful to remember that teaching adults and learning as an adult is different from teaching children and learning as a child. The theory of andragogy, developed by Malcolm Knowes, makes six assumptions about adults as learners (described in the video at right below):

  1. The need to know: Adults must know why they are learning, what the benefits are for the learning, and what the risks are if they don't learn.
  2. Self concept: Adults are self-directed - they take ownership for learning, and they direct their own learning. This is context dependent.
  3. Experience: Adults have diverse experiences, giving them broad perspective but perhaps leading to ingrained ideas. Learning situations should be associated with their existing knowledge, and should be situated in real experience. Learning should be active, constructive and collaborative.
  4. Readiness to learn: Adult learners need learning to be timely and relevant. useful - Direction and support
  5. Orientation to learn: Adult learning is focused on tasks and problems rather than subjects, so learning needs to be contextualized.
  6. Motivation to learn: This may be extrinsic, but in adults it is more often intrinsic, including seeing the benefits to the learning.

Technology and high-quality professional learning

Technology, especially web 2.0 tools, mobile and ubiquitous technologies will change and improve professional learning in the future - these include places for teachers to collaborate, share ideas, and reach out beyond their traditional networks to find new sources of information and learning. Below are some ideas and examples of how:

Wikis - Building on the concepts of social constructivism and the idea of a community of learners (Rogoff, 1996), wikis offer teachers of all levels and subjects a place for asynchronous collaboration and collection of resources. They allow for collective participation and can change and develop over time. The fact that work is open to others also can motivate higher-quality work. Wikis can serve as the "third space" identified by Zeichner above - where novices and veterans, theorists and practitioners can mingle their ideas to form new ones. For more information on wikis and professional development, see this author's previous work on tuhsdstaffdevelopment wiki (some of which has been taken for this page). Some sources for wiki creation are:

Curation and aggregation sites - Curation and aggregation are ways of distilling the overwhelming amount of information found on the internet into more manageable amounts of information, culled and sorted by various means. These sites and tools allow for an adult seeking information or skills to reach out to a network and get "need to know" information quickly - in addition to building on the collective knowledge of the network. For a more thorough explanation of curation and aggregation sites see the blog posts by this wiki's authors, Brishundra McGrier, Matthew Sheets and Katy Foster. Some sources for curation and aggregation are:

Social bookmarking sites - Like curation and aggregation, social bookmarking is a way to organize and categorize information. If involved in a long web-search on a particular topic, teacher can save and send bookmarks in one place, and can also access others' organized information. By tagging the information with key terms, learners can help others (including themselves) access the information more easily. Some sources for social bookmarking are:

Next: Frameworks for Sustaining Technology Integration