Effective professional learning…

I listened carefully. PD

I thought about the subject matter.

I looked at my watch.

I focused for a while.

I checked my email.

I tried to listen.

I thought about other things.

I asked a question.

I wondered why the question wasn’t answered adequately.

I disengaged.

I thought about effective professional development…

Have you ever been to a PD session like that? (Rhetorical question! I know you have.)
Staff at my school spent some time last year developing shared beliefs about learning. Why shouldn’t these principles apply to teachers’ learning too?

  • We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, learning styles, preferences and interests.
  • Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  • Learning includes acquisition of skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to different contexts.
  • Learning is active and social and is enhanced by collaboration and interaction.
  • Learners need to feel secure, valued and able to take risks.
  •  Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  • Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, which support learners taking ownership of their learning.
Help me write my latest post in the ’10 ways…’ series. I’ll start and you can add points via comments…

10 ways to ensure effective professional learning…

1. Teachers need to be responsible for their own learning. 

To inspire others to learn, you need to be a learner yourself. Actively seek out professional learning opportunities.  Engage with educators via social media. Read blogs. Sign up to Twitter.

2. Differentiate.

Don’t plan whole staff sessions for teachers with different levels of experience and varied needs. Include choice.


23 thoughts on “Effective professional learning…

  1. Great post, Edna!

    I would add….

    Hands on/interactive – all listening and no time to play, explore, reflect, discuss, evaulate can make for a dull PD.

    Shared voice – listening to the same person all the time is limiting. Invite everyone/anyone to facilitate sessions and share their understandings. As you and I both know, presenters/facilitators don’t have to be in the same building/state/country!

    Look forward to hearing what others add! 🙂



  2. 3. Experiment, fail and reflect
    I think one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a teacher is to find something that works, and then keep on doing the same thing. Trying out new things and failing is not only great for professional learning. It is also a useful lesson for the students. To see the whole process of trying out something new, it not working, and then look at the reasons is the best learning experience. For me this is one of the most powerful ways of learning.


    1. I call this aspect STT – Sustained Tinkering Time

      Let participants get their “hands dirty”. let them play with the ideas being shared.

      Through Sustained Tinkering Time comes discussion, sharing and fun. Just what we want for our students in the classroom!


  3. Thanks for one more wonderful post and for giving us the opportunity to contribute and open up a bit, Edna.

    May I also add:
    – Get members of staff to draw up an agenda with points they would like to see discussed/presented, as a first step.
    – Then, engage colleague members in collaboration, group work & exchange of ideas around their suggested areas of interest in order for them to prepare & representatively present their own conclusions in different formats, such as ‘Problem-Solution’. ‘Advantages-Disadvantages’, ‘Argument-Counterargument’, from context-specific data to suggested solutions or from different Theories to Practical Tips & hands-on decisions.
    Everybody has something useful to contribute and elicit (with or without the DOS contributions)!

    Looking forward to reading more from you!

    Helena 🙂


  4. I absolutely agree with you!!! I have recently completed my MA education degree in which my research was on teacher learning – Professional Learning Community and Networked Learning Community – what I found was that unless the teacher is totally committed to his/her own learning these learning communities will not benefit anyone especially the students. In my own experience as a teacher, I found that my love of learning has encouraged me to try new ideas, reflect on them, ask for help and share what I have learnt. I am a true believer in teacher learnig using their own styles, that I about to embark on a Ph.D programme of study in which my research would focus on this area of teachedevelopment


  5. Professional learning needs to be based around the principles of adult learning theory (Knowles… Dufour…Cambourne…), promote and value teacher inquiries and embrace the power of both individual and collaborative reflection. However, none of this can happen in a vacuum – mutual trust and respect and a shared sense of vision has to be embedded within the organisational culture of the school.


  6. Consistency through follow-ups in even the ‘hit the ground running’ practical learning sessions

    Learning happens over time and with practice, not just in a pd introductory session which may point us in the right direction toward using an effective learning/teaching tool, for example. Having someone accessible to share it with who is not standing on that durned pedestal makes for effective learning


  7. Assessment for learning.

    Too often we throw professional development at teachers without finding out if they have learned anything. We must give them feedback on what they have learned during a presentation or workshop.


  8. Yes! We should definitely be aiming to differentiate PD, especially when it comes to anything ICT related. I am a big fan of TeachMeets so giving all staff the opportunity to contribute leads to a rich PD experience. I’d love the management at my school to take on board your thoughts!


  9. But how do we know what students and staff need in PD these days? Wjer do you begin?

    Love the TeachMeet concept, but what works to inspire the majority? And who do we teach – the students or the staff? Students may be more receptive to Web 2.0, but face more blocks whe trialling things staff have found innovative.

    How do you determine where to start PD?


  10. 3. Good food! Seriously. If a conference has bad food, people switch off. Nourish the learner!

    4. Get good educators into classes with teachers: Teachers appreciate in-class learning opportunities. It’s hard to accept being told how to teach by a theorist, who hasn’t set foot in a classroom for decades.

    5. Setting a good example: use “pedagogically sound practices” when teaching teachers. It’s very difficult to respond to the call of someone reading from a slideshow, which they had already printed and handed to you.


  11. Thanks so much for all the comments and thoughtful suggestions. We have moved towards many of these ideas in my school, but it’s still not easy to please everyone. Everyone has a different idea of what professional learning looks like and how much they need/want. I think our best learning has come out of voluntary sessions held before school, where a core group has, at different times, read and discussed articles, shared our practice,developed tech skills, heard from experts within the school and out. But there are some people who wish they could come and can’t (because the before-school time clashes with family commitments)… and others who never come to anything.


  12. Edna,
    Just wanted to let you know that I am using your post in my PD session today to spark discussion on the professional learning opportunities we’ve been having at school lately!
    Thanks for giving us our “content”!


  13. Hi Ed! Just a follow up… Here’s what came out of our brainstorming session today using your blog as our provocation…

    -Time for professional learning embedded in the teaching day/hours
    -General overview, learning objectives and purposes shared before each professional learning activity
    -Emphasis on peer observation and time to see what other teachers are doing in the school
    -Safety to practice new ideas and share reflections on when they don’t work
    -PLN/ PLE objectives that are truly teacher chosen and directly related to needs and interests

    It’s a great beginning and thanks for letting us use your ideas to inspire our own!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s