• Speaking
  • Resources
  • Podcast
  • Videos
  • Updates

1/31/14

Why Professional Development Is Failing

I'm not sure if that Venn diagram makes any sense, but it's been on all morning. I keep hearing people say that we need more professional development or better professional development. Often, this simply means, "we need more training." 

Schools have slowly embraced a model of job-embedded PD. We're seeing more coaches helping teachers make necessary paradigm shifts. 

And yet . . . 

The inertia remains, in part, because of bad policies. Here's what I mean:
  • Training teachers on project-based learning and then requiring a rigid curriculum map with weekly standardized tests
  • Encouraging collaboration, discourse and problem-solving in math and then judging student and teacher performance based upon isolated, standardized, computation-driven math tests
  • Promoting innovation, but telling teachers that they have to use the prescribed textbook on a daily basis. I've heard "it's okay to supplement but not supplant the curriculum"
The bottom line is that often teachers know great strategies and have even made paradigm shifts toward a constructivist style. However, the policies have not changed to give teachers the permission to do what's best. That's why when you see cool things happen, it's often subversive and teacher-led. It's the rebels who are saying, "Screw it. I'm doing this. They can fire me if they have to." 




JOHN SPENCER
Professor of Instructional Technology
I want to see kids embrace creativity. As a teacher, this meant murals, documentaries, STEM camps, and coding projects. As a dad, this has meant elaborate pillow forts and home-made pinball machines and the story of non-magical wizard who makes robots. It's also why I co-founded Write About. Interested in having me speak or consult on design thinking and creativity? Visit my speaking page and fill out the contact form at the bottom. I'll get back to you within 24 hours.

Let's Connect

Send me your questions, ideas, or speaking inquiries.