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Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Professional Learning Menu

I bet you've experienced this. A room full of highly educated teachers listening to a professional learning leader who does not know them relaying ideas that are either unconnected to their work or far below their interest or capacity. The teachers in the room are thinking about all they have to do and want to learn while the speaker relays his/her message with speaking and sometimes one-size-fits-all tasks. It's unauthentic, not meaningful, inefficient, and sometimes disrespectful. A real downer.

I've actually been on both sides of that scenario. I've been asked to present to educators who don't want to be there, and many times, I've been instructed to sit and listen to professional learning events that were irrelevant and inefficient. I've cried after a few of those events since I felt so deflated and invisible.

Fortunately professional learning for educators is beginning to change thanks to the onset of social media, the Internet, and countless professional learning opportunities that exist today. In fact, in the system where I work, they hosted their first unconference for professional learning and I believe it was well received.

I think the next step is what I want to call the Professional Learning Menu and this is how it would be created.

First, a survey would be sent out to educators that includes a number of questions about educators professional learning needs and preferences. The survey results would be shared with all so people have a good sense of how their ideas fit in with their colleagues' ideas. Too often surveys are handed out, but no one knows what the true results are, and when that happens it can actually lead to distrust.

Next,  a learning menu draft is shared with educators in a system. The draft may include all or some of the following dependent on the survey results:
  • one-to-one mentoring/coaching 
  • small group targeted professional development related to specific topics
  • individualized plans 
  • social media/Internet research
  • conferences and professional events
  • grant proposals
  • presentation proposals
  • teacher leadership opportunities
  • collaboration with outside agencies
Educators would review the choices and design their plan based on their needs, professional learning goals, and student learning goals. They would review their plan with their administrators who would have the theme of "autonomy, mastery, and purpose" in mind, and then they would begin the learning path.

At the end of the year, similar to the big celebration on the movie "Most Likely to Succeed," educators would share their learning in one or more of the following ways:
  • writing a description
  • making a presentation
  • showing a video
  • student share
  • evidence of the learning
Educators would have the chance to view the projects and presentations as they think of their own plans for the next year.

A professional learning path like this would empower, engage, and educate educators well. It would create a dynamic learning environment where educators are learning deeply and meaningfully as they teach.

Learning like this would empower educators to teach in these ways as well--empowering students to lead their own path of learning and discovery. 

What do you think? Would this work for your school?