Friday, September 18, 2009

National map of Professional learning and development

Today the federal government released the following report on professional learning.  I haven't read much of it, but have noticed that interest groups were included in the panel such as professional learning providers and universities.  Unsurprisingly it has found that professional learning is a key driver for change in schools.

In the past I've been critical of PD for it's usual ineffectiveness.  The survey confirms my suspicions.

Here are some important findings:
Most teachers are looking for ideas to incorporate in the classroom.

For all the money spent, 78% of the time, PD only affects at best, a bit of teaching practices.  Critically this implies that most of the time it is a big load of useless.

I'm not saying that what people want is necessarily what they need, but it does raise the question - why spend so much money on ineffective training?  Why do training if it has no impact? 

I would suggest because the results of PD is rarely analysed.

Most of the time the goals of PD are ill defined and are sometimes/rarely followed up (74%)!

And who is responsible for all of this rather ordinary PD?  Sadly it's schools theselves.  In many cases the blind leading the blind with hastily prepared presentations for scheduled PD days with little or no budget and little time for finding quality speakers.  PD days are scheduled at the start of term for all schools causing difficulty in organising quality presenters.

I am not saying that all PD is bad, but typically useful PD has been forward planning sessions or information desemination sessions about school policy (which is not the PD identified as most needed).  If you calculated the hours spent, the cost of a PD day for all staff is scary.

Let's face the truth - if there are new ideas introduced at a school, it is either by new teachers to the school implementing something they already know, an administration lead/forced initiative or by practicum students - rarely is it via PD.  With the changes in curriculum (especially in senior school) proper implementation of new ideas by teachers for the classroom have been shelved.

So, what's the answer?  More PD?  I hope not, it's a poor use of funds.  Perhaps encouragement for teachers willing to take short term placements at effective schools to encourage cross pollination of ideas (perhaps in a TA/team teaching type role) or for teachers to engage in further higher education to improve their skills (with tertiary providers able to provide effective courses).

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