I attended a PD session today focusing on assessment for learning and assessment as learning. It was in a format where our secondary teachers were split across two locations. I have my own views of professional development, but I’m very thankful for our staff work to provide PD opportunities. I know first hand how much time it takes, and also how challenging it can be to put forward a day that is helpful to as many people as possible. It is a daunting task, and I am extremely grateful to have colleagues that continue to put in that effort.
I wanted to bring up a couple points. The first is that in my opinion, large venues continue to be a problem for professional development days. There are people who are critical of, and resistant to the efforts and ideas expressed during the day. John Maxwell writes about how 30% of a staff will resist efforts to initiate change. Unfortunately, these people may not just resist changing themselves of their practice, but they actively (intentional or not,) detract others from making the most of the time during talk, session, or workshop. I think a large venue, where voices carry, exasperates this problem. It was a shame today, when we were discussing formative assessment, that has been shown to double the speed of student learning. I know the format of the day may not appeal to everyone, but how can you not try to improve your understanding of a research proven strategy to double the speed of student learning? My message to myself is, “if you’re not doing this, you may be half as effective as other teachers.” I’m glad to have been surrounded by others today that were eager to discuss these ideas and strategies to implement them.
Today, John Ryall from the Ontario Ministry of Education discussed how he could wish he could apologize to the students he taught during the first five years of his practice. I know exactly how he feels and have expressed the same sentiment myself. I found it affirming to know he feels this way as well. I also think it demonstrates a willingness to be reflective and critical of one’s own growth. I think that attitude may be vital to make the most of any PD opportunity. It is a growth mindset that helps a person improve, rather than believe that a degree in education was all the experience needed to be a great teacher.