Professional Development

Professional learning...a community or a network?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KymcI4KM4So&feature=share

I enjoyed today's discussion.  After participating in this productive discussion on ICTs, I wanted to ask the following question...
Thinking in terms of personal/professional learning, would you characterize how you interact with others more in terms of a community or a network, and why?

 

Finnish Educators Are Made Of This ... So What?

I was reading Teacher Education in Finland: What are Finnish Teachers Made Of? which was the featured post in CU Daily for November 27, 2013, and I immediately thought of Miles Davis.  Several PhDs contributed to the edutopia post (Merja PaksuniemiSatu Uusiautti, and Kaarina Määttä), which provides a brief but informative historical account of teacher training in Finland, along with current challenges that educators face.  But how does this synopsis relate to educators in the United States (or some other country)?

The authors posit that educators in Finland have a history of being well respected professionals (even though this is not necessarily reflected in their salaries compared to other countries).  Although not as strict as today, teachers still must maintain a proper code of conduct that extends to behaviors outside the school system. Training is demanding and educators are expected to obtain a Master's degree before completing their teacher preparation.  They also claim,
We ... credit the Finnish educational system for supporting the idea that K-12 students have the right to learn, regardless of location, economic or social background, gender, age or abilities.

But what's the relevance of this to the educational system in the US?  I'll assume that the educational system in the US also supports the idea that K-12 students have the right to learn, regardless of location, economic or social background, gender, age, or abilities.  And like their Finland counterparts, US educators also face challenges with multiculturalism and tolerance, do they not?

What's the takeaway from this blog post?  What should educational stakeholders learn from Finland's example?  What impact does culture have in working towards a viable solution? Is it even worth comparing educational systems between different countries, cultures, or societies?

Have I Flipped?

Read Flipping Professional Development/Professional Learning, and thought how does flipping a classroom relate to flipping professional learning (in education).

On Nov. 18, 2013, I left a comment on how I currently feel about the "flipped classroom", and am equally hesitant in using the term to describe professional development/learning.
I truly enjoy Flipping Professional Development because I think it provides a great avenue for learning

Hernandez goes on to associate flipped professional development (FPD) with the following questions: Do the participants have what they need to make it successful? Will they have time to do things on their own? Are they savvy enough?  Since FPD has not been defined explicitly, I find myself still trying to connect the dots:  what does it mean to view professional development as being "successful"?  And what's the point in deciding whether one is "savvy enough"?  Professional learning is not dichotomous, so best to frame questions that reveal the process in terms of degree.
Be Prepared for any and everything...When I am planning I [am] always [thinking] with the end in mind.

Perhaps just a hyperbole, but I think we all would agree that it is impossible to plan for everything.  Professional learning is emergent, dynamic, and unpredictable.  Preparation may be a part of it, but a lot has to do with being able to adapt to an ever-changing situation or context.  Instructional leaders need to be able to adjust to constantly changing (learning) environments, and accept (and embrace) incidental learning where ends (i.e., goals and objectives) emerge unexpectedly.
What do I want my participants to walk away with?

Where are they going? In fact, your "participants", educators, should not be going anywhere.  Professional learning should be an extension to current teaching practice.  Instead of isolated events (i.e., conferences, workshops, and in-services), interaction among educators should be an open, ongoing trajectory towards building relationships by cultivating a personal learning network.
The three components that I use when planning are explore, flip, and apply.

Ok, I'm still not sure about what's being "flipped", but let's explore.  Hernandez seems to mean that educators search online for tools, determine which are effective in the classroom, and then figure out how to use them.  I guess my question is, When and how is all of this supposed to happen?

Does this happen at a conference, workshop, or in-service?  Does this happen in absence of any classroom context?  Are teachers expected to plan how to use a new tool without first sharing with others how other tools have already been used (successfully or otherwise)?  I'm not sure how to interpret explore, flip, and apply.

Professional learning is constant.  We learn while we are teaching, we learn when we share an idea or experience with a colleague, we learn when we read a book, we learn when we fail ... Have I flipped?  Does anything I say have anything to do with "flipping professional development"?

PLNs aren't built, but cultivated

Inspired by Building your PLN Twitter Chat, I felt the need to respond (and to disagree):

Amanda K. claims that a "PLN is an acronym for Personal Learning Network – a powerful collection of people, ideas, and personas that fuel your passion for teaching and learning" (para. 1).

Not sure where this definition came from, but it's a bit thin to leave out technologies - what's a carpenter without a hammer, or worse, a carpenter who knows what one is, but not know how to use it.  Also, not sure what the difference is between "a ... collection of people" and "personas..."

At any rate, think of what a PLN would be without technologies.  Sure, people would still connect, and ideas shared, etc., but it sure would look quite differently given the materials (technologies) we have today to communicate and interact, which weren't possible in the past.

A PLN is a material semiotic of ideas (opinions, beliefs, etc.), materials (objects, technologies, etc.), and social relationships (diverse interaction, communities, groups, teams, strangers meeting for the first time, author-reader, speaker-audience, friends, enemies, etc.).

A PLN doesn't start from zero, but is like intelligences, wisdom, knowledge, etc. in that it already exists...it is inescapable.  The question is not how to create one, but rather how to cultivate one in a way that is purposeful for the individual and for others.  It's been my belief (and experience) that if my PLN helps someone else first, that I ultimately end up benefiting much more than I sacrificed.  Understanding one's PLN means realizing that although the individual may be in control (to a degree), the individual still is just a single node that is being influenced and impacted and affected by the numerous (ideational, material, and social) nodes that form a more holistic network.  It's a network that is not only influenced by it's individual nodes, but also takes on a life of its own.

Can an individual be a carpenter without knowing how to use a hammer and nails?
Are we at a point yet where we should be asking, "Can an individual teach someone else (or coach someone else to learn) without knowing how to use technology?

Photo attribution

Is asking "What makes a good teacher" the right question?

Today's post was inspired by Mailbag: Readers define what's a good teacher.

Here are a few responses that came from this post:
A good teacher gives students the skills to think, create, explore, question and practice so that they can become productive members of society.
Probably the most important traits are compassion and patience.
A good teacher is one that enlightens a student to new areas of knowledge of which the student had no, or little, prior learning experience. 
The public schoolteachers’ role is to help all students achieve their potential.
...a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom can be directly related to a parent’s effectiveness in the home; a partnership between parent and teacher for the benefit of the student. 
 ...I can sum up what makes a good teacher in one word: support. 
 A good teacher knows when to put aside teaching the curriculum and teaches students how to relate to one another.
After reading this article, I felt compelled to interpret these definitions and explanations in terms of comparing US teachers with teachers working in Finland, albeit a debatable comparison by some. But Darling-Hammond (2010) argues that although no system from afar can be transported wholesale into another context, there is much to learn from the experiences of those who have addressed problems we also encounter.  The author points out two key points that I feel lead to greater, more specific differences between the two countries' educational systems:

Over the past 40 years, Finland has shifted from a highly centralized system emphasizing external testing to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around the very lean national standards.
In Finland each teacher receives three years of high-quality graduate level preparation completely at state expense - plus a major overhaul of the curriculum and assessment system designed to ensure access to a "thinking curriculum" for all students. 
This is big: Finland teachers have the flexibility in deciding how national standards are met by being able to decide at the local level how the written, taught, and tested curriculum is to be implemented.  And they are prepared to do so because each teacher receives training (i.e., Master's degree plus ongoing professional development) that ultimately creates a greater demand for professionals that exceed those in other well-respected fields such as medicine and law.

So what questions should we be asking?  I would argue that instead of asking What makes a good teacher?, we might ask,


What responsibility does each educational stakeholder have when cooperating towards higher student achievement?

A more complex question leads to a more networked solution to higher student achievement.  Defining a "good" or "bad" teacher is simply articulating the direct result of prior socio-technical relationships; let's ask questions that relate to contextual, holistic, learning trajectories that enable educators to become better over time.

What's your question?

Related articles:

Is asking "What makes a good teacher" the right question?

Today's post was inspired by Mailbag: Readers define what's a good teacher.

Here are a few responses that came from this post:
A good teacher gives students the skills to think, create, explore, question and practice so that they can become productive members of society.
Probably the most important traits are compassion and patience.
A good teacher is one that enlightens a student to new areas of knowledge of which the student had no, or little, prior learning experience. 
The public schoolteachers’ role is to help all students achieve their potential.
...a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom can be directly related to a parent’s effectiveness in the home; a partnership between parent and teacher for the benefit of the student. 
 ...I can sum up what makes a good teacher in one word: support. 
 A good teacher knows when to put aside teaching the curriculum and teaches students how to relate to one another.
After reading this article, I felt compelled to interpret these definitions and explanations in terms of comparing US teachers with teachers working in Finland, albeit a debatable comparison by some. But Darling-Hammond (2010) argues that although no system from afar can be transported wholesale into another context, there is much to learn from the experiences of those who have addressed problems we also encounter.  The author points out two key points that I feel lead to greater, more specific differences between the two countries' educational systems:

Over the past 40 years, Finland has shifted from a highly centralized system emphasizing external testing to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around the very lean national standards.
In Finland each teacher receives three years of high-quality graduate level preparation completely at state expense - plus a major overhaul of the curriculum and assessment system designed to ensure access to a "thinking curriculum" for all students. 
This is big: Finland teachers have the flexibility in deciding how national standards are met by being able to decide at the local level how the written, taught, and tested curriculum is to be implemented.  And they are prepared to do so because each teacher receives training (i.e., Master's degree plus ongoing professional development) that ultimately creates a greater demand for professionals that exceed those in other well-respected fields such as medicine and law.

So what questions should we be asking?  I would argue that instead of asking What makes a good teacher?, we might ask,


What responsibility does each educational stakeholder have when cooperating towards higher student achievement?

A more complex question leads to a more networked solution to higher student achievement.  Defining a "good" or "bad" teacher is simply articulating the direct result of prior socio-technical relationships; let's ask questions that relate to contextual, holistic, learning trajectories that enable educators to become better over time.

What's your question?

Related articles:

Becoming a more connected educator

The following question was posed at 49:23 from the recording Steve Hargadon: Live Interview Tuesday, January 17th - Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on "The Connected Educator".



Question: How do you know if you are a connected educator?


Reply: ...starting to connect with other people, sharing ideas, put the students first, open-minded kind of people who enjoy learning, who get excited about inquiry, want relationships, self-directed, drawn towards collaboration, together we are more than we are as individuals, enjoy the negotiation of meaning and ideas with other people, 



I would response differently to this question.


It's not about knowing if you are connected or not, because we are all connected.  I'll rephrase a bit: You know the benefit of becoming connected if you are looking at relationships with other people; conceptualizations, educational philosophy, ideologies, theories, ideas, and other cognitive aspects; and materials used to interact with others (i.e., technologies, artifacts, etc.) in order to form the meta-cognitive insight into the affect others have on your own behavior and beliefs as well as the affect you have on others.  It's not always putting others first.  It's about realizing that helping others can have a personal benefit, which is a slightly different, yet important distinction.  It's not about wanting relationships just for the sake of it, but rather recognizing the relationships that promote learning.  A "connected" educator is drawn to making connections, not necessarily just collaborating or cooperating with others.  And although together we are more than we are as individuals, that's not the motive for becoming "connected".  It's more local than that.  It's more at the personal level and those boundary nodes that link directly back to the individual.  In a connected world, there is no "negotiation of meaning".  Businesses negotiate with each other because that's how the world works, so to speak.  Learners and teachers negotiate because there is a curriculum.  Basketball teams negotiate in order to win games.  And yes, we can learn through negotiation.  But when it comes to (professional) learning - which in education means educators who interact with whomever they choose, whenever and wherever they choose, there is no (or at least less) negotiation, only the growing and pruning of connections that aid some future benefit (i.e., connecting ideas, people, and artifacts as dynamic assemblages).  Meaning is also a sticky word.  I'd rather say associations or patterns that people recognize that stimulate inferences.  


When it comes to learning, it's not about the practice or program, but rather it's about the person.  As an educator, I put myself first when it comes to my own professional learning.  


So, I'll restate the question: How to you become a more connected educator in ways that benefit your own professional learning?


 



 



 


 

Busy...

Ok, so it's been awhile since my last post. I've been (and continue to be) extremely busy developing a concept paper for my dissertation, teaching, and doing separate research regarding peer/self reflection among English language learning writers.  This week I plan to hang out, so if you are into Google+ and you are interested in knowing more about my research, let's connect!  My Google+ profile link can be found by clicking the About tab above.

Projects Slated for the Rest of 2011

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The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas. -George Santayana

This next semester is a busy one.

Dissertation


The last few days I have been working feverishly on my dissertation proposal, trying to get it cleaned up and approved before I start my research.  I'm conducting a study on how EFL educators working in Mexico interact within a personal learning network and how that interaction influences a change in behavior and beliefs (i.e., teaching practice and reflection).  It's a hermeneutic, qualitative case study involving three teachers who will be using various ICTs in which to interact with other individuals, communities, and/or groups.  The Moodle course that we will be using can be found here and many of the activities are open to anyone interested in teaching English to students of other languages.

University Classes


Classes begin the second week of August and I'm scheduled to teach the following: (a) Applied linguistics, 7th semester, (b) academic writing, 7th semester, and (c) teaching practicum, 5th semester.  The applied linguistics and academic writing classes will have some online content made available to anyone who might be interested.  The idea I have for applied linguistics is to get my students to interact in online communities so they can address current issues related to teaching and learning English as a foreign language.  And the students taking the academic writing course will work largely in Wikieducator as they improve their writing skills and knowledge about formal writing discourse.  Finally, I will also be facilitating 5th semester students who will be teaching for the first time English in front of a group of peers.  They'll work in groups and students will be ask to plan, implement, and reflect on their English classes in terms of curriculum, assessment, and instruction.  All the students from the three classes are pre-service English language teachers studying a BA in ELT at the UAA.

I will be sharing more about these classes throughout the semester either in the form of a blog post or in my TESOL Talk program.

University research


Since February of this year, I have been involved with a research line with two other colleagues investigating the noticing hypothesis among EFL learners practicing their writing skills.  This next semester we are slated to begin the data analysis and will begin writing up our findings for peer-reviewed publications.  This semester we are scheduled to present talks at RECALE (in September),  MEXTESOL (October), and ANUPI (October).  More information will be provided as our research unfolds.

Edukwest writer


I am happy to announce that as of this month, I will be joining a group of writers for Edukwest: On the search for better education.  Edukwest (originated by Kirsten Winkler) covers a wide variety of topics and formats all dedicated to improving education.  I look forward to joining in on the discussion and if you have any interest in anything related to education, I recommend that you check out the website!

Well, that's about it.  The latter part of 2011 will certainly prove to be the busiest semester yet, but am happy to be involved in so many worthwhile projects.  If there is anything in particular that interests you and you would like to know more, feel free to contact me by clicking on the email icon below.

Leading Professional Practice

"Think photo album, not snapshot...thinking like an assessor...means considering an array of evidence that will show that our efforts have succeeded” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007, p. 230). Linking evidence to success implies connecting effect data with cause data through leadership and learning that can be represented in the following four ways:

  • Lucky: good results with no understanding of the reasons; replication of success not probable

  • Losing: poor results with no understanding of the reasons; replication neither probable nor desirable

  • Learning: poor results with clear understanding of the reasons; replication of mistakes not probable

  • Leading: good results with clear understanding of the reasons; replication very probable” (Reeves, 2010, 17).


Thus, assessing the development of teachers and determining the “relational support and social capital” Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 69) needed emerge through the collection of ongoing evidential learning as it becomes an overall learning ecology. Formal learning, experience, mentoring, performance support, self-learning, community-based learning, and informal learning act as types of learning in a learning ecology (Siemens, 2006) that each hold special support requirements needed in order for teachers to be successful. That is, being successful occurs both at the level of each individual teacher as well as at the level of professional learning community, both of which are ongoing and have an iterative and reciprocal effect on each other as they relate to improving student achievement.

Currently, the teaching profession experiences enormous gaps between what teachers expect and what they receive when it comes to professional development (Wei, Darling-Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009, as cited in Reeves, 2010) . Professional development is defined as “that which results in improvements in teacher’s knowledge and instructional practice, as well as improved student learning outcomes” (Wei, Darling-Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009, p. 3). Indeed, measuring student learning stems from indicators that transcend those that focus only on professional development (i.e., what a teacher knows and can do); that is, measuring what a teacher knows and can do serve as a subset to more global measurements that relate indirectly to effects and causes linking to improvements to student achievement. In order for professional development to have relevance and meaning for educators, a purposeful, professional learning community is created “where members have developed a community of mind that bonds them together in special ways and binds them to a shared ideology” (Sergiovanni, 1999). A shared ideology is a conglomerate of opinions and perspectives that amass student achievement indicators to individual teacher goals through open and diverse discourse among local stakeholders and educators outside the school system.

The bedrock of improving teachers’ knowledge base, instructional practice, and student achievement culminates from the ongoing pursuit for a network of personal learning communities. A professional learning community (PLC), for example, is defined as educators committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2006, as cited in DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008, p. 14).

Collective inquiry occurs at a variety of levels, from the least to most important: congeniality, collegiality, and community of practice – the last being the most important in terms of fostering value-added leadership (Sergiovanni, 2005). But instead of viewing a community of practice as a single unit of analysis, or viewing one’s identity in terms of one particular community (Wenger, 1998), a more connectivist view places the learner (i.e., educator) at the center of one’s personal learning network whereby one’s identity is cultivated through the various interactions among the different communities that may exist, whether face-to-face or online. Hence, a “common purpose or domain of knowledge” which has in the past been referred to as being a tenet of a community of practice (Hanson-Smith, 2006, p. 302) now becomes a tenet of ongoing personal inquiry in terms of how an educator (i.e., learner) expects to influence the various communities of interest and how these communities might influence the educator.

In order to understand how to assess the development of teachers, academic leaders (i.e., principals, material designers, etc.) recognize the different responsibilities that teachers have. Since the implementation of the Paideia program in 1982, teachers have been known to assume one of three roles in leading learners to higher achievement: (a) didactic, (b) coaching, and (c) seminars (State University.com, 2011). More recently, these three roles have been characterized as “didactic instruction, facilitation of understanding and related habits of mind, and coaching of performance (skill and transfer)” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007, p. 129). When not teaching, teachers assume yet more responsibilities by “contributing to the curriculum, analyzing results based on sound indicators, and being live-long learners” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007, pp. 155-166). Undeniably, assessing teachers is complex given that much depends on how the academic leader creates the environment for interactive, diverse, and open discourse to occur. The academic leader, therefore, accepts a special role and responsibilities when integrating communal expectations with the personal needs and interests of the teachers as well as the students.

An academic leader holds responsibilities that are distinct from those typically found among teachers. The following strategies, for example, are actions one should take followed by others that one should not take:

Do...

  • Use humor.

  • Include all teachers and content areas.

  • Explain strategies briefly and then give participants a chance to practice or observe them.

  • Explain strategies briefly and then give participants a chance to practice or observe them.

  • Build from teachers' existing work.

  • Present yourself as a continual learner.

  • Include samples of student work.


Do not...

  • Talk too much.

  • Talk and then ask, ‘Any questions?’

  • Present too many strategies.

  • Focus solely on the leader's own classroom” (Margolis, 2009).


Moreover, academic leaders conduct a gap analysis (i.e., the different between the ideal or vision and reality) then set professional development efforts that are devoted to closing this gap (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007). The knowing-doing gap alludes many school organizations, enough to claim that most educators know how to improve schools but lack the resolve to carry it through (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, 2008).

Assessing the development of teachers takes into account the different types of learning within a learning ecology. “Formal learning, experience, mentoring, performance support, self-learning, community-based learning and informal learning” that collectively make up a learning ecology (Siemens, 2006) are the pathways for educators to increase their knowledge and pedagogical skill set. Academic leaders channel these pathways such that teachers can continue to become more effective and efficient curriculum experts, analysis to school results, and life-long learners. As an example, teachers may need training on entering various online communities such as Classroom 2.0 (2011) where they may begin connecting with other teachers from similar educational contexts. Teachers may also contribute to WikiEducator by developing professional development projects around certain subject areas such as teaching English to students of other languages (Stewart, 2010). Contributing to wikis can serve as a mentoring program that promotes cooperative and collaborative interaction between the mentor and mentee. Finally, online Moodle classes (Stewart, 2011) can help academic leaders to support experienced-based collaboration and support for those teachers who are offering a blended or distance-learning course to students.

Academic leaders can assess development needs by promoting teacher leaders. The following are five primary ways that teachers can function as leaders in a school:

  1. Train and provide staff development for other teachers

  2. Coach and mentor other teachers

  3. Develop and write curriculum

  4. Be decision makers and leaders of school-making teams

  5. Serve as members of teams, committees, task forces, or quality circles” (McEwan, 2003, p. 104).


Distributed leadership then shifts responsibilities to those who have the “will, expertness, temperament, and skills” (Sergiovanni, 2005) and is not bound to one’s position, rank, or status. Moving teachers from being dependent to independent to interdependent educators centers on building formative assessment measures that arise from frequent contact and open communication throughout the learning community (i.e., learning network). The three-minute walk-through (Downey, Steffy, Poston, & English, 2009) allows for frequent dialogs between supervisor and teacher as a means for reflection on action. Instead of traditional observations that judge a teacher’s performance at a single point in time, observing and giving feedback that leads to some future change in behavior or perspective is at the heart of what formative assessment sets out to achieve. Ideally, open collaboration between teachers and academic leaders permits the learning progression to flourish as teachers are encouraged to take risks and share personal experiences related to current teaching practices.

Networking leadership entails a shift in rationality. A clockwork I theory of management holds that leadership requires a top-down directive as to what and how people should work (i.e.,ends-ways-means approach); whereas a clockwork II theory of management asserts that people are rational only when working cooperatively and collaboratively through open communication (i.e., means-ways-ends approach) (Sergiovanni, 2005). Rational people strategic plan through a linear process that might include the following nine steps: (a) “identify common beliefs, (b) identify the organization's vision, (c) identify the organization’s mission, (d) formulate policies, (e) conduct external analysis, (f) conduct internal analysis, (g) state objectives, (h) develop and analyze alternative strategies, and (i) design action plans” (Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2007, pp. 234-235). Similarly, as in the case of technical rationality, there would be an a priori agreement exists regarding ends (Schon, 1983) such that a consensus (and possibility conformance) would be established and stated in terms of being “shared” (e.g., shared mission, shared vision, etc.). An alternative is a networked approach that better accounts for the unpredictability of human behavior. Properties such as connections and contagion that establish the structure and function of social networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009), reflecting-in-action (Schon, 1983), and other divergent notions subscribe to a leadership rationality that is both top down and bottom up.

Professional development that is emergent evolves through an ongoing pursuit of action research. In order for teacher development to emerge, academic leaders establish a learning environment such that “human flourishing, practical issues, knowledge-in-action, and participation and democracy” (Reason & Bradbury, 2008, p. 5) influence each other. The goals of action research are generally two fold: (a) “improving practice or developing individuals” and (b) “transforming practice and participants” (Herr & Anderson, 2005, p. 9). Through a cyclical process that involves problem setting (i.e., establishing research questions), a review of the literature as it pertains to problem setting and solving, taking action, and reflecting on both past and future actions (Jaipala & Figga, 2011), a praxis approach to teaching is much like what the field of applied linguistics seeks to do with teaching language learners. A praxis approach in the area of applied linguistics can be viewed by reflecting on the following question: “How can theory, no matter how global its claims, be interpreted so as to be relevant to local circumstances?” (Widdowson, 2010, p. 10). It is precisely the merging of theory and practice that drives professional development improvements which can only be achieved through ongoing, open discourse that celebrates diverse and perspectival discussions of actions taken as well as changes in personal beliefs and opinions.

Supervision in Practice

Hiring new teachers at a new school permits academic leaders to get to know the teacher candidates' personal beliefs about teaching and learning, their personal accounts of past experiences in the classroom and as a life-long learner, and their overall attitude or habits of mind as they pertain to what they know and what they can (or cannot) do. The hiring process would include a written exam, a mock class, and would end with an interview. The final interview gives teacher candidates the opportunity to explain further their perspective based on what they shared in the written exam as well as during the mock class, along with other topics related to them as a learner. The grade levels include teachers who wanted to teach high school band (levels 10, 11, and 12 grade learners) and the objective is to hire a music director and an assistant music director.

The hiring process begins by administering a written exam. The written exam tests for levels of understanding related to music theory, musical instruments, and what-if scenarios that would require candidates to express opinions on typical instances they might face in the classroom. The what-if scenarios would be based on the art and science of teaching (Marzano, 2007) which might include questions like the following:

  1. What would you do to establish and communicate learning goals, track student progress, and celebrate the successful interpretation of a musical piece?

  2. What would you do to help students effectively interact with a musical piece, the composer, and the learners themselves?


All questions in the written exam would also relate to the various myths (Zmuda, 2010) that lead to misunderstandings about teaching and learning. And finally, the written exam would cover the candidate’s understanding of the common core state standards (2011) and how common assessments in music might “potentially use the novice-expert continuum to chart student progress toward the higher levels of cognitive functioning...” (Conley, 2011). Once the written exam is completed and has been graded, a mock class would be scheduled.

Various techniques would be used to evaluate the mock class. Candidates would be required to submit a lesson plan beforehand to explain the objective of the class, to anticipate problems that learners might face, and to present a rationale for implementing chosen activities. A rubric would be used to measure a variety of criteria such as teacher presence, student engagement, and general flow of the class. The class would also be videotaped so that further reflection and analysis could be made. Possible interview questions would be generated based on the results of the written exam and what was observed during the mock class in order to better understand the candidate’s perspective and understanding.

The interview would bring all prior information about the candidate together so that the hiring committee would be in a better position to ask more appropriate questions related to what the teacher knows, can do, and beliefs pertaining to overall disposition. The recorded class would provide context to questions related to teaching practice, and the results from the written exam would serve to inquire about possible gaps in understanding. Knowing how the candidate feels about learning in the 21st century would also help communicate to the hiring committee the importance of life-long learning given the ubiquity of web tools available (e.g., wikis, blogs, websites, learning management systems, etc.). For example, candidates who know how to cultivate their own personal learning networks demonstrate how a on-demand support can lead to becoming a better learner. Videlicet, how a musical director interacts with other musical directors through musical contests, online communities, and workshops can help promote better understandings and teaching practices that ultimately lead to higher student achievement.

Part of implementing a written test, mock class, and follow-up interview is to measure the developmental needs of the individuals to be hired. Once the musical director and assistant director have been hired, further supervision will be needed so that mission and vision statements, values, and school goals are communicated and followed through. Simply, it should be understood between musical director and academic leader (e.g., principal, curriculum designer, etc.) what should be taught, how it should be taught, and what authentic literacy is present (Schmoker, 2011). This might include a discussion about what musical pieces are being prepared, how students are preparing for the pieces, and how many public concerts will be performed. More generally, an understanding as to the role of arts in a students overall development would help assure that students are getting a well-rounded education and that students are given the opportunity to excel in a variety of ways.

Goal and problem-setting for the musical director and the assistant director orientates professional development efforts that not only adheres to the mission and vision of the school but also helps motivate teachers to reach personal achievements as well. A mentoring program includes both inhouse faculty and outside faculty and provides the means for reflective practice to germinate through participatory action research (PAR). PAR thus becomes the standard process by which all professional development endeavors originate, heeding to an open discourse that is acceptable to diversity, interaction, and autonomy. Goal and problem-setting is a manifestation of open discourse within a learning ecosystem. And as a person (e.g., musical director) adapts to the environment, so too might a teacher adapt a goal or problem. Therefore, teacher supervision becomes a reflective journey between administrators and teachers ascribed more to how and why a goal or problem exist than simply what the goal is in and of itself. The role of the supervisor is to direct, facilitate, and coach each teacher so that reflective practice leads to becoming a better teacher and not simply associating certain traits concerning being a successful teacher.

As a supervisor guides teachers from dependency to independency on to interdependency, the tendency is to think in terms of professional development as a means to being a good teacher. But in a dynamic system such as one found in a school district, it is the act of becoming that is vital. Depending on the situation, most teachers may be the expert or novice at any given time, to the degree that even labeling teachers as dependent may not be helpful from a supervisory standpoint. Academic leaders are at their best when they can recognize the circumstances that result in teachers being dependent, independent, or interdependent and then to create a discourse that either leads them to becoming more interdependent or finds ways to take advantage of a teachers interdependency in new and innovative ways relating to leadership. As Hillary Rodham Clinton boast that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a becoming and capable teacher.

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I Don't Want More Professional Development

I Don't Want More Professional Development

After several failed attempts to post a comment to TeachPaperless, I decided to post here instead...

I believe we all should want more professional development (with no quotation marks).

Professional development or growth – learning - is personal (not social) and stems from social interaction for the most part. “Social development” is partly the (synergetic) result of personal development within the network and is partly the influence the network has on the individual. The development of one’s personal learning network can be viewed as professional development, but also can be too vague to have much meaning. Forming relationships, for example, does not automatically equate to professional development unless there is a formal system that links what an educator knows and what an educator can do to an improvement in student achievement.

The formal system that links what an educator knows and can do to higher student achievement is participatory action research (PAR). PAR allows educators the opportunity to goal/problem set, take action, collect data, and reflect on past actions and project on future actions. PAR bridges theory and practice in that it can tie general theory to a local context or vice versa. PAR sharing in particular is helpful to those professionals who work at a school or organization since typically missions and vision statements must be met as well.

“The world is not professional. The world -- at least our communal experience of it and of one another -- is social.”

I would argue that the world is made up of professionals as in those who work for a living, but I would also add that some people have vocations (a calling) as well. Learning is personal (not social) and occurs by connecting with people and constantly reflecting on the way information and experiences flow between these connections in a way that best suits the individual and society as a whole.