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Teacher LEARNing: What do we NEED and what can we DO for ourselves?

  1. The educational “culture” (or “educational literacy”) of a country can have a powerful effect on how individual educational leaders and institutions “see” (or don’t see) professional development – and whether or not they “walk-their-talk” when they say “people (meaning teachers) are our most important asset”! Turkey, like many other countries, does not do too well on that scorecard.

  1. The lack of real attention to the professional development of teachers within many institutions (and the lack of meaningful educational leadership) can lead to teachers themselves “switching off” – coming to view professional development as a “waste of time” or something they simply cannot manage to “fit into” their very busy schedules. People who commented on Aisha’s post whole-hearted agreed:

  2. The “examocracy mentality” still dominates school life – and undermines efforts to promote real learning in students (and teachers)

  3. School and university leaders do not have a clue what in-service training is

  4. “Flavour-of-the-month projects” that by their very nature do little to promote real teacher learning - distract from longer-term, meaningful projects

  5. Schools building their professional development opportunities around the freebies offered by publishers (“coursebook capitalists”) just end up offering irrelevant, cut n’ paste (or one-shot) workshops

  6. Conferences are a "waste of time" – used more as PR vehicles rather than opportunities for teacher learning

Don’t hold your breath waiting for this, Tony! I know – but forever the optimist, I have to believe that we can make some form of progress or improvement (if not a radical transformation of how we do business in teacher learning and professional development). A short while ago, I did a post on andragogy – and attempted to summarise many of the “needs” of adult learners. In retrospect, this could have been a list of the needs of teachers – in terms of the approach to professional development that works. I’ve re-worded it to reflect what might be a good start for educational leaders, if they want to get serious about real learning for teachers:

Teachers do NOT need: More stand-and-deliver, one-shot workshops that have little relevance to how they do business in the classroom!
Teachers need:
  1. to be involved in diagnosing and formulating their own learning needs

  2. to participate in setting their own learning and professional development goals

  3. to be involved in the planning their own learning opportunities

  4. to be in control of choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies

  5. to be encouraged to identify meaningful learning resources / materials

  6. to be seen as “proactive learners” (rather than “reactive trainees”)

  7. to feel that their experience and backgrounds are valued – and that they are respected as a “whole person”

  8. to learn in a “warm, friendly and informal climate” that provides for flexibility in the learning process

  9. guidance and support that maintains their motivation to learn and keeps them actively involved in their own learning 

  10. to know why they should bother to learn something

  11. opportunities to solve real-life (and school-based) problems (not be spoon-fed training content)

  12. opportunities to discover, critique and create

  13. to learn-by-doing and engage in active experimentation (and reflection on mistakes)

  14. “just-in-time” professional development (not the “just-in-case” variety)

  15. training support that is task-oriented and contextualised (rather than the “same-old, same-old” workshops)

  16. peer support and group-based activities, as well as individual attention from trainers

  17. to know that their needs form the basis of any PD programme and that self-direction is the core principle of these programmes

  18. to share responsibility for and take ownership of monitoring the progress of the learning experience

  19. to be involved in evaluating learning outcomes and measuring their success

  20. to experience a sense of progress towards their goals – and a sense of real learning and growth as professionals

Dream much, Tony? Come on – it’s a start. But, there’s also the option of doing it for ourselves – till then!