Ricardo Fox and Maurice Rehu
In this article we will explore the morphing we have seen of professional development based on the changes that we have seen in our classes and schools with the introduction of Technology.
To begin with we will focus on the 3 key aspects of teacher learning.
Professional Development - the acquisition of skills and knowledge, both for professional development and for career advancement - normally completed by an external expert who imparts knowledge to others.
Professional Learning - what educators do on a daily basis by working together, sharing ideas, and strive to improve student outcomes - normally completed as an individual or group cooperatively within a school.
Professional Collaboration - this is a global process of sharing knowledge and information that is synchronous - where sharing is completed instantaneously online or in person together, and asynchronous - where knowledge is held in the cloud and teachers can meet and work outside the constraints of time and place of a network.
It is having a clear understanding of the 3 teacher learning models to understand the impact we have had at being at the forefront of education with the integration of technology.
Professional development is still the single major contributor in New Zealand schools, with regards, to the development of teacher knowledge. We receive countless seminars in the mail and e-mail for teachers to take part professional development to learn about a range of different learning technique, styles and programmes. Universities are the main providers of this in New Zealand. In the past the base knowledge of teacher education has been on the content knowledge of the teacher (Shulman, 1986). While Shulman has some important points of the past teacher knowledge, it is still important that teachers have the opportunity to travel and listen to educational experts. It is important that teachers take part in professional development. We have to acknowledge that it is vital for teachers who take part in professional development to transition what they learn from the external advisor to their own pedagogical journey, not just replicate it word for word into their own programme. In New Zealand we have an open curriculum where teachers have the power to be the most creative and amazing individuals they can be. Professional development is positive and contributes to professional learning and collaboration if teachers implement it into their own pedagogy.
Today teachers development has changed its focus to pedagogy on classroom practices (Ball & McDiarmid, 1990). We are now finding experts in our many schools and have found that professional learning conversations are common place. They have been so for many years and as teachers we understand the importance of having these conversations. Since the 1990's, as Ball & McDiarmid discuss in their article, the focus has shifted to professional learning where educators on a daily basis work together, share ideas, and strive to improve student outcomes in their class and school. This is important as professional learning is often scaffolded off professional development. It is common place after attending a seminar or conference, when the morning tea and lunch is alive with talk and opinions on what educators have heard. We have a strong culture of reflectors in New Zealand - this is fact. Schools and Twitter are alive with educators "showing off" what there kids can do in there classrooms. It is neat and this is really exciting as we often get feedback from advisors, RTLB, lecturers, and many other people who are constantly visiting the many schools across New Zealand. We have identified through our collaboration that sharing is not always happening across schools. (Fox & Rehu, 2013)
Both professional development and professional learning are wonderful but also have their drawbacks. We hit two early snags in our collaboration journey and being at the forefront of technology integration.
1 - What do we do if professional development is not available?2 - How can we build professional learning to share with all schools?These were two fundamental floors when it came to our learning journey. We were faced with a problem. The New Zealand curriculum had allowed us to move so fast that teacher development and learning had hit a brick wall. It made us ponder - what do we do?
At the same time we had signed up to twitter and were seeing so many wonderful links teachers were posting about internal work they were doing. We managed to see the occasional presentation, but the minimal collaboration of sharing the nuts and bolts was just not there. We visited classrooms and felt we were seeing a show of one or two classrooms. This was great but not true reflection or a shared understanding where knowledge was being built or shared with others externally. What do we do?
The first step was identifying how we could fix these problems around teacher development. The brainchild was professional collaboration. The global process of sharing knowledge and information that is synchronous and asynchronous. In order to effect professional collaboration we had to reorganise the mindsets of the staff. We had to train the staff to build on previous professional development and professional learning. Staff had to be innovators and create new and exciting programmes and thoughts and ideas for others to copy and implement. For a teacher this is a huge leap in thinking. As principals we had to let the staff be creative with a blank canvas. For any leader this is a really difficult this to do. We also found early on that we needed to protect and copyright the intellectual property and programmes of the teachers while still being able to share content with the world.
The platform for collaboration was based on Association for Information and Image Management in America who's
mission is to ensure that information professionals understand the current and future challenges of managing information assets in an era of social, mobile, cloud and big data. Professional collaboration involves;
Awareness - We become part of a working entity with a shared purpose
Motivation - We drive to gain consensus in problem solving or development
Self-synchronisation - We decide as individuals when things need to happen
Participation - We participate in collaboration and we expect others to participate
Mediation - We negotiate and we collaborate together and find a middle point
Reciprocity - We share and we expect sharing in return through reciprocity
Reflection - We think and we consider alternatives
Engagement - We proactively engage rather than wait and see
the cycle of collaboration looks like;
The platform of this new learning is essential for those schools and teachers who are at the coal face of new learning in New Zealand. The process has not changed towards teacher learning but it has morphed. In 2014 we have committed to professional collaboration and will focus part 2 of this series around its outcomes.
Ball, D.L, & McDiarmid, G.W, (1990) the subject matter preparation of teachers. In R Houston (Ed.)
Fox, R.J, & Rehu, M.I, (2013) Singular Cells. Project Blue Sky Wiki.
AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), (2014) Collaboration. Website.