Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PD for Teachers!

While reading twitter,  @dougpete mentioned an article from the National Post by Tristin Hopper called “Is the PD Day Broken? Professional Development Days May Do Little to Improve Teaching.” It talks about Bill Whelan’s  (a Medical Physicist at the University of P.E.I.)  recommendation as co-chair of a one year commission tasked with modernizing P.E.I.’s school system. His prominent call was for PD reform! He told the P.E.I. Ministry of Education to have a “long, hard look at PD, or ‘professional development,’ days.” Hopper’s article,  continues to share what he learned about PD in B.C., Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan & the Yukon, all comments suggested that many teachers/administrators are unhappy with PD days provided in their province.

Whelan did look at a report from a team of Stanford researchers at education systems in Singapore and Finland, two countries that rank at the top of the charts in student aptitude. He found that a lot more time was spent away from the classroom than North American teachers. Teachers in Helsinki spend 40% of their time “analyzing lessons, meeting with students and going over new teaching methods.” Stanford’s recommendation for the U.S. was that schools needed a massive surge of resources into PD. Whelan’s final recommendation for P.E.I. PD for teachers was to build: ‘at-the-elbow’ coaching, weekly collaboration meetings and to allow for teachers to watch a more experienced colleague at work.

This leads me to the project that my colleague and I are working on with the Ontario Ministry of Education. It’s the ‘Teacher Learning and Leadership Program” (TLLP) and it is an annual project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers. In the fall of 2010, we wrote a proposal centred around “inquiry-based learning and teaching with technology,”  that the Ministry approved and we began in the spring of 2011.

Our TLLP project has been the “Best Job-Embedded Professional Development” that any teacher could ever dream of. We built our own budget around the costs of reaching our project goals, including time for research, time for planning, and going over new teaching methods.  The TLLP recognized our experience and professionalism, thus providing us with the resource to help us solve problems that were particular to our classroom; student engagement and motivation!  It’s PD that is opposite to “One size fits ALL.”

Teacher PD

It’s ironic that our project is about student driven, “inquiry-based learning” since the TLLP has allowed us as teachers, to be inquiry learners…that is teacher driven not board/district driven. Our project included a budget that would cover supply teachers  for anyone interested in visiting our classroom, “a classroom in action” (  The response from teachers visiting our personally developed PD is “the best PD I’ve ever attended.”  It has been very rewarding for us, for visiting teachers, administrators and for our students. Our learning and effective practices have allowed our students to grow and learn in an “inquiry-based classroom” that have exceeded our expectations. Students are now, excited about coming to school and they are enthusiastic about learning.

Would this shift from a traditional style of teaching to an inquiry style of teaching,  have happened for us with a PD day at the school board/district level? Probably not! How do you engage in PD in your board/district? Could Canadian boards/districts model the Helsinki format for PD? I would love to hear how you meet personal PD, how your board/district provides PD and what you think would be the best way to offer Canadian teachers with PD that would make sure quality and effective practices are in place for our students to place at the top of the achievement charts.

Yours in Education,


1 comment:

  1. I agree Louise. If we are to move, to quote McKinsey, from Great to Excellent a couple of 'shifts' need to happen:
    Pedagogic practice shifts from content deliverer/keeper of knowledge to leader of inquiry/facilitator of learning.
    Professional practice shifts from "finding the best programme" to thinking about the effects and impacts of our practice.
    Collaboration shifts from sharing what we do to observing and teaching together.
    Professional learning shifts from "being given the strategy/tool" to researching/inquiring about pedagogic practices