Good professional learning – what is it like?

Over the past two weeks I have provided professional learning to teachers, received professional learning myself and worked with a group of very talented educators in discussing what good professional learning is. So I thought I should reflect upon professional learning further …

I’m currently enrolled in a Graduate Certificate of ICT Education. At the moment I’m doing a subject that focuses on electronic print media production (using Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign). At the last lecture I was extremely bored. I didn’t find the activities relevant or engaging. Basically I didn’t see the point of what we were doing.

But I’ve also delivered professional learning where the participants were bored and disengaged. Over February and March I have presented hands-on workshops on integrating Adobe Flash in classroom practice. One session was highly successful and one session was dismal.

The successful session had teachers buzzing with excitement. They couldn’t believe how easy it was to use Adobe Flash to make animations and amicably discussed how they would integrate this in their classrooms. The teachers who picked up the skills faster went off to make animations of their choice while other teachers continued to follow my instructions step-by-step. The two hours flew by and evaluations were positive.

The dismal session had bored teachers. They still actively participated but they were doing it so they wouldn’t appear rude. Most of the evaluations revealed the teachers were disengaged and didn’t see the workshop as worth their while.

So what did I do in the two sessions that gave such different outcomes?

According to a report by Education Services Australia for the Australian Government on ICT professional learning, there are several elements to good ICT professional learning, including a focus on student learning and relevance to classroom context.

In the successful session I ran the workshop for science teachers. Being a science teacher myself I have already explored ways of integrating Adobe Flash animations into the curriculum. I focused on using Adobe Flash as a tool for students to represent their understanding. I began with a discussion of students having difficulty conceptualising dynamic scientific processes such as chemical reactions and presented Adobe Flash animations as a strategy to help students to conceptualise these processes. Teachers then worked together to make an animation showing a neutralisation chemical reaction or an animation on a scientific process they were interested in. So in the third session there was a focus on student learning and it was relevant to the teachers’  classroom contexts. More importantly the software was taught not for the software’s sake, but as a way to enhance student learning.

This is where I went wrong in the dismal session, which was with teachers of technology and applied sciences. While I did mention that the teachers could use animations to show processes in recipes, I didn’t place enough focus on student learning or its relevance to the teachers’ classroom context. In other words I taught Adobe Flash for the sake of Adobe Flash.

This is where my uni course falls over as well. At the moment I’m learning Photoshop for the sake of Photoshop. However I wasn’t as polite as the teachers in the second session. I left the lecture and went to the bottle shop.

1 thought on “Good professional learning – what is it like?

  1. Could it have had something to do with relevance and background as well? I always assumed that Science teachers are more likely to have had some IT training in their degrees compared to the mix of disciplines you find in Technological and Applied Studies. What I’m trying to say is that is SOMETIMES about expertise and attitude of the people coming to the party. If they believe they will never be able to learn it, or can’t stretch ideas that far (we’ve never done that before), they won’t think it’s useful. Just stick to making a poster and sticking it up around the room (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I think).

    Relevance is important though. I have found many times that teachers get more excited about things they think are useful and effective (let’s not try and define those terms here, in the classroom; to make their jobs easier/more interesting as well as student learning.

    I get the feeling that relevance wasn’t your problem this time round . . .

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