Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Getting the most out of our professional learning matters because schools are shelling out time, money, and resources for their educators to get better in their practice, and, ultimately, to make teaching and learning better for kids. But are we getting–at least–a fair return on our investments?

We’ve all been there.

That professional learning opportunity that was advertised as a training. The time was supposed to be tailored to your level and differentiated to your needs. In fact, your presence in the shared experience would be considered an honor. Investing your time–and learning from the best–will make your life better and your craft easier.

Anticipation mounts, and you’re already feeling special by receiving those endearing reminders with cute graphics. You are the one now feeling honored–just for having the event on your calendar.

Finally, the online session, workshop, or webinar begins. You’re connected, and the experts are smiling. This is going to be awesome. Let’s do this!

How Some Professional Learning Happens

Two or three experts launch their webinar by introducing themselves and touting their resumes, products, services, agendas, and ideas. Nineteen seconds have elapsed.

Then, the show starts. Take cover, y’all!

Immediately the experts start firehosing information at you at lightning speed and it’s one new thing and then it’s another cool thing and it’s not letting up and you think it’s gushing from a good place and you’re doing your best to take it in because you don’t want to be disrespectful to the group and ask for a repeat so you still smile but you were promised time to process–practice–apply on the spot and ask questions from the experts and from each other and you thought they cared about you and it’s not what you expected or what was advertised and we’re moving on because we have no time we’re almost done no questions we’re done they said they wanted to respect everyone’s time and they’ll share the link so I can go back to watch it later but I never have time to do that wanted to do that in this hour.

Ten minutes have elapsed. So far. You feel yourself slowly shutting down.

Other thoughts creep in:

  • Relationship: Why does this feel so impersonal all of the sudden? Does anyone even know my name?
  • Purpose: Is this about the product or is it about people? The product will be obsolete in a few months or years, but I’ll always be here to serve students. How am I getting better my for learners?
  • Meaning: Can I use this in my classroom tomorrow? Is this directly related to my standards and instruction? How can I apply this to help kids and their learning in meaningful ways?

Finally, you’re done. I mean, the training isn’t done–there’s still 45 minutes to go–but you’re done.

Huge misunderstandings. Learning opportunities lost. Here’s…

Why This Professional Learning May Not Work

When information is put on you without time to process, reflect, and apply–that’s not a training–that’s a presentation. It was never about you. It wasn’t about your students. Or even learning. It was about their ideas. It was about making you familiar with their products so you can do their marketing. The presenters don’t know you, your kids, or your circumstances. They don’t care about making your life easier. They care about making their lives better.

It’s not personal–It’s business.

When we get time to apply and do professional learning during training, we construct meaning, associate learning with a memorable experience, and can later recall and transfer our knowledge to new opportunities.

Unfortunately, many professional learning experiences don’t feature times for meaningful processing, doing, applying, and reflecting.

How We Can Make This Professional Learning Better

This is how we can re-DO the webinar hour:

  • Meaningful Delivery Format:
    • 10 Minutes: New Learning
    • 5 Minutes: Process: Ask questions. Record reflections.
    • 5 Minutes: Practice one or two examples in whole group.
    • 5 Minutes: Apply: DO the learning–right there on the spot–by creating examples that apply directly to your needs.
    • 5 Minutes: Share with whole group. Reflect.
    • Done (30 Minutes) OR Repeat this cycle ONE time (60 Minutes).

In the ocean of shared learning experiences, the ebb cannot out-tide the flow. In a world with excessively-forced stimuli, tsunamis are not wanted. In a current of roaring rapids, let’s create more dams, eddies, and oases.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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