Professional development (PD) is a continuous, connected, and unique journey of sharing, learning, creating, implementing, reflecting and revising, that is fueled by your passion, purpose, and whys. It is grounded in the core beliefs of uniqueness, confidence, and the ability to continuously use and share new learning effectively and meaningfully to authentically meet the unique needs of learners and the workplace. In education, our ultimate goal is to unleash and develop young learners’ full potential and prepare them to become successful, productive and creative way beyond the face-to-face or virtual classroom. Therefore, professional development in education is the medium for gaining the evolving knowledge and skills needed to develop lifelong innovative and adaptive learners by providing them with enduring, rigorous, applicable, and real-world learning experiences so they can make a unique impact in our world. Whether you are a leader of students or educators, this blog will provide you with some insightful ideas for making professional development a continuous, connected, and unique journey.
Introspection – Understanding Yourself
Before “attending” professional development, it is important to spend time engaging in introspection to dig deep and understand yourself as an educator. Find those soul-searching and honest facts about your values, integrity, beliefs, strengths, talents, drive, purpose, mindset, whys, learning styles, confidence level, and your limitations and areas for growth. Use a way that works best for you and one that you will reference often to document your thoughts. Some ideas are creating a picture, poem, infographic, keeping a journal or even creating a website.
Along your professional journey you might face challenges that cause you to deviate from your true beliefs and get lost in the one-size-fits-all expectations and others’ limitations. You may be afraid that if you do not do as everyone else does, you will not be assessed as a great collaborator. However, to help young and adult learners reach their fullest potential, you must understand your purpose and stay grounded in sharing the ideas and strategies you gained and know will generate excellence.
Identify Goals and Choose Goal-Aligned Professional Development Opportunities
To get the most out of professional development, it is important to have personal and professional knowledge-use goals. Knowledge-use goals are focused on knowledge attainment, creation, and continuous and meaningful implementation, and they provide direction and purpose for attending professional development. Some personal professional development goals could be to find ways to represent, implement, and share new or previously gained pedagogical strategies. Other professional development workplace goals are linked to school and district improvement plans, such as increasing literacy in math and data meaningfully, and others that are aligned to educators’ and students’ needs. Take time to determine these needs and make them into knowledge-use goals. Prioritize your goals to make sure you are addressing the most urgent needs first, or simultaneously.
It is important to choose and attend PD sessions that align with your goals and meet yours and very importantly your educators’ and students’ needs. Modern professional development structures provide differentiated sessions. Explore session descriptions thoroughly to make sure the ones you choose align with your goals.
Engage in Other Types of Professional Development
When we think of professional development, we generally think of those conventional sessions, paid or unpaid, that have been formally organized and planned for us. These are great, but never underestimate the profound impact of other types of professional development sessions that also keep us up to date in our profession, and profoundly impact our goals. These include, selecting and reading newsletters, ChatGPT information, blogs, and articles, engaging in research, watching coaching and teaching videos, being part of professional learning networks that share and support innovative ideas and beliefs, artifacts, and very importantly engaging in intellectual goal-oriented discussions. Engaging in intellectual conversations with people in your network or even a family member who shares your passion is extremely impactful. I learned a lot from my wife, Melanie Gildharry about blended learning and adult learning principles by simply engaging in intellectual and exhilarating pedagogical conversations. I listened attentively and created a visual note in my mind until I could write down the main ideas that resonated with me. Being an inquiry-based and action-based learner, that note was not the end of my learning. I did additional research and created artifacts that I continue to use and share to this day.
Capturing Professional Development Ideas
Now that you have identified and prioritized your goals, and selected your professional development session, go into learning with your goals in mind. During your PD sessions, engage in active listening and visualization and capture ideas that resonate with you. Capturing ideas starts off with a mental note that is then transferred and documented in your note-taking space. While there are many note-taking techniques, it is especially important that you use a tool or format that works for you, and one that you are dedicated to referencing often.
During my 28 years in education, I have been dedicated to using notebooks and planners to document my thoughts during PD and meetings, which I transfer to a digital platform when I create artifacts. Some people choose to use digital tools to document their ideas, and that works too. Since professional development is a connected journey, you will find yourself capturing ideas related to previously explored pedagogical strategies. This is great! It shows you understand the connectedness of professional development.
Metacognition and Ideation-Prototyping
Whether you engage in conventional or non-conventional professional development, your time is only meaningfully spent when the great ideas you documented in your note-taking space are put into action. Putting your ideas into action involves metacognition, ideation-prototyping, and ongoing implementation with actionable reflection. Metacognition is “thinking about your thinking”, a concept that was originated by John H. Flavell. At the metacognition stage you spend time thinking about the ideas you wrote down by sorting, connecting to others gained in previous PD sessions, aligning ideas to goals, and thinking about how and where to use them so you can authentically impact learning.In the ideation-prototyping stage, you generate, develop, and create those out-of-the-box unique and meaningful strategies and artifacts using ideas from the metacognition stage. Your ideation-prototype creations need to be authentic, meaningful to the needs of your target group, aligned with goals and guided by your beliefs and the difference you want to make. Some professional development ideation-prototype creations can be a movement to learn or a representing learning activity, an adult learning coaching cycle model, a blog, video, or any other impactful artifacts.
Ongoing Implementation with Actionable Reflection
If you have taken time to engage in all the stages mentioned in the previous sections in this blog and created excellent artifacts, but stopped right before the ongoing implementation stage, then you have wasted time engaging in PD. Ongoing implementation with actionable reflection is one of the most powerful steps in making the most out of professional development. You must implement the movement or representing learning activity, the adult learning coaching cycle model or the blog or video you created.
Implementation is not a one-time process or practice. Excellence in implementation is obtained from reflecting on the effectiveness and authenticity of the implemented strategy. So ongoing reflection that results in revision is needed to improve effectiveness, personalize learning, and capitalize on each learner’s strength. Revision here does not mean continuously revamping your artifacts or strategy. There comes a time when you must balance change with the stability of your foundational ideas and creations to have successful implementation and let young or adult learners chart the path. At times, revision could just be finding ways to give learners more autonomy.
Educators, the destination of professional development is a continuous, connected, and unique journey. Embark on this journey knowing that you have the talent and power to make a unique difference.
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