Professional Learning That Makes a Difference!

We have all attended sessions in our professional development experiences at which we are energized by a topic, we travel back to our work place with the ideas flying around in our heads about the possibilities and the potential of what we have just heard…..and confront reality. Time and resource limitations, competing interests and needs, possible resistance from those who were not a part of the PD experience can each grind the great ideas to a shuttering halt.  We know that we can’t do it all, so how do we ensure that the professional development that we are a part of really makes a difference in our capacity to serve our students with excellence in education?

This past week I was very pleased to spend a short amount of time with a group of early childhood educators, early learning teachers, and principals who are focused on a Collaborative Inquiry project for early learning.  Through the collaborative model, these professionals were developing their understanding of how to best support their students by developing enabling environments which inspire purposeful play and establish opportunities for children to inquire and investigate in the early learning classroom.

There was an exciting energy and enthusiasm in this group of educators which have been developed over the course of many months of maintaining focus on this key element to their early learning program. The shared experiences, discussions and presentations have bonded them as a group and developed a true learning community that is making a permanent change in their instructional practice and has set up what I’m confident will be life-long professional relationships that will continue to pay dividends for years.

There will always be a need to have conferences and workshops that introduce us to new ideas . These sessions also allow us to meet others with shared interests and needs. Often, now, these opportunities for building awareness occur online as we learn about ideas from colleagues on Twitter, Facebook, and other networking sources. Consolidating the learning in person and online with colleagues leads to lasting change in teaching practice.

In-depth professional  learning takes time, commitment and focus. It requires an ongoing assessment component to ensure that it is making a difference in the success of students. The inquiry shifts and moves to meld with the learning needs of the participants. The outcome is a group of people who share a common understanding and a common passion for learning for children informed by solid research and clear data that demonstrates their success and moves them forward for their next steps in their journey.

Resources:

Kindergarten Makeover video from the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario

http://www.etfo.ca/Multimedia/Webcasts/Pages/KindergartenMakeover.aspx

ASCD Collaborative Inquiry: a great general overview

http://bit.ly/elnUB5

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