Why Professional Development Is Failing

I'm not sure if that Venn diagram makes any sense, but it's been on all morning. I keep hearing people say that we need more professional development or better professional development. Often, this simply means, "we need more training." 

Schools have slowly embraced a model of job-embedded PD. We're seeing more coaches helping teachers make necessary paradigm shifts. 

And yet . . . 

The inertia remains, in part, because of bad policies. Here's what I mean:
  • Training teachers on project-based learning and then requiring a rigid curriculum map with weekly standardized tests
  • Encouraging collaboration, discourse and problem-solving in math and then judging student and teacher performance based upon isolated, standardized, computation-driven math tests
  • Promoting innovation, but telling teachers that they have to use the prescribed textbook on a daily basis. I've heard "it's okay to supplement but not supplant the curriculum"
The bottom line is that often teachers know great strategies and have even made paradigm shifts toward a constructivist style. However, the policies have not changed to give teachers the permission to do what's best. That's why when you see cool things happen, it's often subversive and teacher-led. It's the rebels who are saying, "Screw it. I'm doing this. They can fire me if they have to." 






John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler.
He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard
and the co-founder of Write About .

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