The Learning Accelerator Blog/Next Gen Professional Development (Part 1)

professional development

Next Gen Professional Development (Part 1)

by Jon Corippo on August 30 2017

“Professional development” has a negative connotation for many teachers. In other professions, professionals are hungry for training on the latest techniques, mindset, and tactical approaches. NASCAR Pit Crews get training. If they fail to get a tire changed in seconds, it’s a major public event.

If you are a professional marketer, you attend events like InBound 2017 and willingly pay a lot of money to stay in front of the pack, because results are the lifeblood of marketers.

If you are in the military, events like MILCOM have Continuing Ed credits. Learning never stops. Because lives are on the line.

To become an NFL-ready official, you attend the NFL Officiating Development Program, after completing the Football Officiating Academy. (see the pyramid) Only the best trained and most passionate get to step on the field.

NFL Officiating Pyramid, listing football officiating academy (FOA) grassroots initiative at the bottom, intermediate NFL scouting and development program above that, then advanced NFL scouting and development program above it, with NFL official at the top of the pyramid

The NFL Officiating pyramid.

You can guess the point of sharing these non-educational examples. In one’s chosen trade (or just as importantly, one’s avocation), state-of-the-art skills matter. State-of-the-art mindsets matter. Connections with industry professionals matter.

So, why the different perception of professional development in education? One example I always think of is this one-minute YouTube clip of educators being forced to repeat lock-step instructions in a way that is completely antithetical to what education should be like. I cannot imagine being subjected to “development” like this for ten minutes, much less a six hour time period. It’s mind-numbing and an insult to professionals who should be working on honing the art and science of education.

Teachers sitting at desks in classroom, looking at front of class

I’ve been in professional events that consisted of a “trainer” reading slides and clicking on boxes in SIS, accounting, and assessment tools more times than I’d like to count. In the end, most of us leave these events with a very small set of skills and a desire for a Venti latte to defog our brains. Think I’m kidding? How about sitting in a one hour session about snakebite and animals on campus with 100+ teachers? Did that have to be 100 people hours face-to-face? Or could there be a better way?

In 2006, I was accepted to help out in a week long PD Camp by what I consider to be an accident. I called to see if an event I had enjoyed was going to repeat the following Summer. They offered me a chance to lead. I immediately said yes - and I have a very clear memory of my first thoughts when I hung up: I’m going to have my folks MAKING things, just like my students in class. We are going to have choices, skill levels, and variety. My goal was to share mindset and skills, not just have a binder to take notes in.

As a chimera of sorts, I’ve spent the next eleven years as part classroom teacher, part administrator, and part worldwide PD leader. I’ve been lucky to deliver dozens and dozens of PD days over the last 11 years and I’ve been able to see what really works, in terms of helping educators to truly improve their craft.

In my short time at CUE, I’ve been able to assist in leading PD events for over 30,000 educators. It’s not always perfect, no PD can be, but we’ve gotten very high evaluation ratings (typically in the low 90% range) and our CUE Launch events which are very rigorously tracked by Google have some of the highest worldwide pass rates for the three-hour long Google Educator Level 1 exam. We’ve deployed over 225 educators (many of them for multiple events) in the last year tolead PD for educators, by educators. We’ve also had many calls to return and engage in long-term development - and that’s the very best result possible.

What is the recipe for this kind of impact in educational professional development? It is actually relatively simple: There must be a focus on upskilling the attendees in a context that makes the learning immediately applicable. There must be fun. Any work lacking fun becomes an #Edugulag very quickly. The training must include passion and vision. Attendees need to be able to choose options they can relate to. The trainer must be an expert in the real world applications and processes they lead, and ideally they are from a similar grade range or subject area. We ask our Lead Learners to be very forward about connecting with the attendees via social media - specifically for the purpose of establishing an ongoing connection. Personally, I offer free lifetime tech support - and I’m quite serious about that offer.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing more details and anecdotes about how these “ingredients” come together to accomplish what is a nearly universal desire in education: How to be as educationally effective as possible.

Opinions presented in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent TLA's opinion, nor should be considered an endorsement by TLA of any organization or product.

About the Author

Jon Corippo is the Interim Acting Director of CUE. Any opinions expressed within this blog are those of the author and not necessarily held by The Learning Accelerator.