Saturday, March 10, 2012

Teacher Professional Development and Teacher In-servicing... is there a difference?

One of my colleagues asked me the other day when we would be receiving pd on our new curriculum. I quickly responded never... but we would be receiving in-servicing on the new curriculum before the end of the school year. To understand why I answered the question the way that I did I think I need to clarify how I define the two.

Teacher in-servicing involves learning about new curriculum that you will be teaching or a new technology that you have to use in your work. For example we will be introducing a new math course in level ii this year and all math teachers will be taken through that curriculum by a program implementation specialist. Next year we may be taken through how to use PowerSchool for entering grades, generating reports, etc... Those are examples of in-servicing. Those are things that are or will be prescribed by my employer. I have to do those things.

Teacher Professional Development is different. When I attend a webinar on the integration of CAS into teaching or read a book about teaching math using problem solving, then I am involved in teacher professional development.

The difference between the two lies within the choice that a teacher has. If an employer mandates it... I classify learning as in-servicing... if I, as a professional person, have a choice, then the learning is more professional development in nature.

Do the two blend and cross over? Of course! Is in-servicing often mislabeled as professional development... far too often unfortunately.

I often hear teachers say during district closeouts that they would like to do one session that is offered but their school or district is making their attendance at another mandatory. That is in-servicing, plain and simple. In fact, this mandating of sessions during what is, for other teachers, a professional development day, often leads to feelings of negativity and resentment. It is unfair simply because one teacher has the power to decide on their professional growth and one does not... all in the same day and venue.

Can in-servicing and professional development be one and the same. In the same session? The answer is yes. I recall the first year I taught in the arctic that one of us on staff had to do a troubleshooting with Macintosh computers course that was being offered during our pd in Rankin Inlet. A teacher had to do it... in-servicing for one of us... but I volunteered to be the teacher on our staff to do the course... professional development for me. It led to me learning about computer hardware, software, networking, troubleshooting, and the list goes on. It helped shape the teacher and technology geek I am today.

So if you are a person who organizes teacher pd or in-servicing and are reading this, I have some advice to offer.

1) If you are planning teacher pd, avoid sessions on implementing new curriculum. Those need to be scheduled at a different time, outside your pd day(s). Same goes for technology training needed for all teachers. Follow up sessions on new curriculum and technology are okay, not so much for initial sessions.

2) If you are including technology training in the pd day(s), and it is not needed for all teachers in all schools, solicit volunteers first. The teachers have the choice to get involved and will respond much more positively towards that training. Although the school or district requires someone be trained... in-servicing... the individual teacher will perceive it as pd.

3) Avoid making any sessions mandatory. During a teacher professional development day, let teachers choose what they will attend. That is not to say that attendance throughout the day should not be mandatory (perhaps attendance should be taken) but the important word here is choice...

To finish I would like to say that teacher in-servicing is important and essential in the teaching profession. My hope is that we give it its appropriate name and schedule it likewise... outside teacher professional development.


isadoresnook said...

Your points ring true Rick. There is a mispread misconception of what PD is. I attend TI webinars on my own time and sometimes they are "just in time." That is PD. The power comes from the desire to be learning the topic at your own pace. Too often I lose interest an hour into an in-service. The real learning happens when I leave and go home to explore. Nothing against the people that do the inservice but thats the way it is for me.

Niceteacher_ever said...

If older methods are more useful for learners in any subject ,we should use them. If web 2 tools are more helpful for us to enhance learners' understanding , then we should use them.

achievement gap