Friday, 27 April 2012

Is the PD Day Broken?

A recent article in the National Post, “Is the PD Day Broken?”, posed some interesting questions about how schools help teachers adapt to the future of education. This article made frequent reference to a report by Professor Bill Whelan for the Prince Edward Island Ministry of Education. Whelan was the co-chair of a provincial commission responsible for making recommendations about how the province could modernize its school system.

One of the commission’s 48 recommendations urged schools to “take a long hard look at professional development (PD) days as their effectiveness is questionable at best.” What the commission - as well as many parents and educators - object to is the isolated or random nature of PD days. In many cases, solitary PD days rarely connect to student learning or student improvement. In other cases, PD days focus overly on the latest fad or trend in education.

Whelan and his team concluded that the ideal professional development model “would see teacher training ramped up and built right into the school week.” Whelan adds that collaboration between master teachers with beginning teachers on a weekly basis should be an essential component of professional development. This collaboration would be enhanced if beginning teachers had time to observe the teaching practices of their more experienced colleagues. In his opinion, given the proper support, this type of job-embedded professional development would replace the traditional PD days.

So, what does this discussion about PD days have to do with our ongoing dialogue about personalized learning? Well, as has been observed in previous blog postings, the success of any personalized learning program is directly related to the training and development of teachers. Breaking the hold of the century-old, one-size-fits-all approach to classroom teaching is a monumental task, as it represents a fundamental rethinking of the way schools work. Change of this magnitude requires a systematic and sustained approach.

It is refreshing to hear that educators in other parts of Canada are arriving at this conclusion. More importantly, it lets us know that the innovative work being done here at Greenwood has merit and meaning.

Allan Hardy

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