My colleague and I, who were recently awarded a “research grant” of sorts, are in Toronto these three days at our first official training session. Unlike the usual Board-level one-size-fits-all “professional learning” we have grown accustomed to, where PD is just “done” to us en masse, with little or no regard for differentiated learning needs or professional goals, this instructional innovation is a model of Fullan, Hill and Crevola’s context-based professional learning.
Of course there are procedures and guidelines to streamline the adminstration of the larger project (105 teams across the province are funded this year!) and ensure accountability of funds, but in general, there is a fairly high degree of trust and flexbility, that was made very clear on our first evening of training together.
Further, we are treated as professionals, recognized for not only our commitment, but also our competence and our collective experience. (I was amazed at how many teachers in the room had been teaching for more than 15 years.) We are fed, put up in a decent hotel, and given enough release time to attend a proper, well-timed training session. Opportunities for learning from our colleagues is built into the program; there is an assumption that everyone at the table has something valuable to share (they do!) and this reality is honoured in the construction of the three-day training session.
Wireless Internet access is provided throughout the sessions in recognition that keeping in touch professionally and personally are important in an adult learning model, as is the ability to immediately Google something of interest in a session and/or tweet, blog or otherwise communicate new learning as it happens.
Material is shared in both an auditory and visual manner; in addition to bilingual ppt presentations, an ASL interpreter stands at the front of the room and does her thing whenever someone is speaking.
Choice is built into the three-day session; in addition to some full group, mandatory sessions, several carousels are built into program, allowing participants to choose from a selection of relevant and professionally diverse topics.
A differentiated approach to support is also taken: We are invited to email individual leaders for clarification on any number of matters, and an e-networking site has been set up where we can dowload forms and share ideas and questions electronically; A hard copy list of projects by topic, and affiliated team leaders, is shared for those of us who prefer to network in person. A variety of workshops is offered for those who want to learn more about anything from presentation style to budgeting to conflict resolution.
It is, in essence, what the ideal learning community looks, sounds and feels like: The TLLP has provided high quality speakers and workshops, choice in determinig learning path, a variety of support options, and a meeting of basic needs like food, water and shelter during our time together!
In a time when the media, the governement and teacher federations are gearing up for an ugly battle over expiring collective agreements across the province, I feel very lucky to be a part of this positive and dedicated team of educator-learners!