Sunday, March 7, 2010

PD definition yawn

Tedium alert: This posting is being done for a course requirement on The Most Boring Subject in the World, "professional development". So if you were maybe beginning to the think that you might want to see what it's about, well...

The National Staff Development Council (yes, there is one! And my my brain fogs over and I start looking at my inbox to see what needs to be cleared out) created this definition of PD for the No Child Left Behind (sic) law:
The term “professional development” means a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement...
[BTW: if you need help with intelligent-sounding phrases to spice up your PD, here's a useful tool: Education Jargon Generator]

Per the definition, PD should be aligned (check), conducted by well-prepare people (umm check), based on teacher and student performance data (hmm -- when I see these words I look around to see who is swinging the ax), goal-oriented (check), regularly assessed for effectiveness (check), and informing continuous improvement in teaching (check).

Which all sounds very good as defining concepts. The real challenge comes in trying to successfully implement PD.

The concept of continuous process improvement comes out of the automobile industry and W. Edwards Deming's ideas about quality control. One of the radical concepts in his management ideas is the idea of treating production workers as human beings with ideas and opinions and pride in their work. See the Wikipedia summary of Deming's Key Principles for an idea of what he was on about.

A problem arises when the exhortations to improve conflict with an adversarial, even antagonistic relationship between workers (that would be us, the teachers), and management (pick whatever level of administration you want). If one side is expected to change, and the other side isn't, trouble is on the horizon. Why are just the teachers and staff fired when a school is supposedly failing? Why not the school board, the CEO or superintendent or the administration? When the resources aren't there to support either the PD itself, or to implement what you have learned, nothing is going to happen. If everyone is convinced that they are in fact on the same boat, and rowing in the same direction, and not stuck in steerage or the engine room, then good things are possible.

Anyway, talk is cheap. The NSDC definition is fine, and the idea of continuous improvement is good. But they can only work if there is a sense of a future, of common purpose, of shared reward. All of which seem to be lacking at CPS right now. No matter what you have this year, there will be less of it next year.



Russ' said...

One more group needs to be held responsible...parents!

Technology and the Arts in Education said...

Good post Jim. I always feel like the finger gets pointed at the wrong people. In this case they take it out on the people doing the most amount of work to help the students learn. Yet again another example of the hardworking guys getting the "shaft" so to speak and those in charge flying under the radar. I agree with with Russ' comment as well. The parents have to be responsible for the child's education. Not just in school but out of school to. Parents do not spend enough time caring about what their child is doing. Things will never chang until that happens.