G9 Professional Development and Awards - US Army - 092111

PD Is Often Not Good. Is EdCamp The Solution?

contributed by Dawn Casey-Rowe

According to Macmillan, professional development means “the process of obtaining the skills, qualifications, and experience that allow you to make progress in your career.”

This is something that is often missing from teacher professional development days. Sometimes, the offerings make no sense, and other times they border on absurd. Who hasn’t heard the jokes about the PD “lecture in differentiated instruction?”

I’d like to do a short series examining a specific, helpful, or innovative type of professional development, digging in to see if we can make PD a better place. Ideally, we’d like to see PD be organic, worthwhile, energizing–something that we look forward to between sessions. Professional development should be individual, differentiated, and geared toward the interests and intentions of the learner.

Sure, sometimes there is some PD that everyone must experience together, but when that occurs it shouldn’t be a substitute for Ambien or Lunesta or mistaken for a meditation session. The sessions should model the way we want our classes to be taught–they should be engaging and motivating. We can’t talk about good teaching if we don’t model it for our own learning.

The Edcamp: Professional Development’s Holy Grail

Edcamp is the Holy Grail of differentiated professional development. In EdCamp, there is no agenda. There is a blank board at the beginning of the day with time slots and corresponding locations. Participants gather around the board and post sticky notes as to what what they’d like to discuss, present, or learn about on the board. People with similar ideas place their note in overlapping time slots, and often people can be seen rearranging their slots because “it’s the same time as that one, and I want to go to that one…”

Then, when the board is filled, people snap pictures and write down the titles of the sessions and attend the ones they want. Sometimes I overhear groans of disappointment, “I really want to go to both of those but they’re at the same time,” followed by collaborative solutions, “Hey, you go to that one and I’ll do this one, and we can tweet about them.”

Read more in What Is Edcamp? An Overview For Teachers

Image attribution flickr user familymwr