Designing Professional Development


I’ve just completed another day with the establishment team at Albany Senior High School – this time assisting with the planning of their programme of professional development for the team of new staff they have appointed and who will be coming together in term four to prepare for the first intake of students at the beginning of 2009.

So it was with interest that I read a discussion forum in EdWeek’s Teacher Magazine titled 21st Century High School. The first post asks:

If you could design a 21st century high school, what types of staff development would your offer to your teachers and how would you go about making sure the teachers met your objectives? I am a new Instructional Technology facilitator and want to offer my teachers the best staff development. What staff development has worked best for you and why?

Interesting to read through the advice that is provided by many of the respondents – emphasizing that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach, and that the best PD is done over a long period of time (not in one-off sessions). Just one response links the whole issue of professional development with an exploration of the values of the school – and then only as one of the options that staff members may focus on. There is some discussion about what a 21st century school might look like – focusing mostly on assumptions about the role of technology.

The focus of the initial part of the question that starts the post is exactly where the Albany staff are at (viz “If you could design a 21st century high school, what types of staff development would your offer to your teachers…?”) – but the responses in the discussion so far seem to miss the point of what some of the bigger-picture questions are as I see them, eg…

  • what are the characteristics of a 21st century school?
  • what are the characteristics of a 21st century curriculum?
  • what skills/knowledge/competencies will a 21st century student need to learn/develop?
  • what do we understand about learning and how this occurs – in the 21st century?
  • what will the role of the teacher be in a 21st century school?
  • what skills, knowledge and competencies will be required by21st century teachers?
  • what will be the role of technology in all of this?

The responses to these sorts of questions should, in my view, form the basis of how we go about designing professional development experiences and opportunities for staff involved in teaching for and in the 21st century.

One thought on “Designing Professional Development

  1. I think that you have identified a series of very important points. Students will be increasingly using social networking tools, as will businesses. Most of the major ones already have online communities which integrate professional development and project management. It is a widely underused resource which has huge potential in schools, for teachers. We are exploring its use to create an online collaborative learnign community (or ePLC) for maths teachers in the Northern Territory Australia. Ning is a useful program as is The latter has the benefit of a good wiki.

    Teachers need to be competent in the use of these environments and integrate them into the classroom. I see one way of achieving this is by using online environments as a networked environment for peer-to-peer informal and formal conversations about teaching content and practice, sharing of tacit and explicit knowledge and reflective analysis of the practice of others.

    A 21st Century school should, maybe even must go down this track. This is even more important for remote teachers such as myself. Why isn’t it being done? There are movements in this direction, but unfortunately they have gone down the path of using enterprise business orientated software that lacks the social networking features of others tools (very important for community building and sustaining) and is also quite boring, not to mentioned slow. Rather, networking sites need to be alive, fun, interesting, dynamic.


    Marcel Bruyn

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