Cultural Shifts in Professional Learning

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

I recently heard this line and it is one that may too often be true when viewing it through an educator’s lens.

I’m thinking you may have made one or more New Year’s resolutions. Have you made any that apply to your professional life? We often get bogged down and can become very pessimistic with our “glasses half empty.”  I spent some time thinking about my professional focus for 2017, and I resolve to have a glass that will be “half full,” and I will not let educational culture get in the way of my strategic focus. My resolution is to work hard on one overall theme. I want to help make sure that the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education provides the best possible professional learning opportunities for educators, in order to have a positive impact on teacher effectiveness, ultimately leading to increased student achievement in classrooms.

That is no small resolution, but by sharing it here, I will be able to reflect back from time to time during 2017 to see how I/we are doing to keep the resolve going. To work on my resolution I want to help teachers keep in mind that adult learning is essential to the design of learning for children. I’ll incorporate the strategy of “teacher agency”, which is the capacity of teachers to act purposefully and constructively to direct their professional growth and contribute to the growth of their colleagues. Helping agency change in the educational workplace may require a cultural shift. Moving teachers away from having negative perceptions and frustrations about professional learning, to wanting to make an investment in their own learning, is how we can fill the educational glass.

The Professional Learning division at the AIMS Center will work to guide teachers to culturally shift. We have reports, data, and evidence to show that new strategies need to be incorporated into the design of professional learning to make a difference in teacher practice that will lead to an increase in students’ performance. No longer can we blame student performance on lack of content knowledge by educators. We must give teachers the tools needed to captain their classroom’s ship and expect them to formulate a plan to accomplish their PL visions, needs and wants. Thinking about PL from the bottom up is cultural shift #1. Facilitating guided conversations with teachers to map out their PL needs may be new territory, but making this shift to change culture will support educator learning.

We look forward to helping change the culture of professional development, radically changing it from an empty exercise where teachers attend to simply comply, are awarded credit, and thus keep current with district requirements. My resolution is big, and it’s worth it. I am determined not to eat culture for breakfast only to be blindfolded from good new strategical approaches to education. I look forward to seeing educators have agency over their professional learning opportunities. Is that happening in your school?

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