I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful young teacher this week who happens to also teach my teenage daughter. We were chatting about how things were going in her life and she reminded me that she was in the midst of her Master’s degree and was absolutely loving it. She was looking deeply at learning, really getting her hands dirty with the work, and loving it! It made me look back to my own Masters and remember how much I enjoyed the challenge of it and the joy of working with colleagues who were also looking to improve their profession.
As she was talking she made a very clear distinction that I will use from here on out. She mentioned that her class was calling PLC learning, working with Instructional Coaches and the work of readings about the craft of teaching, Professional Learning. The days where we go out and learn, get one day in-services or bring someone in were referred to as Professional Development. I liked the distinction a great deal and they both have their place in our profession.
Profession development can be excellent. We’ve all been to great sessions where we walk away and are excited to change our practice. We hear about a great way of approaching learning and we are eager to use it in our classrooms. We’ve also all been to less than stellar sessions. Sessions where we have walked away less than inspired, thinking “That’s a day I’ll never get back.” Professional Development can be somewhat hit and miss at times. It’s wonderful as it feeds our desire to be better but we often cannot control the session once we are there.
Professional Learning is a little different. When we involve ourselves in Professional Learning Communities, utilize a Instructional Coach or dig deeply into literature on a practice, we are choosing the topic of study and the way we implement the practice. We as practitioners choose the strategy to explore in our PLCs. We choose what we want our coaches to focus on. We choose what we read and can put down anything that is not what we want. We are in control of the learning and can pivot to a new practice at our professional discretion. The control of the learning is in the hands of the teacher. I like it.
Professional Development may spur on Professional Learning. A teacher may go to a session on Literacy Intervention and get excited at the potential, therefore dig deeper and implement change in their classroom. They move from Professional Development to Professional Learning at that point. Professional Development is the match that lights the fire in us to move onto Professional Learning. I like the distinction.
Keep on Learning,