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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Professional Development and - Students?

Professional Development - learning for teachers - should take students into account not just as the "targets" or recipients of what teachers will put in place in the classroom - but - as the active participants in a school wide learning community including teacher PD.  What might this mean?

Students are the largest stakeholder in schools or districts by measure of numbers and impact on their lives and their future. Yet they are routinely not brought into planning, decision-making, and thinking and even being informed about the integral components that will impact them for the rest of their lives.

Recently I worked with a school district in Missouri helping them design their PD program and brought up the idea of students as co-learners, even teachers, and as consultants in the design of how and what their teachers might learn.  Schools are using students in meaningful ways as co-learners and as teachers at The Urban School in San Francisco, and with many schools employing GenYes - just for instance.

Why not bring students into PD design, into your planning and goals, into sessions with teachers, why not have them learn along with the teachers?  If students need to know inquiry-based learning and how to ask deeper and more meaningful questions - and if your teachers need to create classroom goals that are deep and meaningful - why not combine this so that teachers and students consider deeply overarching important questions and goals - together.  If your school or district establishes yearlong goals   which are incorporated into teaching - have a student group that helps plan and create the content that will be taught.

Let students see "behind the curtain" that teachers are learners, too. Let teachers openly share with their students what they are learning about and ask students questions about how they view this learning and their suggestions for improvement.  Teachers can tell students that they never stop learning and give examples and bring up some of their "homework" and ask students how they might approach some ideas.

We speak of Learning Communities and Learning Environments - yet we just assume that students are already members of these communities because they are the targeted learners.  Take them out of the "end result" position and put them closer to all the learners actively engaged in the activities of planning and co-constructing knowledge.  You will be surprised at how much they know and what they are thinking about - and how engaged they will likely be with the process.

Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay run the excellent Flat Classroom Project which you can join with your students.  But how will your school flatten all learning so that students are more than the end recipients and instead move up to a place of full participation in a vibrant learning community of all children and adults - including PD?