Seeking Clarity

Reading is great.  I’ve been doing a lot of blog reading lately.  (See my blogroll).

Reflecting is great.  I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. 

Time to do some writing.  I feel like Rob Gordon in High FideltyI’m a professional appreciator, but I haven’t put anything out there yet for others to read and hopefully reflect on.  

One thing I’ve been mulling over in my brain is the difference between establishing standards for learning and the less structured personal learning that goes on via the internet.

On one hand I definitely see the wisdom of Will Richardson’s idea that it’s okay to be selfish.  He wrote in a fairly recent post

Well, that’s the “different” approach I’ve been taking of late with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, whose knowledge and passion for this work I grow to respect more each day. Working off of the model Sheryl helped develop in Alabama, we’re currently in the midst of six-month long professional development programs with a couple of hundred educators from around the country, leading them through a process that we hope will allow these concepts and skills to really take root in their own learning practice. And it is focused on their own learning, not teaching, not classrooms, not kids. That’s hugely important to us, that these educators be selfish about the learning. No doubt, many of them struggle to approach this process with anything but a teaching lens. But both Sheryl and I feel strongly that what will really create meaningful change in schools and classrooms are teachers who personally understand the potentials of these connections. Already, the most powerful piece of these cohorts to me is that in the process, we’re collectively beginning to build the relationships and share contextualized experiences “that create emergent knowledge that is the basis of education.” The connections are deepening.”

I’m a member of the long term PD Will refers to, and I can attest to the dramatic impact it has had on my personal thinking and learning.  At times I’m in total agreement with that philosophy.  But then again…

What about the people who don’t have access to this type of PD?   Is it okay that they are not onboard?  And what about the people who have had access to this type of PD, but haven’t caught on yet.  Is that acceptable?

It seems to me that that we need to establish a clear continuum for adult learning, in which people can see the whole process laid out in front of them, can clearly identify where they are in the continuum or process, and know what steps they must take to get to the next level.

I’ve been reading a lot of Rick Stiggins’ stuff lately. He argues that students remain engaged and interested in their education when they know what they’ve learned, where they are in a continuum, what comes next, and how to get there. He believes that a lot of the turn off and disconnect with education is that students don’t really understand what it is that they are supposed to know or how to get there.

We’ve been talking a lot in the Teacher Center about establishing “programs” rather than classes. I think when we’ve put out our professional development course offerings there have essentially been a lot of classes, but they are necessarily linked to one another, and certainly aren’t formatted in any sort of progression. They are single “sit and gets” rather than introduction, development, review, etc… As such I think it would be hard for a teacher to know exactly where they are in their learning. It would be even harder for an adminstrator to know where their teachers are. With so many people taking a “scattered” or “shot gun” approach to their adult learning, can we ever evaluate where someone is in a particular skill or process.

But is mandatory, or even co-erced PD,  the answer either?   Consider Pete Reilly’s post Is Mandating Technology Use Enough?    Here’s a little snipet…

Will simply requiring teachers to use technology tools transform teaching and learning? What real change can we expect when we put technology tools in the hands of these teachers?

Mr. Total Control
Miss Overly Structured
Mrs. Entertains from the Front of the Class
Mr. Blame the Kids
Miss Low Expectations
Mrs. No Confidence No Control
Mr. Content Is All That Counts
Miss NCLB Scores
Mrs. Teach to the Middle
Miss Boring
Mr. Lack of Preparation
Miss I Don’t Have Time for Questions
Mrs. Because I Said So
Mr. I’m Totally Overwhelmed

I really think we need to establish some standards.   I think there needs to be some agreement about the direction we are heading.  If someone opts off the path or gets lost, at least we’ll have some idea of how to bring them along.   If there is no “path” then how do we move forward as a group? 

All this leaves me wishing I had a little more focus.  Nothing’s clear to me yet.