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PD – professional or personal development … or both? October 6, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Musings.

Given the continuously shifting landscape1 as far as technology in schools is concerned,  professional development (PD) of teachers is an area to which I regularly return. As I recently mulled things over and over, a few common threads emerged of which I tried to make sense. PD is an area which merits and has received attention from a goodly number of learned people and institutions. In their research, some studies focused on strategic planning and evaluation of PD2, some on the challenges associated with PD3 and others on the outcomes and changes brought about by PD4. However, here I wanted to explore the nature of professional development in the use of learning technologies and how it might be structured, within the school context.

I’d suggest there are three levels at which PD might be required; at the two ends of the spectrum are the  individual and the school, then sandwiched between these comes the departmental or faculty (or perhaps a year group) level. At each of those levels, professional development might address one or more of three strands:

  • Skills – how particular tools and applications function
  • Pedagogy – how, when and why to deploy those tools in a learning context
  • Literacy – developing an awareness of the use of those tools in a wider context and what the implications of their use might entail.

The following matrix summarises those levels and strands, providing an example for each.

PD matrix

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Ian Guest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/10105029443/

The upper left of the matrix is the ‘Googleable’ area; here teachers can and should direct their own professional development. Solutions, advice and ideas are no more than a short Internet search away. I’m always surprised when colleagues email a query to me along the lines of  ‘How do I …,’ when typing that as a search term would invariably provide a faster answer … and more options from which to choose. Lower down and further right is the zone where the PD is more likely to be organised for you, perhaps as a result of the need to address whole school (or national?) developments. The area between these two zones shifts depending on local circumstances; different projects and initiatives making different demands, different schools, departments and individuals having different approaches. The question arises of course, are different approaches to PD more appropriate for different areas within the matrix? But that’s for a future post …

If you feel I’ve missed an area or provided weak examples, do please add a comment to this post. My thinking is still in fluid form and is yet to crystallise!

1Beggs, P., Shields, C., Telfer, S., Bernard, J.L., 2012. A Shifting Landscape : Pedagogy, Technology, and the New Terrain of Innovation in a Digital World. Ontario Ministry of Education.

2Cordingley, P. (2008) GTC qualitative study of school level strategies for teachers’ CPD. London: GTC.

3Daly, C., Pachler, N., Pelletier, C., 2009. Continuing Professional Development in ICT for Teachers: A literature review. WLE, Institute for Education, University of London.

4Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., Fung, I., 2008. Teacher professional learning and development.



1. timpunnet - October 6, 2013

Entirely agree with this, in particular the Googleable PD…

Certainly within our work we find that there’s a skills gap when it comes to doing just that though. We all too easily assume people know how to search quickly, efficiently and accurately.

If there was one skill I wanted to share with every teacher we work with it’d be that.

ianinsheffield - October 6, 2013

I’m sure you’re right Tim; there are many fundamental skills we perhaps erroneously assume colleagues possess, but remedying that is another matter entirely of course. In the same way that pointing out a colleague’s poor spelling (you’re & your, alot, etc etc) needs to be done sensitively, so too basic skills like searching. What is even harder yet is helping people appreciate they need to develop their own sense of agency in self-improvement. They don’t need to wait until they have been ‘trained.’ And at the risk of offending some, I’d suggest they have a professional duty to undertake that challenge. [Sits back and waits for unfollows!]

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5. Aaron Davis - October 12, 2013

I completely agree with your take on PD Ian, especially in regards to ICT. Much of what I have learnt in regards to technology I have done myself, I ‘googled’ it, yet I too get the random obligatory emails asking how to do simple things.
In regards to ‘missing’ areas, I feel that it does not account for the incidental learning, the unintended learning that happens everyday. What I call the ‘hidden professional development’. I wrote about it here: http://readingwritingresponding.blogspot.com/2013/10/hidden-professional-development.html

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