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“Nothing has promised so much and has been so frustratingly wasteful as thousands of workshops and conferences that led to no significant change”. Michael Fullan, 1991, and still the standard response to professional learning needs is to go on a course or a one-day conference and, if we're lucky, cascade it back to colleagues in an already packed twilight session.
To be honest, one off, off-site experiences do have their value and their place - and they are right for some purposes and for some learner preferences. But the assumption that 'going on a Gifted and Talented course', will somehow suddenly fix all our challenges with more able learners, is a flawed assumption. We may get some tips and some techniques but the real change, the real professional learning, requires more than a day in a hotel and a soporific lunchtime buffet.
Research suggests that professional learning is most effective when a quality coaching and mentoring programme is in place within a school context of collegiality. This means that we teachers are continually learning about our craft and frequently share what we learn. It also means that we have access to (or are) trained coaches delivering high quality professional support.
Why not test this idea out?
Think of the best one day course you've ever attended as a teacher. What made it so good? What lasting changes did you make to your classroom practice because of the course alone?
Now think of any professional coaching and mentoring you've had. What did you learn about yourself and your practice? What lasting changes did you make because of this work?
Maybe the one-dayers do work for you? Maybe coaching has changed your life? Whatever works for you is the real message here. Professionals should have control over their profession (by definition). So professional learning should be guided by the individual learner themselves (you).
What CPD opportunities are open to you? How much control do you have?
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