Sunday, October 17, 2010

Professional Development

I'd been thinking a lot about professional development lately when I read a blog post by Ron Houtman reviewing an article from the ISTE Journal of Research on Technology in Education (JRTE). So I guess this post is comments on a review of an article... or some such non-sense. It was really the TPCK graphic that caught my attention (saw it in FlipBoard). I've been very interested in TPCK for a last 9 months or so. Anyway, I acquired a copy of the article Ron reviewed and it got the old mental juices flowing.

One of the big bottom lines from the article is that professional development that leads to positive student outcomes needs to be on-going. This is really an echo of other research as well. A lot of the research also focuses on the need for content specific PD. This article mentioned this fact, but really didn't focus on it. Instead it focused more on the technology/pedagogy end of TPCK.

Reading this article this morning made me think about two workshops I attended last summer. One was all about technology with some pedagogy and the other was all about PCK with some technology.

Of the two workshops, I'm fairly certain that the one focused on PCK will prove to be more beneficial to my students. This is due in part to the massive amount of research that went into it's creation. Plus it really did focus in on the relationship between content and pedagogy. Once this relationship was fully explored we then thought about the best tools for the job. When I think back it really looks like it was right in line with TPCK.

Anyway, the point of this post was not to ramble on about the awesome PD I got to attend last summer, but to comment on the article. The article focused on PD that was not content specific. Most of the PD I've seen (or delivered) has not been conent specific. Yet research continues to show that gains in well crafted content specific PD are greater than in equally well crafted content agnostic PD.

So, what do we do about it? Unfortunately, those that are in the best position to deliver technology based PD are rarely content experts, they are Tech Ed people. Conversley, many content experts don't keep up with the latest trends in technology. It seems that to truly craft really good PD for technology integration you need to be an expert in technology, content, and pedagogy. These people are rare and will be very specialized. At the high school level, for example, it's not enough to be an expert in "science" as each subject is as different from the other as history is from English.

So when I ask, "What do we do about it?" What I'm really asking is, "What do I, as someone who delivers PD, do?" Should I only focus on delivering PD to other physics teachers? Or do I continue to develop training for other teachers in my school, even though I know the gains in student outcomes will be small?


Houtman, Ron (October, 2010). Review of Connecting instructional technology professional development to teacher and student outcomes

Martin, W., Strother, S., Beglau, M., Bates, L., Reitzes, T., & Culp, K. M. (Fall 2010). Connecting instructional technology professional development to teacher and student outcomes. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43, 1. p.53(22).


BeckyFisher73 said...

Perhaps "technology based PD" is not the same as professional learning for using technology to connect kids and content. Also, perhaps the need for "experts" needs to be revisited. Think about the overlaps of the circles and not the circles themselves. Do you have a deep understanding about the topic of force? Do you know how kids learn about force? Do you know how to engage technology to accelerate students learning about force? And, technology is not just the things we plug in - it is considered to be all of the demos you rig up and manipulatives you pull out.

Steve said...

Thanks for the comment. Your description of the ideas related to Force are spot on. This is what I'm talking about.

As to your first point, "technology based PD". I guess the question is, "What is the purpose for technology PD?" If the answer is to teach the mechanics of how to use a tool then we need do noting further. However, much of the time we talk about how we can transform learning and have positive impacts of student learning.

For this second bit I'm really starting to feel we must take PCK into account if we want to have any substantial affect