Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Improving Professional Development with PDredesign

The topic of professional development has come up before on The Yellin Center blog, when we wrote about DIY ProD and Professional Learning Networks. We also view professional development programs as an important part of our work with schools and organizations and Dr. Yellin leads frequent workshops and webinars to educate teachers and other professionals about our neurodevelopmental framework for learning.

Teaching teachers has always been a huge professional interest of your blogger. It started back in undergraduate school, where my undergraduate research project involved looking into the best practices in professional development. This led to the creation of a series of training workshops and resources to support professors in integrating new technology into their pedagogy. It is really exciting to see time being invested, tools being developed, and new research coming out that will result in improving professional learning for educators. We spend so much time thinking about the best practices for helping a student grapple with a concept, and yet we rarely use the same teaching practices when training our educators.

The Gates Foundation has set out to change the way teachers are taught with their creation of PDredesign, a digital tool kit aimed at transforming professional learning. The ties between education improvement and the Gates Foundation go back years, and span multiple areas of national and global import. Your blogger had an opportunity to see this work in action back in 2015 at a Gates Social event. All of their projects are thoughtfully researched and seem to address a fundamental need in a very impactful way. However, this new tool to help empower districts to better support their teachers has us exceptionally excited.

Research on adult learning tells us that  instruction for adult learners needs to be specific to the particular needs of the learner. This is where the PDredesign readiness assessment comes in. This tool helps district officials identify and understand the learning needs of their staff. The program also houses tools for building an inventory of the products and resources already in the district. Using these tools, district officials are able to see what resources and ideas teachers aren’t using, while simultaneously highlighting the resources that are working, ensuring they are serving their staff’s needs. Using PDredesign allows districts to glean “actionable qualitative and quantitative data to design and implement a system” of professional learning that is correlated to the specific learning needs of their staff. Better yet, there is also a collaborative feature of the program that will allow districts to connect to other districts that are similar to them and share ideas about what is working and what isn’t.

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