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  • Writer's pictureMeghan Manfra

Professional development: On professional courtesy

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Professional development: Cultivating professional courtesy with action research methods

I recently wrapped up a three month professional learning project with a group of teachers in Maryland. Maryland Humanities has a wonderful collection of inquiry kits [] that they have developed over the years. Interested in learning more about how these kits are being used by teachers, they hired me to help with their research and evaluation. We introduced the website and teaching materials to the teachers and then facilitated their own, individual action research focused on integrating the kits into instruction. We met as a whole group throughout the project and the teachers recorded reflective writing during the planning, implementation, and reflection/assessment stages. It is notable that these intrepid teachers were willing to participate when so much of their professional life has been upended by the Covid crisis and the move to on-line and digital learning.

In our final group meeting, we debrief by discussing the results of their projects. Soon the discussion turned to their experiences as part of the professional development project. The teachers all remarked that their experiences were so different from their typical experience in PD sessions. As one teacher noted, she felt like she was given “professional courtesy” and another remarked on the importance of being given “freedom” in the project. Unfortunately, in most professional development, teachers are rarely treated as professionals or given the opportunity to build upon their professional understanding in a manner that makes the most sense for their contexts. Typical models are top-down, one-size-fits-all approaches that disincentive teachers to bring about change. These approaches are not motivating or effective. By integrating teacher reflective inquiry, including action research, into your professional learning programs you ensure that teachers are able to connect what they are learning with actual classroom experiences and outcomes.

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