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Bruno: Chicago Video Isn't The Real Reason Teachers Hate PD

By now there's a very good chance you've seen this video of a teacher professional development session in Chicago:

 

The instant consensus was that this must have been among the worst PDs in the history of the teaching profession. I'm actually agnostic about the quality of this particular workshop - we only see one minute of it, after all, and frankly the teachers there seem more engaged than at others I've attended - but I can understand why this clip is making people cringe.

It's worth stopping to point out, however, that even if this is an example of a lousy PD, it's probably not really illustrative of why teachers don't like professional development in general. The reality has nothing to do with an over-reliance on group recitation or choral responding, neither of which are common in teacher workshops.

One major reason teachers tend to dislike PD is that most workshops are, if anything, less clear and less practical than what we seem to be seeing in this clip.

Say what you will about the details, these teachers seem to be hearing about specific instructional strategies and having them modeled.

This is all too rare in typical PD, which is often organized around trendy-but-vague educational fads (e.g., "learning styles") or catchphrases (e.g., "data") that are difficult to translate into useful advice because they're so ambiguous or poorly-understood, even by facilitators.

This means that teachers often spend an hour or more sitting through trainings without any understanding of what they're supposed to do or why, lead by facilitators whose knowledge of the issues often seems unable to withstand even casual scrutiny from the audience, let alone a close reading of the research literature.

To be fair, facilitators themselves are often in a tough spot because teachers - like anybody else - don't like to be told to do their jobs differently. There is undoubtedly pressure on facilitators to sacrifice clarity and specificity so as to avoid annoying stubborn teachers.

As a result, PD wastes huge amounts of teacher time, but I'm not sure that that one-minute clip above is really representative of the deeper problems with professional development. - PB (@MrPABruno

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