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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Case for Ongoing PD
By Sheila Ascencio 16-Dec-15
Lifelong learning as a foundational attitude among educators You probably often notice what a different environment your child is growing up in compared to the one you remember encountering at the same age. We are living in a world that is rapidly evolving, innovating, and revolutionizing our day-to-day lives. Amazingly enough, even kids themselves realize how much things have changed over the course of their short lives. Educators are constantly trying to keep up with new trends and the latest research on education. Staying on top of such information helps us set up students for success and prepare them to live in a world that is changing at an accelerated rate. A lifelong learning attitude in educators is one of the most fundamental elements of education itself. As educators, we need to make strategic decisions aimed at shaping and reshaping our professional growth. That growth is essential throughout an educator’s professional life, and occurs through both individual efforts and collaborative work with colleagues. In order to maintain a focus on learning and teaching, educators have access to regular opportunities for supportive professional development (PD). Regular and consistent attention to curriculum articulation and design, the latest instructional practices, and participation in learning communities greatly helps educators focus on their own growth and ongoing learning. How to choose a focus The fields of pedagogy, neuroscience, and psychology are continually making new discoveries about the structure of the brain, as well as in the way we think, learn, and develop. Such waves of information can be overwhelming, but if properly assimilated and conveyed, this knowledge can help improve student performance. So then, how do we choose what to focus on? How can educators effectively pursue meaningful PD? Studies suggest over and over that educators need to experience “ongoing sessions of learning, collaboration, and application, accompanied by school- and classroom-based support, over an ample time period to incorporate new behaviors fully into a teacher’s repertoire” (Killion 2006). Therefore, teachers need to focus much attention and time on their own learning. Meaningful teacher learning is often a slow and gradual process. Studies suggest that the most effective PD needs to be sustained over time, with meaningful, intensive, and contextualized learning experiences (see Petrie and McGee 2012). As part of our annual PD and professional growth plan at BCIS, all teachers set up three to four goals in an effort to improve their practice. The goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, which greatly helps educators to maintain a clear target in mind. An appraisal process cycle is also in place at BCIS, for all faculty to build and sustain professional growth as a way to further enhance student learning and well-being. The appraisal process allows faculty to self-reflect in many different teaching areas, to initiate research, attend workshops, and collaborate closely with colleagues. What are the best sources? When it comes to PD, our greatest resource is the expertise of our own staff, with each educator having a wide variety of knowledge and experience in different fields. BCIS has First Steps coaches, Learning Support/Special Education experts, ESL in the Mainstream trainers, International Baccalaureate (IB), PYP, MYP, and DP workshop leaders, school visitors, consultants, online trainers, and many others. Having these valuable primary resources on site endows our school with a vast pool of knowledge that we can tap into any time. Quite often, our own PD is delivered among colleagues facilitating ongoing reflection and growth for the faculty. Regional face-to-face workshops are also a very popular source among educators. Teachers often opt to attend workshops that are directly associated with their yearly goals, or closely related to the school’s targets. There are a vast number of educational groups, associations, and companies around the world that facilitate professional educational development. Just to mention a few, the IB provides face-to-face and online workshops, along with webinars; the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) offers job-a-likes visits, keynote speakers, and conferences for counselors; the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS) runs conferences in Chinese, and a Masters program and training for physical educators; and the Special Education Network in Asia and Beijing (SENIA/SENIB) offers certificate programs, courses, conferences, and workshops. Furthermore, BCIS hosts and provides various in-school workshops for staff, led by well-respected instructors and consultants in the international education hub. Here are a few of the workshops and trainings that teachers from different school sections attended on campus in the last two school years: Play-based Learning Pedagogy, by Kathy Walker and Shona Bass; Mathematics in the Elementary School, by Rob Vingerhoets; Ensuring Assessment Quality, by Jennifer Sparrow; Writer’s Workshop, by Julie Shepherd; and Approaches to Learning, by Lance King, among others. A focus on PD throughout the year can have a major impact on students’ academic and emotional development. In the end, both educators and students highly benefit from a life of ongoing learning. For more information on the PD organizations mentioned above: IB www.ibo.org EARCOS www.earcos.org ACAMIS www.acamis.org SENIA www.senia.asia/
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