‘How do your teachers learn?’ Most answers I get follow along traditional lines: ‘They go to conferences.’ ‘They take after-school workshops.’ ‘They read books.’ They see their teachers’ learning as an event, not an ongoing process. ~ Will Richardson, 2012
Will Richardson reminds us that learning is an ongoing process, not a series of disconnected one-off occurrences. Professional learning is about the organic journey of the teacher; it’s not a set of tick boxes to be ticked or a number of mandated hours to be filled.
The self-directed-and-organisation-supported professional learning travel upon which I am embarking brings into focus the concept of teacher learning and how it might look. It is this focus that raises the sort of question I am asking on behalf my school while I am in New York: how can we best support teachers in their self-directed growth as passionate practitioners?
One learning movement with plenty of momentum is the unschooling / uncollege / unconference movement.
In unschooling the intellectual, emotional and physical freedom of the child is privileged over the perceived imprisonment by formulaic school curricula, strict structures and inflexible spaces. Just check out the #unschooling hashtag on Twitter.
At uncollege students are educated by real-world experiences, often outside their comfort zones.
Unconferences or edcamps are free, participant-driven conferences.
Does a travelling fellowship like my upcoming one, which focuses on the experiential professional learning of the fellow as well as the contribution of that learning to the organisation, fit into this kind of free-range self-learning?
Does this kind of learning reflect the best kind of learning for our teachers? It is driven by the learner, involves collaboration with others, and is experiential, ‘real world’ and deeply immersive.
A question many school leaders and educators have been addressing for some time is: How might we more fully embed the edcamp / unlearning / experiential / community-based / learner- driven learning into our schools?
How might we ensure that professional learning is meaningful and transformative for teachers?