In order for teachers to engage in effective professional learning, principles and strategies for engaging the adult learner need to be implemented in professional development. Zepeda (2012) states, “Adults seek knowledge that applies to their current life situation; they want to know how this new information will help them in their development” (p. 48). As an adult learner, I have sat in many book studies and workshops that engage teachers in readings about effective teaching. However, it is often that the information doesn’t directly relate to my students’ needs or areas I need support with. I have also taken classes where the content does not relate to my own teaching practice. I often ask myself in frustration, “How is this going to help me become a better teacher?” or “When will this be applicable to my instruction?” Although this does not represent a positive outlook and some of the information may be valuable, it is true that I seek knowledge that will help my development. I think professional coaching offers a practical approach to professional development that differentiates based on the needs of the teacher.
Zepeda (2012) states, “The purpose of coaching remains consistent and clear: To improve instructional practices of teachers in order to increase student learning” (p. 143). I think coaching can be a powerful learning opportunity if coaches are able to observe and provide specific feedback and strategies that are specific to both the teachers’ and students’ needs. Zepeda (2012) states, “Professional development that honors the adult learner has follow up to ensure transfer of new knowledge into the land of practice” (p. 49). When coaching is a part of professional learning, teachers can implement new strategies they learn in a workshop and know they will be provided with follow up and specific feedback that ensures the new learning is put into practice. I think this is key because without follow up the new learning may not be put into practice, therefore it never has the opportunity to increase student learning.
In the case study, “Filling a Leadership Vacuum,” it is evident that making your practice public can be intimidating. Whether it is an instructional coach or a peer coach, I think it’s important that a trusting relationship is established. Zepeda (2012) states, “The focus is the reflection and study of teaching practices, not on the shortcomings of those practices” (p. 150). If teachers feel that their prior experience and knowledge is valued and the focus is on teacher growth to improve student learning, I think it will increase teacher’s motivation to learn.
Michelson, J. (n.d.). Filling a leadership vacuum. Center for strengthening the teaching profession. (Reprinted from Leadership cases 2007 school-level reform, n.d.)
Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New York: Eye on Education.