Workshops, book studies, and trainings come to mind when I think about professional development. Often these opportunities come before or after school and provide teachers with more to do. This might include more materials to manage or more curriculum to teach. This type of learning may not always be timely or may not be based on teacher or student needs. Therefore, valuable information may not be applied and new materials collect dust. Job-embedded learning focuses on professional learning that is ongoing and a part of daily instruction. Zepeda (2008) states, “Job-embedded learning is about learning from everyday practice as people learn by doing, reflecting on the experience, and making modifications based on the experience, the talk and the action of doing” (p. 76).
Since job-embedded learning does not require separate time, it can be a challenge to incorporate into the regular school day. Zepeda (2008) suggests rearranging or providing additional planning time. One peer suggestion in the weekly discussion forum was to provide teachers with an extra 10 minutes of planning that is designated for “learning walks.” Teachers would rotate through classrooms to observe and provide feedback. This idea creates an opportunity to incorporate peer coaching. Zepeda (2008) states, “Peer coaching provides opportunities for teachers to support and learn from each other and engage in realistic discussions about teaching and learning” (p.165). Last year, my principal posted her observations of effective teaching strategies in our weekly bulletin. This part of the bulletin was titled, “Eyes on Instruction.” In her daily walk throughs or observations she would take notes on effective strategies being implemented and take pictures of examples (student work, posters, non-linguistic representations, learning targets). In the bulletin, the principal would comment on how what she saw connected with the research we were studying as a staff and the criterion we would be evaluated on with the new teacher evaluation framework. Although this provided us with learning embedded in the school day, it would have been more powerful if we could have had the chance to observe these teaching strategies ourselves. Teaching can feel very isolating and it is not often that we get to observe and learn from other teachers to help improve our own practice. This type of interaction between teachers would help build a community of trust and give opportunities for “experts” within our own school to share and model their expertise. I think often we can learn the most from other teachers because they know the realities and challenges you are facing and what is practical within the classroom setting.
Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New York: Eye on Education