Training is an outdated word in pedagogy because it recalls assembling lines and a factory model of education, as well as what we do with animals. However, we can question if the recent wave of developing skills and competencies in education isn’t part of the same semantic field.
Professional development is the expression that replaced training for educators. Traditionally, professional development involved a one-time seminar. I have recently delivered a 7 hours mini-course on the use of Web 2.0 for more than 50 Brazilian teachers, during the International Congress of the Brazilian Association of Distance Education. It was a very nice experience, that began with an online assessment and mail list, involved a one-day face-to-face course, and continues with Delicious tagging and an Orkut Network, and (I hope) with other online encounters.
Educators today need guidance on how to integrate technology into teaching as well as other types of support, which these one-shot workshops can rarely provide because of the lack of continuity. Consensus view, dating back to the early 1990s (Professional development, 2004), calls for practical tasks of instruction and assessment, consistent feedback and follow-up, among other activities.
Easton (2008) talks about professional learning, advocating a move from being trained and developed to becoming an active learner. Teachers need to change what they do on a daily or even hourly basis, responding to the needs of the learners. Educators must though become self-developing and learners.
Online continuing education is also being used more and more as a professional development model. Rozineli & Rosalen (2008) present the Programa High School Network, which supported the innovation of educational practices in the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. However, Brazil still faces a strong resistance against the use of online education, mainly in the cases of initial formation of teachers. One of the risks of online professional development programs is that they might be based on isolation and self-study distance education models, lacking interaction and collaboration.
Because of that, facilitated online courses seem to be more acceptable than self-guided ones. Giving time for teachers to experiment in their classrooms and get back to the group, guided by a facilitator, can improve the quality of online professional development courses (Sawchuk, 2009). Online continuing education might also bypass both the isolation of some programs and the need for follow-up.
Blended or hybrid models might also offer interesting solutions. Last year I have delivered a graduation three months course for around 100 teachers at a school in Campinas (Sao Paulo, Brasil), which involved three Friday nights/Saturday day face-to-face meetings in three different months, completed by an array of online activities. Many of the teachers had little computer experience, but at the end of the course they had participated in forum discussions in Moodle, used a wiki, read blogs, and produced and uploaded videos to YouTube, besides other technology-based educational activities. They felt so self-confident after the course that, during a two-weeks class break in Brasil, because of the influenza flu in 2009, they produced videos, involved students in LMS activities, and mailed the videos, distance learning content and activities do their students (Progresso em Casa…)
In the same way that we can talk about the need of Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) to educate the generation of digital natives (Mattar, 2009), we can think about the need for gamifying personal development programs for educators, designing fun, engagement and interaction, also helping to bridge the generation gap.
As Diaz et al. (2009) argue, there is actually a need of a menu with a variety of resources for teachers, as: structured courses, multi-semester or multi-year programs, mentoring, online tutorials, survey, collaborative support programs, assessment etc. The article mentions several examples of institutions that offer different and rich options for professional development. As Dias et al. conclude, faculty development should include official programs as well as external development opportunities. As Sawchuk (2009) states, certain professional development models might work in some contexts, but not others, so diversity is a must.
Anyway, as Chris Dede states (Rebora, 2009a), “one of the big challenges is just making time for teachers to participate in any type of quality professional development, whether online or face-to-face.” Independent of the model and the tools used, there is a need for time and support for educators to learn. Otherwise, a professional development model might not succeed.
Diaz, V., Garrett, P. B., Kinley, E. R., Moore, J. F., Schwartz, C. M., & Kohrman, P. (2009, May/June). Faculty Development for the 21st Century. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 44, no. 3, 46–55.
Easton, L. B. (2008, June). From professional development to professional learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 89:10, 755-761.
Mattar, J. (2009). Games in Education: how digital natives learn.
Professional development (2004, September 21). Research Center.
Rebora, A. (2009a, October 1). The changing landscape of teacher learning: An education-technology scholar discusses the current state and promise of online teacher PD. [Interview with Chris Dede]. Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook, Vol. 3, Issue 1, p. 8.
Rebora, A. (2009b, October 1). The view from the inside: A top course facilitator provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on online training. [Interview with Alethea Setser]. Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook, Vol. 3, Issue 1, p. 8.
Rozineli, T., & Rosalen, M. S. (2008, May). Distance continuing education of teachers. 14° Congresso Internacional ABED de Educação a Distância. Santos, SP, Brasil.
Sawchuk, S. (2009, October 1). The online option: An explosion of offerings and evolving methodologies have made Web-based training a viable choice for many teachers. Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook.