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To what effect?

This is the question I asked this morning on Twitter.

Before I unpack that, though, let me first offer kudos to the many, many educators with whom I interact on Twitter and other forms of social media who have spent many, many hours this summer engaged in both formal and informal professional learning activities. Many educators I know spend far too little time over the summer thinking and learning systematically about how to improve their practice in the coming year. So, good on you for taking the time and energy to learn and think and share…

But, back to the question…

That’s just from this summer. And, I’m sure I’ve missed stuff…

Many of the educators who participate(d) in those events report that they are/were perfectly wonderful; “amazing” even. Apparently, this social media-aided PD is more powerful than any PD they’ve ever done; better than any grad school course they’ve taken. And, it may very well be.

But, it seems to me that many of the folks who take part in these events have been at it for a couple/few years now. And, they’ve become pretty good at sharing what they’re learning and even doing. There’s value in talking about and sharing ideas and actions, but that only gets us so far. Furthermore, I hear/read many knowledge claims about how awesome these ideas are. “Students are learning more!” “Students are so much more engaged!” etc.

So, I ask, what is your warrant for those knowledge claims? What evidence is there that all of these new forms of professional learning are making a difference for kids?

I’m not asking for the sorts of formal, systematic inquiry that most people associate with “research” (though, that would be nice).¬†Among those I interact with on Twitter and other forms of social media, there are some wonderfully creative storytellers. So, here’s an idea: what if you spent this coming school year documenting how the professional learning you did this past summer translated into improved outcomes for students? What if you systematically collected artifacts that would help you tell a story (or stories) about how what you did differently this year had a positive impact on kids? Then, tell that story. Don’t tell a story of what you did; tell a story of what happened for kids.

If you really think that these forms of professional learning are making a difference for kids and that more educators need to be doing it, it behooves you to make the case.

“In god we trust; all others must bring data.” -attributed often to W. Edward Deming, though the origins of the phrase are contested.

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