We’ve accomplished a lot in that time (roughly 35 courses/groups, lots of learning, great connections and conversations with both teachers and students, the beginnings of a community), and it seems like a good time to think about what we’ve done and learned and where we might go from here.
Here are some things I’ve learned:
- Learning is social. Community is everything. (And the NWP community is awesome.)
- Peer learning works best when it is designed by the group, not instituted from the top down.
- Some topics lend themselves more to peer learning than others.
- A defined start and end time seems to encourage participation, and shorter courses that can then spin off into more in-depth explorations work well.
- Diverse groups are richer.
- Groups with teachers and students are powerful. (And as in my f2f experiences, students often drive the innovation in formal educational environments.)
Here are some things I still don’t know:
- How do you encourage self-direction and agency in professionals who don’t feel that currently? (We had a whole group just to explore this.)
- Is formal credit/recognition (whether stipends, graduate credit, CEUs, etc.) of this professional learning necessary or desirable?
- What can be done to begin to move this into more formal environments? (I love the energy of all “opt in” self-directed learners, but it would be a big win to get some schools to think about adopting this as a model for professional learning.)
- How do you sustain this (both in terms of participants and in terms of facilitation)?
- How do you measure success?
- How big is big enough?
And so from all that, here are some thoughts about future directions. First, I don’t want to compromise the core values of openness, authenticity, learner-centeredness by anything we do. Second, I want to continue to build the rich community we’ve started and to expand and involve others. In order to be authentic and learner-centric, having community members set the learning agenda seems critical.
On the sustainability front, I believe that we need some amount of funding to provide continued facilitation and infrastructure for this work, especially if it is to grow. I also know that K-12 schools spend a lot of money on professional development (not all of it resulting in high yields). Perhaps there is a creative way to bridge these two things for everyone’s benefit.
At any rate, if you have thoughts or ideas about the future of the School of Ed, let me know. We’re always open to new course/group ideas, new participants, new facilitators, etc. And especially, we’re on look out for a couple schools who might be interested in trying this model of professional learning with their teachers.