The balancing act – Professional development in the 21st-century: Part 2
October 24, 2018
By Dr Nicolas Matthee

Last month we started our discussion on achieving a balance in your professional development as educators. For the most part, we focused on the theoretical side of professional development. During this short discussion, it was evident that the theoretical side of professional development is of utmost importance in achieving a proper balance in growing as an educator. We also saw that a proper grasp of the latest and most relevant teaching and learning theories, assist us in knowing the difference between good and bad pedagogical approaches.

This month we take a look at the practical side of professional development in achieving balanced growth as educators. In a blog post by Powerful Learning Practice, they reflected on 10 ‘things’ educators want from their professional development. Two of these stood out as very relevant to the discussion on the practical side of professional development namely:

  • Educators are interested in courses and workshops where they can implement the strategies/information taught immediately – this is especially true when reflecting on the practical side of professional development. Research has shown (and any educator can attest to the fact) that educators have little time for professional development opportunities. Therefore, nothing is worse than attending a workshop intended to teach practical skills, only to sit through a lengthy presentation and leaving without any new skills or tools to use. When educators have a solid theoretical foundation concerning a certain topic, practical skills and tools are required for balanced professional development.
  • Educators want PD that makes them better educators. This may sound absolutely obvious, but in many cases, educators are not given the tools or skills to assist them in becoming more effective. For example, it is fantastic when educators know all the do’s and don’ts of making educational videos, but this knowledge means very little if they cannot use tools such as iMovie or Camtasia to actually produce the videos. Educators need a balance of both theory and practice from their professional development to become better educators.

Striving for a balanced professional development journey is also supported in academic research such as the work of Michael Garet et al., Heather Hill et al. and Janet Dubinsky et al., to name but a few. The goal or outcome of professional development is measured in how effective it is in enhancing the teaching practice of educators. In the above-mentioned research, many core features of professional development are explored and measured in their effectiveness in changing teaching practice. A focus on content knowledge, active learning, collective participation and the number of contact hours all contribute significantly to the effectiveness of professional development but only when they come together in an enhancement of both knowledge and skill.

Therefore, when selecting your professional development opportunities, it is crucial to keep both the theoretical and practical side of things in mind.

ITSI offers courses on a wide variety of professional development topics, including applied computer literacy, coping and managing with technological change in your teaching and flipped classroom implementation. Consider some of these opportunities to enhance the balance in your professional development journey.