#OTRK12 Follow Up: Professional Learning

On Thursday April 23rd at #OTRK12, I was very fortunate to spend an hour of time with educators from all over Ontario discussing professional learning.

Thanks to @Tina_Zita for the poster describing my session.  The focus was sharing about how leaders balance and blend online and onground ways of learning. Finding the sweet spot!

Tina Poster OTRK12

What an honour and privilege to share parts of my journey in how I learn and grow with my staff at @AncasterSrPS.

Here is the slidedeck that guided our time together:

While navigating the slidedeck, there was also a GDoc – OTRK12 Professional Learning where participants contributed their thinking, wondering and questions. THANK YOU EVERYONE! <—Please add more and include your twitter handle!

Here is a copy/paste of the participant contributions as we navigated the slidedeck together:


PART 1 – Open up!  (slide 4)
Where do you stand? 

  • Questioning an idea, a practice, a belief leads to enthusiasm and takes the conversation on a new path and level of thinking.
  • I stand in the sweet spot!
  • Mistakes are an important way to learn
  • Questioning with colleagues is important – but we all need to be willing, not just one questioner…
  • I agree in a trusting relationship-tina
  • You will not grow as an educator unless you make mistakes….
  • Mistakes matter – leads to innovation and deep learning.
  • To learn from mistakes have to be reflective, and sometimes that means dialoguing with others.
  • In my role I feel like I need to always  be learning new things and sharing them with my “students”
  • Risk-taking is important for everyone’s learning.
  • Mistakes are important now in my learning, my mindset has changed.
  • Mistakes create a culture of collaboration…consider them “miss-takes” and see that you can always put on a new lens.
  • I am floating in the middle.

Think about your best learning moment.  
What was going on?  Who were you with?  Where were you?  Why was it so good?

  • with like-minded colleagues who had slightly different knowledge and skills from me. They challenged and provoked my thinking, but I still felt that I had something to offer too.

PART 2 – Anything goes!  (slide 5, 6 & 7)
Share professional learning models – onground and online  – it’s always a blend. 

PART 3  Ask away!  (slide 7)
What are your tough questions about facilitating professional learning?

  • How do you feasibly meet the needs of different learning styles providing PD at/from a system level?
  • How do we support teacher autonomy, voice, and agency in their own learning and yet support system improvement?
  • How to make it comfortable for the “unwilling”?
  • What do you do with ‘that teacher’ that is just not open to change? We can all think of ‘that teacher’ – especially with a ‘no opt out’ environment
  • One way to increase comfort is to allow anonymity… but that can lead to nay-sayer voice. Help?

PART 4  List it up! (slide 7)
Let’s list together how to create a “no opt out – engage everybody focus”

PART 5  What do you wonder? 
Discuss why your practice matters most of all as a connected learner.

Wonder individually & as a group what’s the next best move in y(our) learning & make a plan.

  • I wonder why some people are afraid to share online?  How can we respect introversion, people are less comfortable sharing? How can we help they build their capacity while balancing learning differences?
  • How are teachers who aren’t yet comfortable teaching students to be? What is the responsibility of Teacher’s College’s to build this capacity in new teachers?

Here’s a stream of tweets from participants that provoked me to think more deeply about my practice and how I support the professional learning of my staff.


So what’s next? After reflecting the past few days, here’s my further share with all.  It is a must to have a menu of professional learning models, protocols and strategies in mind because one size does not fit all staff – either as an individual or in small meaningful groups.  Relationships matter most of all and then one considers  the context.

Here’s where I go:

  • be seen as a learner first and foremost
  • it all starts with trust & relationships matter most of all because learning involves taking risks and being comfortable with being open about what you don’t know
  • know the interests, strengths and needs of your staff by asking them
  • ensure that there are many points of entry for staff (adult learner)
  • learning models need to be presented with choice & openness
  • know that it is not going to be perfect and that’s the best part – uncomfortably messy is when we learn the most
  • embrace resistance because that is often when you learn about barriers and what’s in the way —> then do something about it!
  • the best learning with staff happens on the fly, 1:1 and starts with their question or wondering
  • encourage and embrace DIY with your staff
  • really think deeply about how your staff share about their learning f2f and make personal connections to how it makes them feel; listen carefully to their words as they guide you to the next level of support personalized to them
  • build in time for your staff to share also how their learning makes a difference in how kids learn; this matters for many reasons ~ it celebrates their growth, creates a culture focussed on learning  and impacts overall continuous improvement in your school —> become experts together!
  • ASK THEM FREQUENTLY:  What are you learning? What do you want to learn? How best do you learn?  —> This stuff can change and will change and you need to be in touch.

I will also be thinking about the ‘tough’ questions posed above by the participants.  I appreciate your contributions as it stretches my thinking and reminds me that we all have different viewpoints about the challenges connected with facilitating professional learning with others.

Thanks to all who attended my session.  Feedback is welcome via comment below or on twitter:  @lisaneale or via e-mail:  lneale@hwdsb.on.ca.
Others who are reading this post:  Thank you.  What am I missing?  Anything goes! Please share and comment.

I appreciate your time!

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