Our #VisibleLearning Approach To Self-Directed PD

Yesterday, we had a different kind of PA Day. It was all about self-directed professional development. Usually when I think about professional development, I think about …

  • articles to read.
  • video clips to watch.
  • people to listen to: either in person or on a screen.
  • a lot of sitting.
  • bigger groupings of individuals: either congregated together in a room or meeting online virtually.

Yesterday was different though. Yesterday, my teaching partner, Paula, and I engaged in professional development as we set-up, cleaned, and organized the classroom. What did this look like?

In our regular style, we captured many of our conversations through videos, photographs, and Instagram micro-blog posts. 

  • We thought about our students.
  • We asked each other questions.
  • We challenged each other respectfully, while also having opportunities to think differently. This “critical friend” piece is such an important aspect of our relationship.
  • We considered, re-thought, and re-arranged the environment, knowing that the environment is the third teacherWhat do our kids want and need?

Just as I often feel after other PA Days, my brain hurt but in a good way. I was excited about new possibilities, and looking forward to the week ahead. This PD though was specifically targeted to us and led by us. As a kindergarten educator — and with consideration of our current educational reality — I couldn’t help but reflect on the power and importance of this DECE/teacher partnership. The discussions, planning, new learning, and organization would not have progressed as it did if it wasn’t for the connection between us. 

I was reminded again of Lisa Noble‘s past comments on #visiblelearning. We put our learning out there as a way to not only reflect on our PD, but also invite feedback and questions from others. How do you make your learning visible, and what might be the benefit in doing so? As we continue to protect public education in Ontario, I’m going to continue to reflect and share openly. The FDK Program as it stands — with a strong educator partnership — is definitely worth speaking up about!


4 thoughts on “Our #VisibleLearning Approach To Self-Directed PD

  1. Aviva,
    Please, please, please. Never stop doing this. When you and Paula share your processes, and your observations, it’s so powerful. How might this work? What are we seeing? What might work better? Your vulnerability and bravery knock my socks off.

    I hit a wall at the end of the day yesterday. We (as an intermediate division) has used our 15 minutes at the end of the day to debrief an intense day for one of our students, and as I ran back into my room to get my stuff, I started to cry. The tears, at least partly, came from the fact that I haven’t had time to do this kind of thinking/rearranging in too long.

    I will continue to ask my students to tweet as we learn, so that we can share the process. You’ve reminded me to dive back into the portfolio tool of our board communication tool, and ask my students to post photos of their work (both complete and in process) there, so we can reflect on growth and change.

    • Oh Lisa! Thank you so much for your lovely comment, but even more so, for sharing your vulnerability here. I could so relate. Taking the time to kid talk shows just how devoted you, and the rest of the intermediate division, is to this student (along with others), but then not having the time to do the thinking and rearranging can be so very stressful. I’ve been there recently. Trust me. I have to admit that I was terribly stressed yesterday morning, as I was so looking forward to this PA Day and the chance to really reflect, make changes, and reconsider our learning environment — something that’s been more challenging recently with our hours — and then we had the most brutal snowstorm in the morning. It came out of nowhere. Roads weren’t cleared. It took me 40 minutes to get to school, and it usually takes about 5. All I could think of was, “Oh no! Schools are going to close, and then what? We have all of these teachers visiting this week, and we really need the day in our room.” Thankfully schools didn’t close, and the conditions improved, but I think that having this time yesterday was definitely needed. (As an aside, I will share that recently, Paula and I have started doing more rearrangements together with the kids. Sometimes this works better than others, as we really need the reflection time first, but I wonder if this would be possible in your intermediate classroom. A little bit of co-creating the environment. It’s something you probably already do, but considering your reflections yesterday, I wonder if this would help.)

      As for being “vulnerable,” I think that this is made easier with this partnership. We’re not being vulnerable alone. We can put ourselves out there together, and when we do, we often learn a lot from our reflections as well as the feedback and questions from others. Thanks for being one of those people that push and inspire us. Maybe we all need to find our team to really dig deeply into our learning, our environments, and what kids need. Thank you for the good reminder!


  2. I love self directed PA. And I do wish for a teaching partner quite often. I wonder how this day looked for the other teachers in your building. Were they meeting as teams? Or working alone in their rooms?

    I really wish we had more self-directed PD. I know that boards are concerned that teachers will “just” spend the day working in their rooms. That is clearly not what you did here! I wonder what my next PD day could look like if we are still in a work-to-rule situation. It’s not until April and I desperately hope this is all solved by then. Still I wonder. What if I found an article to read and invited others to read it and come discuss it with me? If I organized something would others come?

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I will admit that I didn’t venture too far from our classroom yesterday, as we did have a lot that we wanted to accomplish. At times, we moved fluidly between the other kindergarten rooms (that are attached to ours), and got to connect with the other teaching teams that we don’t always get to do. I think that some teachers worked with their grade teams to do some planning and reflecting together, while others worked alone. I’m not sure if anyone looked at reading an article together, but I do know that our vice principal shared with us some self-directed courses through the Board Hub, and something like this could be a neat thing to do and discuss with others.

      I also wonder if we have to re-look at or re-think what “spending the day working in our rooms” actually looks like and means. Could this be seen as less valuable than it is because we don’t always share what we get from these experiences? We might not always share our conversations, reflections, and changes, and would doing so, help shift perspectives? Is it through visible learning that “just working in the classroom” becomes so much more than that? I wonder …

      Thanks for the push to think more about this, and if you do have a self-directed PA Day, I would love to hear what you decide to do.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *