What are effective learning experiences for educators?

A question which is always on the back of my mind every time I attend a conference, give a presentation, or work with my colleagues, is how much are we all learning?

Teacher learning diagram

Just like there are less and more effective activities for learning for students, the same is true of teachers. Above is a diagram with different learning activities, arranged from what is probably least effective (toward the bottom) to what is probably most effective for teacher learning. Note: I know of no evidence which would allow me to effectively rank these activities from least to most effective, and if none exists, that should worry all of us.

An observation I have is that the items on the bottom of this list are much more expensive than the items on the top of this list. In fact, we are quite likely spending many millions of dollars each year, as a profession, on activities which make very little difference on our learning, and through us, student learning.

The things are the top of the list are largely directed by teachers for themselves, and require significant investment from teachers in terms of time. How can we do a better of supporting teachers’ learning?

This reflection is prompted by the incredible learning I felt took place at Twitter Math camp, which may have been one of the conferences from which I learned the most during my entire career. How can we get more teachers involved in teacher led professional learning with supportive and encouraging peers?



  • … I learned more about teaching and how all kinds of people really *do* think differently (tho’ it’s no longer cool to call it “having a different learning style”) by working 1:1 with the same student for a long time (school year or more), and seeing what (highly expensive) quality education can do for a student in the long run. In that setting, though, every Wednesday was noon dismissal and we had student staffings and/or professional development… and conferences… and classroom observations…

  • It is hard for institutions to see that something “free” can be valuable. It does not fit into the budget 🙂

    I met some teachers a few years back to amazing free PD each month. They had been at it for years. I started a CyberSalon here in my little neck of the woods/desert a couple years back. It is, as you note, “directed by teachers for themselves, and require significant investment from teachers in terms of time.”

    How can we get more teachers involved in teacher led professional learning with supportive and encouraging peers? We can do this: http://informallearningnetworks.wordpress.com/

  • I wish I could have attended TMC 2013. To think educators traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to share their teaching and learning speaks to the commitment they have to the profession.

    If we focus on a local level perhaps we can develop interest in establishing monthly meetings in our area. For example in the Chicago area the Complex Instruction Consortium meets regularly throughout the year to create group worthy tasks. Perhaps bloggers and other teachers could spread the word and arrange for one or two informal meetings.

    Maybe some areas are more “healthy” than others in terms of local PLNs. Just a thought.

  • Bob Hiller wrote:

    Thoughtful post! I am curious of a few things:

    – what do you believe the difference is between inquiry into own practices and action research?

    – how come you believe social media is more effective than taking a course or reading a book?

    – when you refer peer are you only referring to teacher to teacher coaching or would content coaches, instructional specialists, and administrators fall under this idea as well?

    I would argue that lesson study when done through the lens of student learning is the most effective. It incorporates collaboration, deep planning (something that is not valued enough in this country), student learning, and reflection. I believe because of these attributes it has the ability to work towards long term goals in short periods of time.

    I love the way you organized these ideas but I wonder how a document like this is transferred to teachers and instructional leaders in schools.

  • David Wees wrote:

    Were I make this again, I would probably not include action research, since it is an example of inquiry into practices. There are probably other frameworks for inquiry. I would focus less on the order and items I’ve chosen in my diagram, and more on the bigger issue I’m raising; are we spending our time and resources on the most effective learning opportunities for teachers?

  • Anonymous wrote:

    Action Research IS Inquiry into own Practices.

  • David Wees wrote:

    Yeah, my list is obviously not perfect. Action research is definitely an example of inquiry into one’s own teaching practices. My suspicion is that there are other versions as well. I should probably put action research higher up in my hierarchy. I would take the order that I have presented above with a grain of salt however. Like I said, I don’t know how I should rank those learning activities.

  • Perhaps you should have done it as a ‘concept map’ so you could connect things more creatively and less linearly 😉

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