Darling-Hammond (1998), speaks a lot about how teachers learn best by collaborating with other teachers. Bunting (2007) discusses how we need to provide teachers with opportunities to talk, and that the more informal this talk is the better. It is with these ideas in mind that I think the EdCamp model could serve as a powerful vehicle for PD delivery. EdCamps are teacher driven PD opportunities. Participants create the schedule and they facilitate the discussions. There is no keynote speaker and the ideas/solutions come from the discussions that take place (Foundation, 2013). I had the opportunity to organize and host such an event last April. The day saw over 260 individuals interested in education, come together and discuss issues that interested them personally (EdCamp YYC, 2013). Davidhizar, Shelton & Headley (2006) cite Birky & Ward (2003); Shelton (1993) when they discuss how it is important that teachers perhaps be given the opportunity to plan professional learning opportunities. EdCamps realize the shift that Darling-Hammond (1998) seeks by moving away from outside consultants to in-house experts. With all of this being said, I do not believe that all PD should be in the form of EdCamps. Instead I would propose a minimum of one and up to half of PD utilize such a model. from my own experience, teachers come away energized, they have created new collaborative connections and quickly realize that there is an entire community asking the same questions that they are. The model encourages dialogue and is solutions based.
The success of this model is highly dependent on our school’s leaders. While I organized and hosted the event, the day could not have happened without the support of my Principal. In fact the day was successful because several Principals acknowledged the importance for teachers to participate in learning communities outside of their own school (NAESP, 2008). I think that in order to promote meaningful professional learning for their staff that it is essential that leaders identify with the work of the classroom teacher (Darling-Hammond, 1998). Being present and serving as an instructional leader must be at the forefront of everything that they do (Davidhizar, Shelton, & Headley, 2006). One of the things that struck me the most in these readings was the acknowledgement of the role that Principals play in promoting professional learning. Looking back at my post last week and the opportunity for a more democratic and distributed leadership model, I was interested in reading about the importance of identifying teacher leaders. Davidhizar, Shelton & Headley (2006, p.2) state that “The ability of a principal to encourage and motivate leadership capacities in the building is critical for educational reform and collaboration.” It is becoming clear to me, the importance of instructional leadership. Increasing leadership capacity, involving the staff in decision making and ensuring that staff have personal and meaningful professional learning opportunities are realistic steps in demonstrating this leadership I believe.
Below are some links to the reflections of some of those who attended the EdCamp in Calgary. It gives you an idea of what people enjoyed and where people thought there could be improvements.
Bunting, C. (2007). Principals as classroom leaders, Principal, 86(3), 39-41. Retrieved from http://www.naesp.org/resources/2/Principal/2007/J-Fp39.pdf
Darling-Hammond, L. (1998). Teacher learning that supports student learning. Educational Leadership, 55 (issue), 6-11.
Davidhizar, V., Shelton, B.M., & Headley, S. (2006). An administrator’s challenge: Encouraging teachers to be leaders, NASSP Bulletin 90(2), pp. 87-101. http://bul.sagepub.com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/cgi/reprint/90/2/87
EdCamp YYC. (2013, January). Edcamp resources. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/edcampcalgary/edcamp-resources
Foundation, E. (2013). Edcamp foundation. Retrieved from http://edcamp.org
National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2nd Ed). Leading learning communities: Standards for what principals should know and be able to do. Alexandria, VA: NAESP. Retrieved July 15, 2013 from http://www.naesp.org/client_files/LLC-Exec-Sum.pdf