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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 4, January/February 2007

Teachers' tips: Self-directed PD

by Lucinda Tooker and Bob Wilson

Professional development does not begin and end with activities planned on your PD days. As a group of self-regulating professionals, it is our responsibility to engage in self-directed PD throughout our careers. In order to help teachers conceive and plan self-directed PD, the BCTF has produced a planning log and numerous PD resources for teachers, many available online by following the "for teachers" link on the main web site. The planning log itself includes templates and a "menu" of professional activities ready for use. If you aren’t already engaged in self-directed PD, here are several ideas from the menu of activities to get you started right away.

  1. Join a BCTF Provincial Specialist Association, bctf.ca/psas.aspx. There are 33 PSAs in the province, offering the opportunity for colleagues to exchange ideas on research, teaching strategies, and curriculum development to name a few. Many PSAs also offer online mailing lists, which electronically connect colleagues across the province. Some locals also have specialist associations, and your local office or staff representative can point you in the right direction.
  2. Read an educational book, journal, or article. Many schools, locals, and districts maintain subscriptions to journals for circulation among staff. Call your local office or district resource centre to check for their availability. As well, there are numerous free journals available online. The BCTF has a comprehensive listing of these journals available on the BCTF web site. The principal’s office is another source of literature. To keep on top of trends, many principals purchase materials representing current thinking in educational directions.
  3. Choose and work with a mentor. Do you like what’s going on next door? Has something you’ve seen in the broader community sparked an idea for engaging instruction? Excellent professional development can be found anywhere. Your principal may be able to find a place in the school’s budget to allow some of this collaboration to happen or, if you are entitled to use local PD funds for the purpose, you may be able to cover the costs yourself.
  4. Start regular professional discussions. Have you read an article, watched a TV program, or taken part in a discussion that made you question your practice? Why not extend those experiences with a discussion group? In many schools and locals, teachers set aside a "social" time to discuss current issues in education. From breakfast clubs to afternoon teas, there are many different ways to make these discussions enjoyable and rewarding opportunities.
  5. Involve yourself and other like-minded professionals in an Action Research project. The BCTF’s Program for Quality Teaching (PQT) provides a framework for ongoing professional inquiry and growth. It also offers training and support throughout the inquiry process. PQT offers the opportunity for teachers to extend their understanding of teacher practice, develop research skills, examine the broader context of social forces, and encourage teacher experimentation to better meet the needs of students. Again, complete information, including how projects are funded, is available on the BCTF web site.
  6. While the ideas from the self-directed experience menu are valuable on their own, purposefully combining several together with related "traditional" PD opportunities creates a self-directed professional learning plan. Thoughtful, self-directed PD planning is one of the ways individual teachers can take action to resist efforts by others to take control of professional development, and assert their professional rights.

Lucinda Tooker (Maple Ridge) and Bob Wilson (Golden) are members of the BCTF Professional Issues Advisory Committee.

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