Selecting professional learning opportunities


There are so many types of professional learning in Australia that it can be an overwhelming experience to try and fumble through the plethora to find meaningful opportunities. Do you ever wonder how to start thinking about your needs as a learner and how to access the best professional development for you?

You are not alone.

The professional learning market in education boomed after the introduction of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) and we saw a subsequent overflow of opportunities pulling us in their direction vying for our money and more importantly, fighting for a slice of our time. I was working for a project that was rolling out national training in disability education at the time that the APST came into effect and we were one of the first institutions in our region to accredit our work with the local registration body. Back then there was no corporate knowledge on this area and the process was very time consuming, arduous and complicated. We were paving the way for new programs to become accredited and we were essentially the test turtles. Despite the blockades by the registering body we were successful in our claim and began to run our professional development sessions.

Four years later I found myself in a similar position trying to work with an organisation on accrediting their work. The process was more streamlined this time, however I was amazed at how little scope for diversification in content was out there for teachers. There were training opportunities in disability education, literacy, numeracy and technologies, however little secondary and senior secondary specific learning. As a secondary educator I found this to be problematic as I required a certain number of accredited professional learning hours in order to maintain my registration. I called the registration body to seek advice on the matter and the response I received was that certainly there must have been something out there for me.

I felt alone.

I have written about the support that I find in the social media sphere in developing my professional identity including reflection on the role of online professional relationships in maintaining integrity and currency in the fast changing education environment. And much of my professional learning are uncounted hours as they do not relate directly to the APST, and instead sit within my professional portfolio alongside unit plans, leadership projects and the like.

So how do you chose professional learning opportunities?

Map your needs. Think about where you are in your knowledge, skills and attributes, and consider your career progression for the next five or ten years. For some of us it might be an even shorter time frame like two years, but whatever length of time make sure your goals are achievable and grounded in reality.

Assess the learning provider. Although many learning providers now themselves must go through a registration process before they can offer accredited professional learning, do not rely on the assessment body. Consider your mapped needs and what you expect from a learning provider. Do a bit of digging in the internet looking for appraisals of the organisation. And don’t be afraid to ask questions before you hand over you limited budget from the faculty to enrol in the course. Some key questions to ask might include:

  1. How long have you been offering this professional learning opportunity?
  2. What is the return rate on your users? Do people come back for more than one course?
  3. When did you last review your learning curriculum? What are the credentials of the person who reviewed it?

Be honest with yourself. You know yourself better than anyone, and so you know what you need and whether a provider will be able to meet your requirements. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions of the provider, your executive and yourself.

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