Embedded PD: The Real Peanut Butter & Jam Sandwich

In the field of education, the term ‘job-embedded’ professional development is widely used. So what exactly does it mean? My current job description uses this term in reference to helping teachers purposefully and effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. Based on my professional and personal experiences, I would compare job-embedded PD to:

  • A peanut butter and jam sandwich. It’s messy work that hopefully spreads to other teachers in the school and throughout the district. It’s combining your peanut skills with someone else’s knowledge jam to create something useful to try right away. And if it doesn’t work out the first time, it yields the most valuable (and you might say, yummy) learning experiences!
  • James Bond. It’s where you use acute powers of observation and relationship-building to develop trust with your colleagues. It’s where you help colleagues use your handy toolkit of innovative ideas and gadgets to help students overcome their learning challenges. It’s where you help your colleagues develop their own handy toolkit of innovative ideas to share with others. Too bad the toolkit doesn’t arrive in an Aston Martin…
  • Journalists. Like journalists, you record observations, data, and information carefully. It’s keeping track of changes and results, and reporting and analyzing them regularly. It’s continuously seeking new developments and being the first at the scene to try something out.
  • Short order cooks. Sometimes your job includes helping people with the same thing over and over again. It’s about figuring out how to personalize learning for all colleagues, and motivating them to help themselves. In short, it is about knowing and doing a little bit of everything, throwing it together, and presenting it in a variety of tasty ways.

The major difference between job-embedded PD and PD that happens outside of the school day or school building is the advantage of immediate application and consistent activity. The chance to try something out today, reflect on it, and adjust for next time, is essential to effective learning. And long-term, consistent practice leads to deep understanding and entrenchment.

To sum up, job-embedded PD is…

  • Who: Collaboration – within departments or subject areas, cross-curricular, vertical or horizontal, school-to-school, district-wide, and virtual communities
  • When: Consistently – regularly scheduled time for teachers to share and learn
  • How: Personalized – including readings, professional conversations, professional research, observations of your class or other classes, mentoring, coaching, lesson study, action research, case study, virtual coaching/discussions/collaboration, assessment development, setting personal professional goals, and study groups
  • What: Goals, roles, and expectations – make sure that all members of your team understand the group’s expectations for student results, alignment with school and district goals, and their individual role in the group. Then develop team collaboration skills (problem solving, communication, consensus building, trust).

For more on this subject, you could explore the short document, Job-Embedded Professional Development: What It Is, Who Is Responsible, and How to Get It Done Well, by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center, and National Staff Development Council.

(Image: Majorly unhealthy 2, by hiwarz. 2010. Available under a Creative Commons Attirubtion license.)

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