Sometimes You don't Know the Questions to Ask Until You Know the Questions

Learn what you need to teach by doing it.

Photo of Laura Terrazas
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Many times when professional developments are being created, we develop it from only one perspective- the presenter's.  The presenter will teach what needs to be learned. However, each person comes with a different background and prior knowledge. Therefore each person may understand the information differently.

If the professional development is to solve a problem, a learning issue or a teaching issue, bring it (the issue) to the group and have the professional development be discovering the core of the problem. In watching others learn or discover information, many times questions are generated and this is where the real learning and discovering begins.  Often the questions cannot be formulated until we have more information. 

The questions generated help us realize there may be a breakdown in communication or there may be a lack of information that we thought was being given or previously understood.  Base knowledge may be missing that needs to be taught prior to even getting to the perceived real issue. This helps us look at what we are doing from a different point of view and helps us learn, not only for ourselves but how to teach others.

By being involved in the problem solving process, and not just being told what needs to be done; there is ownership. Questions are generated that may not have been thought of previously. This helps to keep everyone involved and provides a deeper understanding. 

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Photo of Charles

One of my favorite phrases from design thinking is that "If you want better solutions, find better problems." I strongly agree with you that if teachers aren't involved in the process of posing their own questions, diving into the nature of the problem, they are unlikely to see value in the solutions proposed by others. One of the biggest problems I've seen in schools is when leadership evolves their understanding of an issue without bringing everyone else along with them, which causes a gap.

I'm curious, do you agree with Sarah (below) that we are asking the right questions about professional learning?

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I think we all have great ideas and answer each in our individual way but again are coming from our unique backgrounds.  To create professional developments that inspire us as professionals and that also help students is tricky. I do  think generating lots of ideas in questions like this will help, but I am wondering if we are inspiring our own  learning, as professionals,  which we need to do to support students; will we then need another PD to figure out how to apply this learning experience to the unique needs of the students. So I guess maybe in my mind this  may need to be two questions. What are our needs as professionals to grow and be inspired  to learn and teach and what are the needs of the students and how can we as professionals, inspire them? These  in my mind may be two completely different needs. 

Photo of Charles

I like your focus on the bridge between adult learning and classroom practice. One thing i like about the design thinking process is its emphasis on having a "bias toward action," which should include prototyping, implementing, testing, and further evolving the idea. Hopefully if we keep that mindset, we will create some ideas in this collaboration that have a clear benefit for our students. I generally hold the belief that what's truly good for teachers is good for students. 

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