When I was a staff development teacher at an elementary school, I heard the same complaints from teachers day in and day out—they thought most of the training they were required to participate in was a complete waste of their time. Why? There were many reasons, but these two topped the complaint list:
- They weren’t interested in the content
- Everything they learned sounded great, but they didn’t have the support or time to actually implement anything from the training.
I know these complaints aren’t unique to elementary school teachers and that individuals who work in other professions and fields likely echo them. The problem in most cases is what we often referred to at my school as “drive-by professional development.”
Drive-by professional development is characterized by a variety of fragmented trainings that may or may not be connected to a need, with no follow-up or requirement for implementation of learning. Drive-by professional development usually isn’t very effective. So, what is effective?
“Slicing the Layers of Learning,” an article by Meredith Curry and Joellen Killion, is a resource I tend to return to periodically for a refresher on the design of effective professional development.
The Continuum of Macro to Micro Learning
Think of professional learning as a continuum of experiences. At one end, we have macro learning; at the other, micro learning. This continuum of professional learning can be used to understand the link between cognitive learning and experiential learning.
A simple way to think about it is that macro learning is where you acquire the knowledge and micro learning is where you apply the knowledge.
Macro learning involves explicit occurrences of cognitive learning, usually at the broad level. It builds content knowledge and skill but does not guarantee that learning is transferred to practice. Macro experiences provide an opportunity for learners to build common knowledge and establish a foundation on which individuals or teams can then apply that knowledge in the form of micro learning.
Micro learning generally occurs in individuals’ daily work as they apply knowledge, reflect, and collaborate with colleagues about their experience. It cements macro learning, makes it purposeful, and helps transform behaviors and beliefs.
Design Opportunities for Macro and Micro
When it comes to professional development, you need to offer experiences all along the continuum. Too often learners engage only at the macro level. While macro learning is important, micro learning promotes transfer of the learning to practice. Without the micro level, most of what is learned at the macro level is lost.
Curry and Killion suggest forming professional learning communities, where employees can take that next step to collaboratively reflect about their practice and deepen their individual and collective understanding.
No Drive-Bys Here
At Tagoras, we too believe in the power of peer-based, collaborative learning—and that’ll be a big part of the learning at the Leading Learning Symposium. The symposium itself will provide opportunities for both macro and micro learning, but we also know that the learning needs to continue beyond the two days of the conference.
The symposium won’t be another drive-by workshop. Our goal is to build a true community of learners where we can offer one another support and make sure what is learned is applied.