Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Every professional development workshop you've ever attended

I am in the middle of another week-long professional development program through GEAR UP, a great national program that brings more training, technology and funding to regions where few students are prepared for college. After 5 years of various trainings, each one claiming to be the most successful and innovative approach to teaching ever created, I now realize that they are all essentially rehashing the same ideas and using similar methods to make it appear new and exciting. These include:
  • Lots of exciting buzzwords and new terminology--especially anything that can be put into an acronym that sounds vaguely educational (i.e. LEARN - Leading Educators Analyzing Reading Nationally, and yes I just made that up)
  • Flashy PowerPoint presentations
  • Professionally printed, full color brochures for your prohibitively expensive classroom materials, which includes textbooks, student reproducible workbooks, DVDs, software, more brochures)
  • Tons of logo branded freebies that teachers love (pens, pencils, coffee mugs, keychains, stress balls, etc)
  • Very heavy books or binders that you will never actually read because the presentation itself was so life-affirming that you feel you already learned what's in there (read: nothing)
  • An extremely lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng presentation where the attending teachers do most of the work and then make mini-presentations to the other attendees about all the groundbreaking things they've learned
These past two days have been spent "learning" the 5E Instructional Model, first by the teachers acting as the students in a model 5E lesson on Monday and then creating a 5E lesson today. The 5 Es, so that you can again save yourself the trouble and stay home:
  • Engage - Apparently, you need to grab the attention of your students at the beginning of a lesson. I did not know this!
  • Explore - You could call this part [discovery, student-centered, cooperative, inquiry-based, constructivist] learning.
  • Explain - The kids explain what they learn in words.
  • Elaborate - Application and Synthesis from Bloom's Taxonomy
  • Evaluate - This is totally mind blowing--you need to check for understanding at the end of a lesson with some kind of assessment!
It's basically your ordinary garden-variety well structured lesson plan, with a new and exciting name to make somebody feel like they made a contribution to the art of teaching.

How many supposedly different workshops have you attended that told you to engage your students, have a more student-centered classroom, include more reading and writing, encourage collaboration and critical thinking and create meaningful, effective assessments? What's that you say? ALL of them?!?! At least this program isn't completely run by education profiteers.