The Person Doing the Work Is Doing the Learning

Kristen Swanson on learning environmentsKristen Swanson expands on the benefits of active professional learning for educators, which she explored in her article “Edcamp: Teachers Take Back Professional Development” in the May 2014 issue of Educational Leadership.

Have you ever been hunched over a colleague, trying to show him or her exactly how to replicate your lesson or approach?

These well-intentioned efforts often result in less learning and reduced empowerment.  The best learning environments occur when every learner does the “real work.”

Imagine going to a personal training session where the trainer actually did all the exercises. Or imagine attending a workshop on poetry reading where you never actually practiced reading poems. Crazy, right?  Our professional learning designs can’t reflect these didactic approaches.

At Edcamps, every learner does the heavy lifting. Because the participants themselves construct every session on the day of the event, actively contributing to the learning becomes a nonnegotiable. The sessions are conversations, not presentations. Everyone must invest in the entire experience, increasing ownership and motivation. Essentially, it’s a model where everyone is doing the work, and everyone is doing the learning.

When the learners are in charge, the results can be magical. Teachers in dozens of countries refresh and enrich themselves through Edcamp conversations.  Four hundred Edcamps after the movement began, educators continue to come back for more. Why? Because they’re in charge.