The professional development and professional learning of educators is an important topic in 21st-century educational discourse. The professional development of educators is a rather niche field, but in recent times have soared in popularity. This has happened to such an extent that the British Journal of In-Service Education was rebranded as Professional Development in Education. As the journal’s associate editor Alex Alexandrou states, this change was necessary as a response to the growing popularity and importance of professional development and learning in education and other sectors.
As the end of the year looms, professional development hardly even makes a blip on the proverbial radar. Educators are busy managing final exams and keeping one eye on the well-deserved rest in December. Part of why this well-deserved rest is needed is because many educators have spent countless hours throughout the year, creating high-quality material to teach their students a wide variety of lessons and content. It is curious that South African educators create wonderful learning materials and other resources, but seldom share their materials and resources with other educators.
Dr. Sue Swaffield, a lecturer at the University of Cambridge, reflects on modern professional development in an educational context and argues that reciprocity, collaboration, and dialogue are inherent in professional learning. Based on the work of Swaffield, the South African educational context is not truly embracing the fundamentals of professional development and learning. There are some collaborative spaces such as Onnies Online and e-classroom but the South African context certainly has much more to offer! ITSI provided professional development to thousands of educators during 2018, the implications and application of these skills are essential to successful 21st-century teaching and learning. This knowledge resides with you, the educators that teach daily in classrooms all over the country.
As the chaos of the final exams calm down and the year grinds to halt, perhaps it is time to reconsider the way in which you use the skills that you have learned in your professional development. Educators are the experts of the classroom, share that expertise to inspire professional learning amongst your educator colleagues. Doing this you will not only enhance the educational journeys of your own students but the journeys of countless other students!
To conclude the professional development blog for the year, we leave you with the following idea to ponder on over the holidays:
If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
Nicolas Matthee is an educational researcher at ITSI. His work focuses on Cognitive Psychology, Educational Neuroscience, and Pedagogy. He further specialises as a Ritual Studies specialist with a focus on Ritual, Liturgical and Thanatological Studies and how they relate to different technologies and cyber contexts.
He is a research associate at the Department of Practical Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria. Non-academic related expertise includes game and 3D graphics development for computer and mobile environments.