Professional Development programmes are often guided by the perceptions of external agencies, such as inspection teams or by the perceptions of middle or senior managers however how often do we consider the perceptions of the teachers who attend these programmes? Will the perceptions of attendees not impact on the success or the potential for success of these programmes, and the ability for these programmes to bring about professional learning?
One of the first issues in terms of the success of a PD programme may be how “worthwhile” it is perceived to be. Now as mentioned earlier these programmes are often guided by forces external to the attendees. Have the attendees been asked about the training they need? In some cases the answer to this might be “Yes” as teachers are given the opportunity to choose or sign up for specific professional development events. As such it may be assumed that as they are choosing to attend they must at least, in some way, consider the event to be worthwhile, however this fails to consider other external factors impacting on teachers.
The current environment in schools focuses on targets and methods of measuring progress or achievement. This tends to therefore focus on those areas which are easier to quantify and measure, such as grades, scores, attendance, etc and less on more qualitative measures. As such teachers may attend professional development because they perceive that they have to in order to meet “professional development” targets. So is the choice to attend a professional development event driven by a perception of the “worth” of the event or by the perception that they need to attend events due to expectations of their school or school management team?
So how could we go about measuring the perceptions of teachers as to the predominant reasoning behind attendance at professional development events? Also, how do we move to professional development sessions which all attendees see as being “worthwhile” as, in these circumstances, there is a high probability that success professional learning will occur.
Clearly perceptions of PD are important to ascertain however the issue is, how do we go about getting such information, given it is very personal plus is influenced by a multitude of factors including perceptions of others’ expectations such as those of school leaders.