Magazine article The Learning Professional

Don't Just Participate - Engage in Learning

Magazine article The Learning Professional

Don't Just Participate - Engage in Learning

Article excerpt

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "A man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." These words have special meaning for me and, I hope, for NSDC members because they describe what happens when learning occurs for educators.

NSDC's new statement of purpose - Every educator engages in effective professional learning every day so every student achieves - describes why our organization exists and states the deepest beliefs we hold about our work. The first few words of our purpose statement challenge the current practice of most educators.

What is meant by professional learning? The dictionary says learning is "to gain or acquire knowledge or skill." Brain researchers tell us that learning occurs when the learner creates new neural networks or strengthens those that already exist. They say this change in structure of the brain causes the learner to practice new habits of mind and behaviors to the point they become habitual.

How does one create new neural networks and/or acquire new knowledge and skills? NSDC's purpose statement requires all educators to engage, not merely participate, in professional learning. Therein lies a huge difference. To engage in professional learning, educators must experience learning through processes that promote deep meaning, emotion, and/or reflection. These experiences might occur through activities such as reading, writing, observing, listening carefully, or speaking thoughtfully, all of which result in new habits of mind.

I recently observed educators engaging in an effective professional learning at a middle school in my district. …

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