Professional learning takes many forms; four different types are shown in the four quadrants in the right figure. Two variables define the quadrant, who primarily benefits (individual person or school) and structure ( formal or informal). The four types created from these variables are training, course, workshop, and collaboration. All are valid and useful to educators.
An example of training is when a school adopts new data software or adopts a security plan. Everyone needs some form of formal training. Workshops are a learning event such as a staff session on literacy teaching practices in CTE. All teachers have taken courses for certification, and these are formal and primarily benefit the individual person. The fourth type is collaboration – it is informal and mainly benefits the individual. Collaboration can be as casual as walking into another shop and asking a fellow teacher how to handle completing a required form. That is professional learning. It is timely, benefits the person, and addresses a need.
There is nothing more meaningful to a teacher than professional learning that is just in time and practical – that is collaborative learning. The COVID-19 school closings in the spring of 2020 made every educator feel like a beginning teacher, needing to learn how to teach virtually. The technology existed to provide online virtual conversations, but very few teachers experienced this in actual teaching.
During the spring school closure, CTE TAC staff jumped in to address the challenges CTE teachers were facing. Staff set up virtual Sharing and Support Collaborative meetings on Zoom for CTE teachers from across the state. Grouping teachers by subject areas brought teachers together with a very common purpose to share the challenges of bringing that technical discipline into a virtual learning environment. Often CTE teachers are content area singletons in their schools or career and technical centers without colleagues teaching the same course or program.
These virtual professional sharing sessions are not a one-time event but a part of an ongoing effort to provide professional learning communities statewide. The CTE Virtual Sharing and Support Meetings are scheduled in October and will continue periodically throughout the year. The CTE TAC maintains a CTE PLC for each content area on a Google Drive with shared teaching ideas for each instructional area.
Over the last several months, virtual collaboration has been a very successful effort. It demonstrates how powerful collaboration is as professional learning. What is most gratifying is the thousands of educators coming together, developing relationships interested in continuing their professional growth. This will only enhance the professions and better serve CTE students in their career development.