Sometimes busy educators view “talking about” things as a waste of time, perhaps because they have had too many experiences in which discussion obfuscated rather than clarified and dissipated energy rather than focused it.
Well-structured conversations, however, can enable professional learning that literally alters brains. Let me explain:
Psychotherapy is a specialized form of talk in which one person supports another in feeling better or in finding solutions to vexing problems. It encourages clients to take responsibility for their lives by following various therapeutic protocols. When effective it alters the brain, according to Larry Sandberg, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry, in a letter-to-the-editor of the New York Times.
“Numerous findings over the last two decades demonstrate how talk therapy alters the brain,” Sandberg writes. “Disabling conditions like clinical depression and anxiety can be treated effectively by understanding distorted patterns of thought, becoming aware of emotional conflicts that have not been conscious, or practicing new behaviors.”
When professional development is done well, it too is a form of conversation that alters brain (which is another way of saying it produces meaningful learning) by engaging emotions, examining beliefs, deepening understanding, and initiating new behaviors.
Professional development does so when educators use protocols to examine various forms of data and evidence and to engage in a deep exploration of the most challenging problems of teaching and learning. Through this conversation educators feel empowered and assume responsibility for the continuous improvement of their practice and its outcomes.
What do you think…
What is your experience with high-quality, conversation-based (as opposed to lecture oriented) professional development through which you took greater responsibility for continuously improving your teaching and/or leadership?