What do “teacher inservice” and the artificial insemination of animals have in common?

Dennis SparksIn the 1970s I recall reading a Kappan article in which an author who was frustrated with the quality of  “inservice education” compared it to the artificial insemination of animals.

As a result, you can imagine the disturbing images that come to mind when I hear teachers say that they are “inserviced.”

Whenever I share this comparison with teachers, I receive a response somewhere between an appreciative laugh and a disgusted groan.

Previous posts—which have received wide readership—have described the vast majority of teacher professional development 40 years later as “mindless” and a “near-death experience.”

It’s time that administrators and teacher leaders adopt a zero tolerance policy for professional development that is not sufficiently robust to affect what educators believe, understand, say, and do on a daily basis.

We know enough about the attributes of professional development that leads to meaningful professional learning and strong teamwork to make the necessary changes; a few hours of study of Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning and other literature will reveal where to begin.

We know the “what” of high-quality professional development. There is no acceptable reason to delay its implementation.

The students and teachers who are now in our schools deserve nothing less.

3 Responses to “What do “teacher inservice” and the artificial insemination of animals have in common?”


  1. 1 Wanda Dean October 29, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Well said.

  2. 2 carla matos November 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I have a favourite pet peeve from PD sessions. I really despise when someone says ‘If I leave you with one nugget I will have done my job’. Perhaps it is this philosophy that causes me to take away very little new information when experiencing system wide PD. Imagine parents’ reactions if my expectations for students were to take away only one nugget each day. I want more than that for myself, for my students and for my colleagues. I often wonder why system PD is not offered at two different levels: PD for whom the topic is new and PD for more experienced users.

    • 3 Dennis Sparks November 10, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree, Carla. Professional development is plagued by low expectations. However, rather than dividing systemwide professional development by levels, I would recommend minimizing or even eliminating it, with virtually all PD intended to improve teaching and learning occurring within teacher teams in schools.


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