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Published October 20, 2017 | Multidisciplinary

Professional Development For Teachers At The College Level: Interview With A Teacher Researcher

In September 2017, Michelle Deschênes, a teacher in the Web Integration program at Collège O’Sullivan de Québec, published a report entitled Le développement professionnel des enseignants Portrait de la situation dans les collèges privés du Québec [PDF, in French]. I met her to talk about it.

Professional Development, What Is It?

In her report, Michelle mentions that teacher professional development corresponds to:

  • Initial and continuing training
  • Interactions with colleagues, pedagogical counsellors, college administrators, etc.
  • Reflecting on teaching practices

In the course of her research, Michelle surveyed 120 teachers from 12 private colleges, as well as one administrator from each of the colleges. She obtained a portrait of the various teacher and administrator viewpoints on the professional development of teachers.

I talked with Michelle about the reality of teachers who wish to perfect their teaching skills.

Professional Development, A Shared Responsibility

Colleges with a total payroll for the year of over $2 million are required by law to contribute to the Workforce Skills and Development and Recognition Fund. Therefore they must invest at least 1% of their total employee payroll in training.

Having said this, teachers are responsible for their professional development. Michelle referred me to the competency profile for teaching staff developed by a PERFORMA work group. “Taking charge of one’s own professional development” is one of the components of the competency relating to a teacher’s professional practice.

The needs of the college and the needs of the teacher

Hiring requirements for college teachers pertain mostly to the subject to be taught. Only 45% of the teachers polled by Michelle had obtained a diploma in pedagogy before being hired.

It is understandable that the administrators who were surveyed felt the need to offer teachers training (PED days, workshops, etc.) focused on pedagogical or technological knowledge. Especially since colleges cannot target one subject matter for a training if they want to reach all of their teachers.

On the other hand, the teachers questioned showed an interest in training that combined pedagogy, technology as well as their subject matter. They wanted notions of techno-pedagogy that applied to their own discipline.

It is only normal that the “general” training sessions offered by the colleges to the entire faculty do not always meet the needs of each individual, although in many cases it is the teachers who are better placed to transfer the knowledge to their own disciplines. Thus it is necessary for teachers to set their own personal objectives (individual or collective) and to autonomously take steps the to reach them.

Make your objectives known!

Do you have a learning objective? Tell the people who can help you! Michelle Deschênes

Michelle presents some tips to help you meet your professional development objectives:

  • Tell your administration or pedagogical counsellor about your objectives. They can guide you to the resources. Let other people know, people who have the same objectives, people who want to learn the same things as you. Don’t limit yourself to colleagues from your department or college!
  • Get inspired by your colleagues from the college network! For instance, if you want to learn about flipped classrooms, look at the work done by Samuel Bernard, a math teacher at the Cégep régional de Lanaudière à Terrebonne. (Start with his web site.) Or find a teacher who teaches the same subject matter as you and who uses an approach that inspires you. Find texts that interest you then network with the authors. How to find such texts?

Follow the authors of the texts that interest you on Twitter, on LinkedIn… Follow their followers. Consider participating in APOP Online Kiosk, a virtual open space to discuss subjects related to techno-pedagogy. You might meet a colleague who shares your interests and with whom you could exchange afterward.

Let me just add: if you have an experience you could contribute, contact the Profweb team so that we can write a text together to share with the college network. Readers could contact you and you could take your idea one step further…

To Learn More

Profweb has already mentioned Michelle Deschênes’ research work: we published an article after her doctorate exam. Michelle’s doctorate is also about the professional development of teachers. We are impatiently waiting for the results of her project! We will definitely talk to you about this when the time comes. If you are interested in the issue of professional development, do not hesitate to follow Michelle on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The research, Le développement professionnel des enseignants: Portrait de la situation dans les collèges privés subventionnés du Québec, presented in this report, received a grant from the ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie under the PREP (Programme de recherche et d'expérimentation pédagogique) of the ACPQ (Association des collèges privés du Québec).

About the Author

Catherine Rhéaume Catherine Rhéaume has been an editor and writer for Profweb since 2013. She also teaches physics at Cégep Limoilou and is a sessional lecturer for qualifying courses at University Laval. Her work for Profweb fosters her interest for technopedagogy and encourages her to try innovative teaching practices.

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