As I read Zepeda’s chapter on Job-Embedded Learning (2012, Chapter 6), in I was really struck by how much sense this concept makes for teachers. I consider the many times I have attended an offsite workshop and realize that, although I benefitted from interacting with colleagues and came back to campus with a notebook full of notes, I was then faced with the questions, How do I apply this to my classroom today? How will I know that students are learning more as a result of my training? Who can offer me support and help me be accountable?
With job embedded learning, teachers are applying new skills almost as soon as they are learning them. For example, the simple act of conferring with my grade level teachers about a formative assessment in creating patterns immediately revealed that my kindergarteners were weak in identifying similarities in patterns that are made up of different objects or pictures. My colleague shared a teaching strategy she uses that supports this skill. I used it that very day and noticed measurable improvement in student learning. This whole process took less than one hour and the application of my learning was almost immediate.
I think that we as teachers may need to see professional development in a whole new way. I will take seriously the collaboration meetings I engage in with my fellow teachers and strive to treat them as valuable opportunities for effective professional development. I know now, more than ever, that it is important to incorporate norms, agendas, action items, and data analysis to our team meetings in order to reap the benefits of this type of job-embedded learning.
Zepeda (2012, pp. 126-128) lists and describes seven positive outcomes from job embedded learning. They are: enhanced reflection, increased collegiality, less isolation, more relevant learning, increased transfer of learning, support of the refinement of practice, and a common lexicon. I can honestly say that even one effective and well executed team meeting accomplishes all of this. Imagine what meetings conducted in this manner on a weekly basis could do!
Zepeda, S.J. (2012) Professional development: What works. Larchmont, New York: Eye on Education.