There are times in our careers that we use the term professional judgment as a license to do whatever we believe is right! We’ve earned our degree! We’ve “practiced” our skills! We’ve been inducted into the profession! The very definition of a professional supports our “right” to trump any disagreement of practice. Quite honestly, a rigorous pre-service program and a Bachelor of Education should allow for some latitude in our ability to deploy professional judgment. However, the world has changed at an alarming pace and as educators we need to be continually seeking to heighten our own informed professional judgment. Earlier this week I read Tom Whitby’s (@tomwhitby) post entitled, “ Confidence through Connectedness” His thoughts provoked my own reflection on how informed professional judgment is linked to both the art and science of teaching and overall confidence required.
When I began my career in the mid eighties, I was convinced that teaching was only an art. Although I “enjoyed” my university experience, I really didn’t see the direct connection between theory and practice. While some of my professors were highly engaging, others didn’t seem to have a good sense of the real world in the classroom anymore. Furthermore, I was a coach and a successful coach at that. And so, the art of teaching came very close to what I did coaching hockey or instructing at hockey schools. My professional judgment was more based on the successes I had as a coach and how I was able to transferit to the classroom.
Being nostalgic and looking back at my own experience in school, many of my favorite teachers were coaches. They weren’t necessarily athletic coaches, but they certainly employed sound coaching methods in their practice. I was a relatively strong student who, because of my sports upbringing was also fairly disciplined. Today, I would probably be considered as a compliant student because as an athlete back then, you just did what the coach told you. Now that style or art works well when your players or students are compliant and/or engaged, but what happens when they aren’t? Today, with our correct move towards inclusion and overarching goal of student success for all, we can no longer just “coach” the compliant or engaged.
The art of teaching must be married to the science of teaching. There is considerable uniformity in the belief that students are very different today as compared to when most of us in the over 50 club started this profession. We can provide numerous reasons why or lay blame until we’re blue in the face but it doesn’t change this fact. Given this, educators must become more learned than ever before. The professional judgment we gained in our undergraduate degree is simply insufficient. The soft skills we employ as educators may be an art, but strong, effective and engaging pedagogy is a science. Educators today, now have the benefits of the latest brain research to inform practice. It changes our perspective from “he won’t do his work” to possibly, “he can’t do his work… in this way.” It pushes us away from the factory model of education and truly highlights the uniqueness of each child in our classrooms.
Secondly, the student of today requires far different teaching practices for high levels of engagement and learning. In order for students to develop their own creativity and innovative talents, our educators must demonstrate those same qualities in their classrooms. It is understandable that some educators shy away from those practices for a number of reasons. Often, the barrier of an accountability system that numerically ranks schools, teachers and students can be found to be at fault. When only test scores rather than true learning are measured, there is a disconnect. Additionally, many educators are being asked to engage in practices that initially are out of their comfort zone. It makes sense that until educators build some confidence in a different pedagogy, it is likely to remain on the “practice” court only. Informed professional judgment is defined through actions in the classroom. More than ever before, educators need to be innovative in their practice utilizing a skillful art and science to reflect informed professional judgment. And stakeholders and governments need to be patient and supportive by creating and/or maintaining environments to allow the development of these skills.
Informed professional judgment is a non-negotiable for today’s educators. Educators need to stay informed not on a yearly basis but on a daily basis. Schools and school districts will never be able to offer the amount of learning opportunities required to keep our professionals up to date. That is the reason why educators must become connected within their school, their division and with the use of technology. Educators of today are unable to provide informed professional judgment on an ongoing basis without being connected personally or virtually. Connected educators build up their own confidence levels. Connected educators are supported by others who act as reference or sounding boards. Connected educators find ways to ensure that their professional judgment is always informed.
We know that the classroom is very different today than it was even ten years ago. We also know that education is one of the only saving graces for many of our children and for society as a whole. With that in mind, it is critical that leaders and teachers continually strive to provide their most informed professional judgment and in order to achieve, they must be connected!!!