Participatory Culture and Professional Development

This week I read a study from the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, Designing With Teachers: Participatory Approaches to Professional Development in Education (Fall 2012). The study focused on professional development within a culture of participatory learning.

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New Strategies Needed

This study caught my eye because I have been seeking to grow in my capacity, as an OER librarian, to work with other librarians to build knowledge, understanding and best practice around open educational resources (OER), especially in the K12 sector. Although awareness of OER is growing, use of these resources is a challenge for many educators, as well as for librarians.The design of these digital resources is not familiar to many and the licensing that governs their use and reuse is unfamiliar. The integration of OER into local contexts such as classrooms and libraries necessitates a new range of supports and strategies.

And that is why the study out of the Annenberg Innovation Lab caught my attention. I want to support conversation and shared learning that builds these supports and strategies. I, like many librarians, spend considerable time training and sharing about my resources, their access, potential and appropriate use, as well as about our systems and services. My professional practice in this area continues to change as I explore new ways of effectively connecting with others in the field – especially, as previously noted, with other librarians who wish to integrate open education resources into their libraries and services.

Distributed Expertise

I was especially intrigued with the report’s discussion about transitioning from the notion of providing professional development for teachers [librarians] to professional development with teachers [librarians]. Just as participatory service in the hyperlinked library is built upon customer participation in building and maintaining the services they want (Casey & Savastinuk), participatory learning relies on a model of “distributed expertise”, which assumes that knowledge, in all contexts, is distributed across a diffuse network of people and tools (Reilly & Literat, 2012). This mindshift is exciting to me and complements the participatory service model. I will be envisioning how this model can be integrated into my practice as I relate with other librarians interested in open education models.

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Participatory PD Values

Participation, not indoctrination;
Exploration, not prescription;
Contextualization, not abstraction;
Iteration, not repetition.


These values excite me because they are strongly correlated to conceptual frameworks in the field of open education of collaboration and knowledge sharing around educational resources, and users/teachers as expert creators, adapting open educational resources for their instructional goals and their learners’ needs.

New Foundations

I am thrilled to be exposed to the model of participatory professional development. I believe it provides a foundation and theoretical framework for my own emerging practice in this area. It will help me begin to articulate a pathway of participatory professional development and learning together with other professionals who work, or wish to work, in the open education space.



Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today.

Reilly, E. & Literat, I. (2012). Designing With Teachers: Participatory Approaches to Professional Development in Education. USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Accessed at . 2012 Feb 6.

One thought on “Participatory Culture and Professional Development

  1. Thanks for this cool article! I appreciate your insights – putting this one on my to be read pile. (digital pile!)

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