Intentional vs. Incidental Professional Learning

Two women drinking coffee and talking.

“coffee talk” by Anna Levinzon via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Here’s an interesting, if corporate-centric read:

Have some coffee & stop worrying about finding a “mentor.”

And it got me thinking (I bet I use that phrase in half of my posts… I’d better watch for that): how intentional will I be in my professional conversations with other teachers next year?

I have a central role in my board for a few more weeks, and so I’m often engineering intentional conversations about certain topics (like assessment or social media) in the context of a group session. For example, I’ll meet with a group of teachers I’m working with on a project and I’ll prompt the group to spark a dialogue.

In the hallway outside my office I have lots of incidental conversations with my fellow program warriors. We ask each other for help with problems (“what code do you use when a student completes Credit Recovery for a Coop credit?”) which lead to interesting (often philosophical) questions.

The Staff Room

But I’ll be at a school next year, and there will be a staff room or department office or something. When I think back to my last teaching experience, I talked shop with other teachers all the time, but rarely with the intention of learning something specific. Instead we just talked (complained) about whatever was on our minds (was irritating us). Looking back I’m sure I missed out on great learning opportunities in favour of lunchtime gripe sessions.

A possibility

What if we were to plan to have conversations? What if, instead of just “going to lunch” with some colleagues, we go to lunch with a topic in mind? There is a great teacher in my board who has suggested meeting me for breakfast to talk about some ideas he has; I need to make that happen, because it’ll likely be really useful for both of us. Also, I like him, and I like breakfast.


I’m not suggesting we should do one thing all the time. Personal and organic conversations are awesome and essential. But if we’re going to talk shop anyway, perhaps we should periodically craft those conversations for a little more focused gain.

2 thoughts on “Intentional vs. Incidental Professional Learning

  1. I’m going to preemptively comment on my post. I think LOTS of teachers have focused, intentional conversations ONLINE (Twitter chats spring to mind), just less often OFFLINE. Thanks :)

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