In my last post I focused on my five non-negotiables of professional development: plan with the end in mind, model best practice, slide design counts, electronically available resources, and know your audience before, ask for feedback after. In an attempt to model best practice with my writing, I am going to dive deeper into these aforementioned points (less is more), rather than simply piling on more non-negotiables (mile-wide, inch deep).
If you have not read the previous post, I would encourage you to do so, as my ideas from each of these posts work together to form a whole.
- In the first post I discussed planning professional development with the end in mind. Now, let’s look at breaking down a topic by multiple enduring understandings. Pretend that you are your district’s curriculum supervisor and you are leading the transition to a topic such as standards-based grading. Before any professional development is conducted, sit down with your core planning team and ask, “What do we want our educators to understand by the conclusion of our SBG professional development?” Answers might include: why percentage grades are unacceptable, revamping the grade book, managing retakes, etc. After determining with what understandings teachers should walk away, place these understandings into groups based on their similarities. Finally, take these groups and arrange them into the chronological order in which your teachers should be exposed to them through professional development. Now you can truly start planning with the end in mind!
- In the first post I discussed modeling best practice by wrapping each professional development session around an essential question. Now, let’s look at how to model inquiry-based learning. A few key ideas that could apply to almost any professional development session:
- Take any “official research” and move it as far back into your presentation as humanly possible.
- Somewhere prior to the research, have the audience (teachers) uncover that there just might be a way for them to improve upon a particular area of their practice.
- Once it is realized that there could be room for improvement, move your audience in the right direction by providing them with a combination of (1) opportunities to collaborate in regards to how they can improve, and (2) explicit strategies to assist them along the way.
- Finally, reveal the research to give your audience the confidence that what they are exploring is tried and true.
- In short, these steps mimic inquiry-based learning in that direct instruction takes place after students are provided with opportunities to uncover deeper understandings of content.
- In the first post I discussed slide design. Now, let’s look at a few more slide design tips that are driven by mistakes that I have made over the years:
- Always try to present on the same computer on which the slide deck is created. On multiple occasions I have transferred my work to another computer. As a result, my slides were altered in one way or another, mostly because the new machine did not have installed all of the fonts that I used. While you can download the fonts if necessary, it is a safer bet to use one device for slide deck creation and presentation (if possible).
- Know your audience. Last year I helped to create a slide deck on my state’s Educator Effectiveness model. Even though my district’s administrators were to present the slides to the school board, I still thought that it would be fun to make extensive use of the Flame build in Apple Keynote. (It looks like what you would expect.) Needless to say, my Assistant Superintendent had me do away with the build, deeming it inappropriate.
- Do not simply copy and paste multiple paragraphs from books/sources into your slides. The audience will spend their time reading the paragraphs, not listening to what you have to say. Also, eventually they might start to wonder if you are simply plagiarizing your entire presentation. Instead, copy and paste key quotes into your slides, which you can verbally expand upon through the possible help of slide notes (which the audience cannot see).
- In the first post I discussed making your resources available electronically. Now, let’s look at making sure that the resources from all of your presentations can be found in the same place, such as your district’s digital hub or website. Think about your current district’s professional development and all of the accompanying electronic resources. Where do you have to go to get the materials from the professional development that was last week? Last month? A few months ago? Last year? The year before that? If all of these answers are different, there is a problem. District administrators should make it as easy as possible for teachers to enhance their practice, and this includes ensuring that where to find these materials is an absolute no-brainer. Also, within the digital hub or website the resources can be arranged or categorized in such a way that demonstrates the connections from one professional development session to the next.
- In the first post I discussed knowing your audience before, asking for feedback after. Now, let’s look at the idea of teachers teaching teachers. Once again, pretend that you are your district’s curriculum supervisor and you are leading the transition to standards-based grading. As part of this process you are most likely going to build some form of core planning team. Along with gathering resources and talking to those outside your district, ask yourself, “Who within my district has a background in SBG? Who within my district has a passion for curriculum?” The chances are that no matter what the initiative, there are teachers that can positively contribute in one way or another. In doing so, not only will the content of the professional development be enhanced, but (1) the audience (teachers) might be more open to new ideas if they are coming from their colleagues, and (2) you will build capacity within your organization by allowing others to contribute to the instructional process.
These five points expand upon what was presented in my last post. When combined, both pieces provide a solid starting point for the planning of any professional development session.
How might you apply these ideas in your school or district? Also, how do you start planning for professional development?
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