This past Monday I facilitated an introduction to Writing Pathways professional development with two of my district’s Reading Specialists.
In the last post we explored three ways in which educational books can be used (or misused) during professional development to impede our progress. One of these points touches upon making professional development more focused by (1) starting with the end in mind (or with what enduring understandings you want participants to walk away), and then (2) focusing only on the parts of the book that pertain to these understandings.
In Instructional Coaching, Jim Knight talks about the “art form” of instructional coaches being able to take a book and present/teach its contents in a simplistic fashion. He explains that ideas “will catch on much quicker if they are (a) powerful and (b) easy to use.” As implementers of professional development, I believe that we must own the process of making our resources and books as absorbable as possible (and not be so quick to blame teachers who may not “get it” the first time around). As Knight declares, “Teachers do not resist change so much as they resist poorly designed change initiatives.”
With my thoughts and Knight’s research in mind, here are the steps that I generally follow in order to “transform” a book into professional development:
A few months ago I was consulting with a principal who was planning to roll out differentiated instruction professional development in her school. A great deal of this planning time was dedicated to researching/deciding what book should serve as the basis for the learning.
After some conversation we started to ask ourselves if it was truly necessary to distribute a book to the teachers.
More often than not, I believe that teacher professional development sessions are dead in the water even before they begin, and there are two main perpetrators to blame: confirmation bias and fixed mindset. In a previous post we explored confirmation bias. Now, let’s take a look at fixed mindset.
More often than not, I believe that teacher professional development sessions are dead in the water even before they begin, and there are two main perpetrators to blame: confirmation bias and fixed mindset. In this post, let’s take a look at confirmation bias.
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).
Running any form of professional development can be a daunting task, whether it is at the district level, at a conference, etc. At the beginning of the planning process, facilitators often don’t have much more than a blank slate and a job such as, “You have one hour to teach your audience about [insert trendy topic here].” I have been leading professional development for a handful of years, and I have found that preparing with certain non-negotiables in mind helps to (1) provide me with a solid direction, and (2) assist in making my sessions that much more effective.
Here are my professional development non-negotiables:
For my latest district professional development day I conducted a one-hour presentation on the topic of student opportunities to respond, which focuses on how long each student has to be actively engaged in order to “make it through” the current lesson.
Featured is the slide deck that I created for the presentation, and I used Total Participation Techniques by Persida and William Himmele as the primary resource for my work. According to the book, “Total Participation Techniques (TPTs) are teaching techniques that allow for all students to demonstrate, at the same time, active participation and cognitive engagement in the topic being studied.” Here is a quick overview of some of the slides that are not entirely self-explanatory:
I recently created a Twitter 101 slide deck to be used at schools, conferences, etc. The intended audience is educators with little to no experience with Twitter, and the presentation should last 45 minutes to an hour. Here is a quick overview of some of the slides that are not entirely self-explanatory:
As a classroom teacher, it can sometimes feel as if district administrators belong to an exclusive club in which they are secretly made aware of all the organization’s inner workings while everyone else is left in the dark. Sometimes this exclusive club might meet for closed-door professional development sessions, and the specific details of what they learn usually turn out to be a bit fuzzy for those not present. Yes, attendees are supposed to pass along the information to their teachers, the ones who interact with students on a daily basis. However, sometimes the facts get awfully distorted as they make their way through multiple channels, eventually reaching the intended audience (if the audience is reached at all).
To help in avoiding this conundrum, session facilitators should embed into administrator professional development explicit procedures for the learning to reach teachers and ultimately affect students in the most positive ways possible. Here are five options that leaders can consider when paving this smooth path along which information can travel: