Not only are we recognizing that we just don't have enough opportunities to do traditional “everyone in the same room” professional development, but we have started thinking differently about the purpose of workshops and other whole-group PD.
Until recently, I used to think of whole-group PD as the end. Teachers attend the PD session and they would leave being proficient at the skill taught in the session, ready and able to implement it well in their classroom.
That might be the case with some topics and some kinds of training, but not with the paradigm-shifting work we've been doing lately around Customized Learning, including teaching with iPads. This is definitely Second Order Change; we're doing something significantly or fundamentally different from what we have done before.
Now, I think of whole-group PD as just the beginning, an opportunity to introduce a group to a new idea and get them all “on the same page” before they begin working in their own classrooms at learning how to implement the skill well.
And that idea, the idea that these new skills are complex and need practice and that teachers need to be supported throughout their work to get good at them, has us thinking about workshops as just one small piece of professional development.
For us, professional development for our teachers needs to include some fluid combination of these components:
- “Same Page” Trainings – These are introductory workshops, getting teachers on the same page about a new set of skills or strategies they will be working to implement.
- Teachers Inventing – There is much to this new system that needs to be designed or invented (or at least adapted for our schools). The work teachers do to design, invent, prototype, refine, perfect, and share these systems and strategies is valuable professional learning for all of us.
- Model & Examples – Classroom visits, videos, photos, and articles, etc., to help teachers answer the question, “But what does this look like in action?”
- Mini-Lessons – As with teaching in the classroom, these are short, topic-specific, timely lessons, usually offered in response to an emerging need.
- On-Demand Videos & Resources – Instead of having to wait for a workshop, or for the Tech Integrator or Instructional Coach to visit her classroom, these how-to articles, lessons, short courses, and videos are available to a teacher as she needs them.
- Classroom Try-Outs – Play-Debrief-Replay – The chance to try a skill in the classroom, reflect on how it went and how it could be done better, and then try it out again with the improvements.
- Coaching – a Technology Integrator, Instructional Coach, administrator, or peer who models lessons or strategies, co-designs or plans with the teacher, observes, and/or provides formative feedback to support the teacher's professional growth.
- Focused Study Groups – Teachers select topics of interest, then work collaboratively with other teachers with the same topic on an inquiry project. Often includes creating a product that can be shared with and used by other teachers to learn about the topic.
- PLC's, PLN's, & the Human Network – A Professional Learning Community or Professional Learning Network is the group of educators a teacher has access to in order to share experiences, ideas, and resources, as well as to ask questions and seek support. A teacher's PLN usually extends well beyond her school or district via the blogs and social networks the teacher builds and follows.
Of course, now we have to figure out how to do all of these well…