There’s nothing better than an exciting, energizing professional learning experience (okay, maybe happy hour…) and nothing can leave you wishing you were grading essays like a bad one. Often, participants find themselves wondering ‘who planned this?’ and ‘how is this useful to anyone’ while suffering through hours of professional development. If you’re planning a learning opportunity for your course, take some time and put yourself in the participants’ shoes. Would you enjoy this session? Is the content relevant to your work (or life)?
Some things to consider:
Don’t Share Tools Teachers Can’t Use
“Wow, that tool looks amazing, it would revolutionize the work in my class!” Oh wait…that doesn’t work with your account/wifi/students. Why would you share a resource (especially a fantastic one) that the people in the session can’t use. It’s a quick way to ask them to stop listening to what you’re sharing.
Think Beyond ‘Sit & Get’
It’s well-established that people generally have somewhat limited attention spans. Even with something you’re completely engaged in, your brain eventually needs a break. It never ceases to baffle me why educators, who know this and likely have first-hand experience with students, submit others to hours-long seated, sedentary, lecture-based training. After 45 minutes (and that’s often pushing it), your brain just can’t anymore.
But wait, it gets worse: how often is there a training on an innovative practice like Blended Learning, Project-Based Learning, or Personalized learning during which you sit at a table while the presenter talks at you. Model what you want your participants to do with their students. If you want them to park them in a chair and lecture, then do that…although I suspect everyone’s all caught up on that.
Is it useful? Is it interesting? If not, just don’t
Seriously. Before you finalize your session slides/notes/whatever, consider whether the learning you’re imparting on these people is useful to them in their role. Really consider it. Can they use it this week in their jobs? Is there a concrete application? If not, you’ve got to see if you can make some of those connections. It’s likely that these people have worked all day long and then they’re coming to you. At least make the session useful. Second, reflect on whether it is interesting. You can make anything interesting…you might have to work on it. Don’t assume you’re an amazing lecturer- it’s very likely that you’re not. How can you break up the session? How can you connect with the participants? How can you keep them engaged with your content? Really. Think before you present.
Don’t Bring People In That Have Never Taught
This is one of those things that makes me nuts. If there were a meeting of electricians, you best bet I wouldn’t be leading a session on circuits. Why would you bring in a non-teacher to come talk to teachers about teaching? I mean c’mon. There’s nothing more condescending…some of these people have been doing this for decades and have doctorates. If you must bring some non-educator in, at least have them co-present with someone who has an education background…and not someone who taught 22 years ago in Nova Scotia…teaching now is pretty much nothing like it was when I was in school (or at least let’s hope it isn’t).
Old-School methods that need to hit the antique store
I love history, my undergrad degree is in it, so I appreciate it a lot more than most people, but there’s a lot of PD history that needs to stay that way. If you’re copying old copies of papers that have those black specks of copier snow on them…move on. Copying ‘packets’ for people (or kids)? You too. Are your slide decks white backgrounds with every word ever spoken on it? Try something new. Do your session have you talking 90% of the time and people raising their hands to get a word in? Try some time for participants to interact. Do you make people put their devices away when you start? Sounds like you could reflect on the engagement factor in your session. Losing people? Don’t blame them.
One of my favorite things to remember is this:
Remember to make your content important and engaging. Do right by these people.
What’s your favorite tip for professional learning sessions (I’d love to add more)!