Revising the Question…Again

I started a series of professional development workshops with teachers this week. It’s a series of half-day work sessions with full departments and I’m focusing on active learning and assessment techniques all centered on literacy within the content area. It’s really a part two to a full-day conference we held for teachers earlier this month and my task (and goal) is to make sure teachers are equipped with the how after hearing the why at the kickoff. 

My original question was framed as a negative: Why don’t teachers implement learning from professional development? I think this has an inherent bias, assuming that teachers don’t try to use what they’ve learned. Based on my work this week (and looking ahead), there is definitely a desire to do things and it seemed that the lack of planning time with colleagues was a bigger cause of inaction than not trying.

I’m going to adjust my question: How can my role effect change through professional development?

I want to move away from what other people do to how I can help impact their habits through strong professional development. I’m still not thrilled with the wording, but I’m interested in what structural components make a program effective when it comes to implementing ideas. To start, I brainstormed some gut feeling indicators and questions that (I hope) will guide some of my research.

  • Relationships: I know my teachers and they trust me and my instruction.
  • Instructional focus: Everything I do has an instructional lens or context. I do not rely on technology gimmicks to increase buy in.
  • Application: All of my workshops bring a heavy focus on in-the-classroom application of ideas through modeling or case study examples.

Some other related questions:

  • How does continuity of study (ie, a PD sequence rather than a one-off workshop) affect implementation?
  • Is there an ideal timing? How often (in a series) seems to be effective?
  • What does the interim look like in between workshops?
  • Are volunteers more likely to implement training? Or are groups, even if they’re elected to come by leadership?
  • How does the group dynamic affect buy in or implementation after the fact? Would establishing norms at the outset remove stigma?

The featured image is IMG_6750, a flickr photo by classroomcamera shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license