Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Teach me to teach better - some ideas for better PD

Widely agreed upon by all tweeps was the idea that professional development (PD) needed to be a learning experience that allowed teachers to do rather than just listen passively.

Too often, PD is treated like a college lecture, the complete opposite of what we are asked to do as teachers with our students. The most successful sessions that folks remembered were those where choice was involved and the opportunity to learn something new and practice it were provided.

Turns out teachers do want to learn and be inspired, but enough bad experiences with PD have put them off in a way that is sometimes hard to get them back.

We all just want materials that we can take back into our classroom the very next day. If the ideas are too esoteric, they won’t translate the way they need to

Not too ironically, teachers are a lot like the students we teach. We want to be a part of what is going on so that we can have some ownership in what we learn AND we are not all the same. Since our needs are wildly different, one size can’t fit all.

Here is some of what I’ve learned:
  • PD can be flipped the same way a classroom can be – as per Sharon Plante
  • PD should include a way to get teachers involved, hands on activities
  • PD should provide choice – perhaps allowing teachers to take part in a G-survey and then allow that to drive sessions
  • PD should be differentiated and meaningful to everyone
  • PD should be planned with teachers – organized with purpose and in advance
  • PD should be led by teachers sometimes
  • Guest speakers should sometimes be brought in for PD: Folks like Alan November from November Learning or Dave Burgess, author of Teach like a Pirate
  • PD should include the opportunity to learn new technologies and the time to play with them and brainstorm ways to use them effectively
  • PD should be collaborative with our colleagues – a conversation, something worthwhile that engages us
  • PD should offer variety – like an edcamp  - teachers should be able to choose on the day
  • PD can happen in the back channel and we should be aware of what is happening that isn’t in front of us
  • PD should encourage open minds and inspire further learning – it doesn’t have to happen in the meeting – Twitter Chats are really useful PD
  • PD should offer and allow time for reflection of learning – make it important
  • Blogging about PD is one way to reflect on what is learned and how it will be used
Professional Development is integral part of how we improve as educators. We want to be treated as our students do, with respect and professionalism.

What was your most memorable PD experiences and why? Do they fit into any of the above categories? Please share


  1. My most memorable PD experience was inspired by Todd Whitaker 's advice at NAESP 2013. He told us to join Twitter. Immediately! So I did. I was a casual Twitterer(is that a word?) and blogger until December. I went on Twitter a little and I wrote two or three short pieces for a basic blog.
    But starting in December I created a new blog. I became inspired to write and I became inspired to read other people's writing. It was amazing! The self reflection and writing that took place at 4 AM was wonderful. I learned more about myself and about education over the Christmas break than I thought was possible.
    I learned that my children are my muses. They inspire me to write. I learned more about myself and my profession from watching them experience life's simple experiences than I thoguth humanly possible.
    I learned that there is an amazing network of people on Twitter that is always there for support. Just reading the blog entries written by the people in my PLN has been an honor and a privilege. Every time I read someone's blog I feel as if I am sitting right next to them having a heart to heart conversation. I am getting a front row seat to what brilliant educators and leaders are thinking and doing and feeling and it is incredible!
    The first time I got a tweet from Todd Whitaker I nearly jumped out of my skin. Doesn't he have like a million followers? And yet he still finds the time to inspire, share and motivate. Awesome!
    I have also realized that I need to unplug. So in about five minutes the whole family is unplugging and we are going to just be. It is has been long overdue because we have been spending too much time on our iphones, ipads, Kindles or watching tv. But not tonight.
    So goodbye for now. Although I am sure I will have something interesting to write about tomorrow morning. My muses never disappoint!

  2. I'm so glad this was useful for you and you have positive experiences with learning. Twitter is really awesome; it's what brought us together to begin with. Thanks so much for reading and stay tuned for more posts.