Is PD Where Learning Goes to Die?

It’s spring. Finally.

Aside from the general buzz over warmer weather and open toe shoes (even the guys will admit they are thrilled with the prospect of flip flops and shorts), spring is the time for professional development planning. As planning teams, we are excited about the new opportunities we can offer our learning communities – ideas we have stumbled upon, concepts we have been formulating for years, or a new book we can’t wait to share. This excitement can be short lived as we struggle to balance state mandates, technical changes, and our new ideas. Too many times I have watched best instructional practices thrown to the wind in an effort to cram as much information as possible into a three hour session.

I participate regularly in #satchat and #edtechchat, and chat topics often turn to discussion regarding quality professional/personal learning. We know that an educator’s time is valuable. So, how can we make the most of our time, maintain instructional quality, and keep teachers engaged, when some districts are not ready to give up on their traditional model of PD?

Below are a few ideas I believe offer a fair compromise – with an obvious emphasis on choice and differentiated learning. I would love to hear additional thoughts in the comment section.

Media Studies

Formally a “Book Study,” Media Studies offer videos, articles, blogs, and Twitter Chats instead of (or in addition to) traditional text. This kind of learning opportunity is an important way to build community among a faculty, because it offers them a shared schema. Successful studies offer teachers the opportunity to dialogue using their common vocabulary. Leaders should do their best to integrate this shared experience into meetings and additional learning throughout the year.

Online Courses

Online courses have powerful potential for professional development. A well designed online course allows a facilitator to differentiate for each learner. This is especially true while introducing a new technology tool. Each member of the course can view the resources that relate to their needs. If you already know how to share a file in Google Drive, you do not need to view that tutorial. However, you might be interested in the section on adding apps to your Drive. Online courses also allow learners to return to the resources when needed.

Even though the course is offered digitally, it is still important for the participants to feel as though they are working with people – not just a computer. Facilitators should provide a quick bio or intro video. Opportunities for the members to share their work and offer feedback are also critical.

Common Ground

Even if you decide not to offer an online course, it is still important to provide a place for teachers to access professional resources. Whether you use a Learning Platform, Blog, or a folder in Google Drive, make sure your teachers know where to go refresh their learning.

Sell It

A quality learning experience is surrounded by positive talk, and as a facilitator you should get it started. Talk to anyone who will listen about the exciting things your group is doing or the opportunity you are offering. Spread the word using any tool you have available to you.


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