Many district are is in the midst of planning their 2016-17 inservice/institute days. These days, sometimes called PD days, often include communicating initiatives aligned to district goals. Sometimes school goals are included in this process. As far as I can remember inservice days have always been part of my school year. The content is sometimes applicable to what’s happening in a particular school, other times it’s more aligned with a district goal. Most teachers have experienced successful and unsuccessful sessions.
Last night I came across this Tweet:
#MTBoS What one or two things do you see as key to effective professional development?
— David Coffey (@delta_dc) June 22, 2016
David asked an important question. I’m not an expert in the field of PD, but I’ve experienced some amazing and not-so-amazing sessions in the past. I’ve also put together plans for PD and other sessions. Through this experience I’ve been able to evaluate PD sessions a bit better. Below are four questions to consider before putting together a PD session:
Are there clear expectations?
Being intentional in communicating expectations is key. I’m not necessarily talking about listing the objectives of the session. I’m more concerned in what participants should be able to do with the information after it’s been delivered. How will this impact teaching and learning? Having a clear understanding of what’s expected and a timeline can help avoid confusion.
Is there an explanation of why?
I think this is sometimes missing from PD sessions. Why are we learning about guided math, reading workshop models, grading practices, etc.? Giving the why can help people understand the reason for a particular session. If it’s not explained than staff may feel as though the reason is directly associated with someone not in the school, which may or may not be a good thing.
Will there be opportunities to revisit this initiative?
Educators aren’t generally fans of participating in a PD session that communicates that what’s being discussed will be fully implemented but it doesn’t happen. If the expectations is that all classrooms need to do x, y z than that should actually happen. Starting an initiative and abandoning it halfway through the year doesn’t help with rapport or climate. A successful PD session allow opportunities for additional help and follow up as needed.
Is there a reflection opportunity?
This may be more of a matter of personal opinion. I tend to learn best by reflecting on what I’m learning and finding ways to practically put it into practice. That reflection can happen after the session but embedding it in the session can be a valuable. Sometimes a reflection opportunity can reveal itself through follow up conversations. It also keeps the conversation going to ensure that consistently is occurring in a school/district.
When creating a PD session I tend to consider the questions above. The questions aren’t always applicable, but it’s a place to start. Would you add any other questions?