There are less than 8 days left in the school year. It’s Friday afternoon, the kids are gone, and I am sitting amongst collected iPads and chargers. Every year at this time I am like, “That went by too fast!” As an Instructional Coach, manager of the Innovation Space and 1:1 Initiative, I feel that there was a lot accomplished this year. There are areas that still need development and tweaking. However, I am going to share the positive, because we need more of that!
As a district we have been focusing on being innovative. Innovative in our curriculum, our practice, our technology, and our learning communities. I am sure many districts are rethinking how they are delivering content and assessment in innovative ways. Here is what I can tell you from my personal experience, innovation requires everyone to be thinking about learning environments that are conducive to creating. The classroom is going to look different, learning will most definitely look different, and this all means PROFESSIONAL LEARNING SHOULD BE DIFFERENT! If we want our future learning to be different, today’s professional learning must be just as different.
Where do you begin? I think if you are truly interested in providing your students with a learning experience that is going to prepare them for a global economy, you need to facilitate the learning experiences with opportunities to seek problems and create solutions. We can’t expect our teachers to teach innovatively or creatively if we offer them professional development that is the same old same old, or mirrors the classroom of previous years. Today’s students need to be empowered and engaged. Learning is not passive and never has been. Your professional development has to be engaging and empowering. You need to provide PD that is interesting, relevant, leverages technology and addresses the different learners. It’s kind of what we expect teachers to do, as educational leaders, we are charged with the same task. I’ll share with you how the other instructional coaches in my district and myself have created engaging and empowering PD, that allows for teacher choice and voice. Is it perfect? Nope, but it’s a start!
In our district, we provide our teachers with an EdCamp style of PD. First, we send out a survey to gauge what interests our teachers. Next, we recruit volunteers who are ready to share their experiences with the desired session topics. Teachers can sign up and attend sessions by other teachers in our district. We limit the sessions to about 40 minutes and allow teachers to move to other sessions. Yes, they get to move around! Check out this sample of our sessions. We have had great feedback from our staff. We try to facilitate our PD sessions in this format most of the time. In addition, we have allowed teachers to visit professional learning opportunities outside the district. We have a group of teachers attending the Pittsburg Fab Network 2018, and ISTE 2018 in Chicago.
George Couros, author of “The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent and Lead a Culture of Creativity” lists in his blog, The Principal of Change, some other factors to consider when developing PD.
- Invite students and parents to your professional learning days. (Need to add this!)
- Ensure staff leads sessions. (We do this!)
- Give staff time to NOT attend sessions and collaborate with colleagues. (Need more of this!)
- Look at the different environment to try them out. (We got this too!)
- Time for health and well-being! (More of this, please!)
Again, we have room to grow and improve, but we are on our way. Hopefully, you can apply some of these methods for professional learning in your planning and facilitation. I know I will be suggesting some more collaboration and well-being initiatives for next year’s PD. I welcome your questions, share them in the comments.