Sunday, 19 May 2013

Effective PD

I've been thinking about PD Days. What makes a great one?

This year I've been to a few great PD sessions/workshops/conferences/unconferences and quite a few have been focused on discussion. Talking with colleges about areas of interest and/or passion.

Wow! - That discussion has been pow-ER-ful!

 Today, we had our last PD day for the year. In my mind, it was another great one. We did the following:
  1. We talked about reflection in learning - Everyone on staff was then given the opportinity to go and reflect for the purpose of sharing something they have learned from the year.
  2. Next, we focused in on some particular Apps on our iPads and then had some time to learn how they worked. The idea was to come up with something that we could use by the end of the year in our classroom setting.
  3. LUNCH - We had a amazing pot luck lunch with everyone and had some good bonding time.
  4. After lunch, we had a World Cafe discussion. We focused on two different themes that we have been working on throughout the year, peer & self assessment, and improving reading. You were allowed to choose which discussion you wanted to be a part of. I chose to be involved in the assessment.
  5. Then to finish off the day we had some teacher planning time.
I would say one of our strong points as a staff is the professional discussions we have. We have really come so far in the last couple of years. One problem we do have is it's often the same people sharing their ideas and the same people who button-up and just listen or zone out. I'm one of the talkers, so I have tried to hold back at times and let others share, even when I've had a burning desire to talk (this is hard for me). 

So, what I'm wondering is, how often should we just discuss and how often should we be doing something. Should we always be walking away from PD with something. Something we made or something we were given rather than just memories of what we talked about. When we just engage in dialogue, I'm sure we take something away or have those 'aha' moments but how long do those memories last?

We know that powerful and deep learning happens when our students create things. We ask them to apply their knowledge in a new situation, or even apply it by creating a own scenario, or by making an artifact of learning.  I wonder if we as a staff should be modeling this process during our PD days.

I think we need to balance our PD days with discussion, presentations and by creating or making something. 

I wonder if we can do that next year by planning ahead somehow or by creating some kind of standing schedule for PD days. Something that might look like this:
1) Presentation - this could be in the format of someone presenting, or everyone trying something new, or some kind of sharing activity.
2) Discussion - This could follow the presentation by relating to it, or be about something entirely different. We could make sure everyone shares somehow by changing the kind of discussion format. It could be done in a full staff group or in smaller chunks of staff. We could even look at doing this online too.
3) Application - this is the time where we would be making something based on the theme of the day or something we have been working on, or maybe even something that we will continue on with next time. The idea of taking something away would mean that we have something to take back to our classrooms to try. It could be a resource, a technique, or plan for a lesson or unit. 

These are a few ideas going around in m head right now. I think we need to rethink our PD Days to a similar model as to what were expecting teachers to do in their classroom. Let's lead by example and engage our staff in some really authentic professional development. 


  1. Great reflection on PD, Steve! Thanks so much for sharing. What jumped out at me is that we often do too little of both deep, reflective discussion, and purposeful application.

    This year I have had the chance to implement some elements of project management in my work. It has been one of the best experiences I've ever had. I strongly believe that scoping out the actions you will undertake with others, focusing on what you will do (and what you will not do) and keeping a timeline and regular check-in's will help to support the discussion and the application. Your thoughts?

    1. Thanks for commenting Stephanie.

      Yes! I like that way that you mentioned. Linking the two is difficult but very necessary. Will pass that on to my admin too. We have very much gone via the organic route with PD this year. Sometimes it works really well and sometimes we seem to beat around the bush a fair bit. I like the idea of focusing in on what matters and making sure we stick to the plan somewhat. Might be a while before we can try it out again :)