Saturday, May 15, 2010

Teaching Teachers

This year my school has participated in a wonderful learning community, Powerful Learning Practice led by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson, which has pushed and stretched us to rethink teaching and learning.

Soon my PLP team -- made up of administrators and classroom teachers -- will be presenting "teasers" about training workshops we are planning for our faculty in August and October. Our topics will be based on our most significant take-aways from the program and geared towards helping our faculty step up to the needs of our students, our seniors in particular, because they are embarking on a new senior project.

So, I got to thinking about how to help these teachers scaffold their workshops for our faculty. I came up with the guidelines below, which may be helpful to others who design professional development for teachers.

1. All workshops should introduce at least one tool but probably no more than three (if a choice is provided). This is so that teachers have something to play with during the workshop and, I hope, something concrete as a take-away assignment to use immediately in class. At the same time, we don't to push participants into overload.
2. However, the point of the workshop, as we know, is not the tool, but a better understanding of 21st century learning. Thus, the teachers need to experience and discuss specific skills and concepts relevant to 21st century learning that are suggested by the tool if it is integrated well into the classroom. Thus, blogging introduces new ways of thinking about writing for a digital audience, integrating images, tagging, etc. The presenter should help guide the teachers towards an understanding of what the particular tool does best and how it can be a game-changer for student learning in the future.
3. All workshops should use examples that can convince teachers that these skills are applicable across disciplines and grade levels.
4. All workshops should provide sufficient "play" time so that teachers can learn from their hands-on experience with digital tools
5. Workshops should include time for discussion about what teachers have learned, raise questions, discuss best practices, etc., and generally address issues and concerns about 21st century learning and how teaching is evolving to address students' needs.
6. Presenters should follow up on each teacher in his or her workshop as he or she implements what was learned -- providing advice, offering support, cheerleading, visiting a class and discussing further. I think this will provide a wonderful means for collegial interaction and sharing of ideas, and it's what makes our work "scalable."

I'm interested in any other ideas and suggestions our readers here may have. I understand that our formula may not work for everyone, but wonder if there are some "best practices" you can recommend to enhance the technological PD experience for teachers and to help others who lead such PD in their own schools.