1. Ruchira

    Hi George, I couldn’t agree more with you on your point about creating spaces for unstructured conversations during conferences. As a participant, a) I find it really annoying to miss one session for another equally interesting one from the crammed parallel sessions and b) just as you begin an interesting conversation with another participant over a coffee break, you are huddled back into the sessions. Makes you rethink the meaning of ‘confer’!
    Ditto about reflection – we tend to forget that participants need the time and space to internalise and make sense of the input they have received. I am currently working on a school leadership programme in India and all groups, during their feedback, mention the value of the reflection time they are provided in between sessions and as circle time at the end of the day.

  2. I would be a bit careful on this topic. The notion of “professional development” is so broad that it’s difficult to get too specific with guidelines and principles. There are things labelled as PD that I would argue is more about training. In this instances, direct instruction and practice might be fine with little reflection required. There are other instances due to time, space and size that don’t warrant certain things.

    I don’t disagree with the ideas here, I just think as you talk about PD, people have very different circumstances and often those circumstances dictate our approach.

    • Paul McGuire

      They certainly do. The main limiting factor in my opinion is money. The more release time I have the more opportunities for collaboration amongst our teachers. I am not sure you would call this PD or embedded collaboration, but i know it is very effective.

  3. Jon Samuelson

    George, thanks for the Twitter follow on Ann Michaelsen. One of the reasons that I love the IntegratEd conferences in Portland and San Francisco, is they allow time between sessions and don’t schedule back to back, as you mention in point #2. I have made some great connections at those two conferences for that fact alone. You can take the time and reflect on what was just presented, and discuss ideas with other great educators.

  4. Paul McGuire

    Thanks George – important article. We have been trying to redo PD for three years now in a triad of three schools. I would really like someone to come and examine our model to see if it is effective as I think it is. The teachers are in control of the PD and the level of inquiry and collaboration is very high. I am trying to put together a series of blog posts on their latest set of inquiries. Terrific topic that needs to be addressed at the district-wide level.

  5. Janelle McLaughlin

    I’m always surprised by how many teachers say, “I’m not good at writing, ” or “I have always hated writing, so I don’t like teaching it either.” Even when teachers know that no one else is going to read their writing, they are reluctant to start. That is one obstacle to overcome before we can even expect them to write reflections. I never thought of myself as a good writer, but I loved teaching writing to my second-graders. I also noticed that the more I wrote with them, the better I felt about my own writing. It’s like anything else in life, if you want to get better at it, you have to practice.

    I agree with you on the importance of reflecting upon your learning. I am one of those front-row sitters who love learning at conferences/workshops/break-out sessions, but all too often I I take great notes and then never look at them again. If I don’t process the information I learned in someway, then I’m probably not going to implement anything I learned in that session (at least, not much).

    Great post with lots to remember as I proclaim the importance of differentiated pd.

  6. clane

    As I’m constantly revisiting my own PD, this article is spot on…I am going to be mindful of these changes I will make and thus my participants will grow in their learning!
    Thank you for this thoughtful article…you have made a difference in my delivery!

  7. Ann S. Michaelsen

    I will certainly remember this in the workshops I’m doing from now on. I enjoyed reading the reflections from my colleagues that was very useful. And it makes sense to figure out which level they are at before making a rigid schedule. It gives you time to treat those attending according to the level they are at. Turns out they need a lot of time to discuss, reflect and practice. Probably why I enjoy our block scheduling as much as I do! Thank you for the mention here!

  8. Brett Petrillo

    Thanks for the post George! I do have one question you might be able to help me out with. During unstructured time when teachers are to connect, perhaps during the time between events, how do you keep them from simply going back to their classrooms to work on grading or the whatnot. This is a problem at my school. “Free” time is considered a waste of time, especially when a deadline or two is fast approaching. I’d be interested in reading your thoughts. Thanks!

  9. Dawn Ackroyd

    There is a group if teachers in the states who I think are in to a good thing with the PD idea they have developed. They call it Nerd Camp (it is started by a group who started the Nerdy Book club…..one of the best book blogs out there, in my opinion)

  10. joerglohrer

    I’d oppose Dewey and say, that reflecting on experience needs experience and reflexion is experience. And making connections are the strongest learning-experiences one can have.

  11. Catherine Smith

    Interesting post as always. We hosted a “Market Day” today as a form of PD for staff that also encouraged conversation. Our school caters for 14 year levels, so it was also a great opportunity for cross discipline, cross sub-school chats. (We are just about to start our school year – students begin on Tuesday). In addition to face to face connections, we encouraged staff to use Twitter and the hashtag #SPSWeek0 to engage. Reflections about WWW and EBI tomorrow. Formal sit down and listen was less than 30 mins.

  12. Kynan Robinson

    Thanks George an excellent post, I really like the idea of reflecting rather than always discussing in groups. That is an idea I am going to try myself. I see that as a great way for them to instantly start applying some of their learning to their present situation, to often I find I finish a day, everybody feels great then its all forgotten very quickly so by the time I see the group again its almost like starting over. Thanks

  13. Jeremy Kalbstein

    Great post George. In response to #3, I wonder if offering or suggesting more options than just ‘writing’ may encourage greater uptake less negativity towards the process. Perhaps things like mind/concept mapping, sharing thoughts on social media – storify?

Comments are closed.