I had a gift these last three days in the form of a very creative and fully realized Professional Development (PD) program. Intellectual discourse, on your feet doing and sharing, and a built-in scaffolded structure that advanced the goals of those leading the sessions and their organization. Each 9-5 day was full of information, observations, discoveries, connections and was rich in the material and methodology of the company who ran this. While I will sadly not be continuing on with them, this was a very important thing to experience: an excellent educational Professional Development program.
One key thing one of the facilitators pointed out to was that a huge part of the success of any PD sits with the participants. The most well planned out sessions can lie gasping on the ground if the attendees do not only embrace the process and take it as their own and make things come to life for themselves. This happened, and I was lucky enough to spend 24 PD hours with some wonderfully talented and intelligent Teaching Artists.
In working as a PD Facilitator and Coordinator and as a PD participant, I’ve engaged in both the good and the less than brilliant sessions. I’ve always believed they have been worth going to, even if it’s to learn from the pitfalls the occurred on either side of the fence.
- Arrive on time (which means be there at least 15 mins. before start time) and be back on time from any break.
- Stay to the end (even if there are no giveaways)
- Participate in ALL activities freely
- Ask questions
- Don’t just hang out with your friends/grade level/arts discipline: stretch your boundaries.
- Share your ideas in a “Yes, And..” way, as opposed to a “yeah, but…”
- Work in a group gestalt mindset: it’s not always about you.
- Be fully invested in the proceedings:
- Put the cell phones away. You hate it when your kids do it to you.
- Hold the side conversations. See the above.
- Don’t make plans to be somewhere else during lunch and right after. Give a chance to meeting and talking with new people.
For the Coordinator/Facilitators, what I feel is needed to make a great PD (and which was on display at the PD I was at):
- Vary the procedural and practical aspects of what needs to be accomplished.
- Use a variety of techniques to keep things on an active and mentally engaging level
- Keep the flow of the day(s) moving at a very satisfactory pace for all involved.
- Have all materials ready to rock before anyone else enters the space
- Start and end on time; that includes when breaks are to occur.
- Build in breaks and understand the various needs of your cohort.
- Doing a process activity is far different than sitting for a two+ hour lecture.
- The entire team should be well versed in the flow of the proceedings and flexible enough to modify as needed.
- Understand what makes a great facilitator: a superb listener who feeds back your information and brings it forward.
- Engage in active reflection.
- Allow mistakes and missteps to happen (from both sides) and approach it as a part of the learning and growth process.
- Understand not everyone works well with everyone else, and assist in helping to find that bridge to make it work.
- Be 100% clear in all goals and objectives in stating them to your group.
So…it was a wonderful time. I wish more PDs were as engaging and stimulating. You’d have more teachers (and others) relishing the thought of attending instead of staying at school to grade papers.
What else do you feel makes a Professional Development session worth going to?