I sat in one of the worst PDs ever this week.
It didn’t build on what those of us in the room knew. It didn’t engage us in conversations or activities that were relevant. It shared products and not processes. At times, it treated us like we were no different that the children we teach. I’m sure many of you have sat in similar ones.
Most likely, the people giving the workshop had good intentions. Some of them were probably effective at teaching children math. But they were completely ineffective at teaching teachers.
I’ve come to realize that we don’t do a good job of providing the people who give PD with the right tools to facilitate teacher learning. They have to make it up as they go.
When I started doing professional development, I had no idea what I was doing. So I started reading a bit of the research out there about what makes for good PD. This classic by Ball and Cohen was a good start.
Using what we already know about effective PD as guidance, I started making lesson plans for each PD session I did.
Over the years, I developed a list of questions that help guide my planning:
- What is the objective of the workshop?
- What should teachers know or be able to do at the end that they didn’t know before?
- What is the motivation for teachers to be interested in this topic?
- What prior knowledge and experiences do the group of teachers I am working with bring to the sessions?
- How can I build on these experiences?
- What is the best task sequence that meets the teachers where they are and helps them develop new understandings?
- What activities facilitate teacher learning?
- How do I engage teachers in productive struggle so that they construct their own understanding of the topic?
- How will I know if participants met the objective? What assessments will I use throughout?
- How will I differentiate the lesson for different learners? What interventions will I use? What enrichment will I provide?
This doesn’t look all that different than the questions I ask when I teach kids math. However, the answers are.
I’m still working on what theories to use to help me answer these questions. I’m spending some time looking through the research to help me with this.
Even if we don’t have all the answers, the effective PDs I go to are a result of someone carefully thinking through a lot of these questions. The ineffective ones could be improved a great deal by thinking more carefully about them.
What do you think? How do you plan PD?