Several people within my PLN have written recently around the theme of Staff Professional Learning. (See works here by Margo and Edna) Their articles, combined with conversations at Tweet Ups and Teach Meets (and time to think over the holidays!) have led me to reflect on how I deliver professional learning within my school and changes I would like to implement.
Image from author’s personal collection
SO, WHAT WILL PROFESSIONAL LEARNING LOOK LIKE ?
Using data to inform decisions and direction:
As part of our work in achieving eSmart accreditation, one of the domains focuses on the collection of data and makes reference to teacher’s ICT capabilities. To support this, I have used the DEECD ePotential Survey Tool to administer and collect data about how teaching and non-teaching staff view and use ICT. (As a side, I agree that this survey tool is now somewhat out-dated, so if you are using an alternative tool to collect data about your teacher’s ICT Capabilities I’d love to know)
I then export the survey results to Excel and ‘crunch’ the data to produce a report that summarises the survey results and helps me determine where we need to focus our efforts. I hope that by using this data to inform the direction and theme of Professional Learning sessions, staff will be able to see the physical benefits of completing the survey.
One size does NOT fit all.
Just like students in classroom environment, there are huge variations between where staff are at. In a classroom environment, we wouldn’t deliver the same lesson or activity to all; we would provide options that cater for individual learning needs.
Where possible and appropriate, I see the professional learning sessions operating as workshops that teachers will be able to ‘sign up’ for that meet their particular interests or professional learning needs.
Drawing upon ‘inside’ knowledge….
The Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders talks about the need for “teachers take responsibility for, and actively engage in, professional learning in order to build the capacity and that of others.”
As the ICT leading teacher, I am the one at the moment delivering the majority of profession learning that relates to ICT. As we are a new school, the majority of our staff come from previous educational environments and bring a wealth of experience and expertise. I have previously tapped into the experience and expertise of others, but I’m hoping that this model for professional learning will do more of that. I also see it as a chance to empower and increase the capacity of others by give them opportunities to lead and the experience of presenting in front of others.
….whilst bringing in “outside world”.
Whilst there is a great deal of knowledge within my school, I also think it’s important to acknowledge that we do not have all the answers and tap into the knowledge and experiences of others outside your environment, to prevent becoming insular and to provide an alternative perspective.
In an interview with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, Fredrick Brown had this to say on the use of social media to support Professional Learning:
People learn best when they are learning with others. Social media gives them an opportunity to do that and make their learning very public; so all of a sudden you are not learning in isolation. If you have a question, you can get answers to those questions from others who have experienced the same issues.
All of a sudden you have access to a community that goes beyond your School. So what a wonderful world it is when you are no longer sitting there is that class-room, like I remember doing my first (1st) years of teaching alone and not really knowing the answer, afraid to reach out to some of the teachers who are around me, because as a new teacher, I didn’t want to appear like I didn’t know – he should know, he’s just graduated from the University – why doesn’t he know?
Social media allows me to reach out and to gain access to knowledge and expertise beyond my school walls.
I have a fantastic PLN through Twitter and other online networks that I would love to ‘bring in’ either physically or digitally via Elluminate and Skype to share their knowledge. I would also love to educate teachers about the power of twitter and other social networking sites to connect with others, form their own personal learning networks and continue their own professional learning journey.
Briefing the presenters:
Initially, I see the need to meet with those presenting to make clear what would be expected from their workshop sessions. Providing support materials (checklists, presentation templates…) will also help with this process.
“Selling” the idea:
For many, this will be different and a change from what they are used to. It will require some selling (I’m thinking of a video) and pitching of the idea to get people on board. It will also take some wording up of others who have been previous supports to help get others on board (Think: “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy” video) and help sell the idea.
Managing the ‘sign up’ process:
I’m trying to think of a way to manage the signup process for the workshop sessions. I want it to be digital so staff can sign up at a time and location and suits them. I’ve been looking into Eventbrite allows you to create an event for free (on the condition that you don’t charge admission for it). I also like the way it “looks” – it comes across very professional and feels very much like a major event or conference.
When setting up your event, the process allows you to create different ‘tickets’ for your event. I see each of our Professional Learning sessions being ‘an event’ and the different workshops offered being available through different ‘tickets’. The software allows you to limit the number of people who can obtain tickets for a particular event; this would be handy for some sessions in terms of limiting numbers to ensure a more personal and intimate learning experience. It is also possible to include additional information about each of sessions. This would be a chance to explain the learning intention, success criteria and any pre-requisites or actions required prior to attending the workshop session.
With the session created, you can then generate e-mail invitations for staff to log in and register for their sessions. The site also allows you to print your ticket or if you have the app installed in your mobile device, you can download it to your ticket.
On the day of the event, you can print a list of the people who have registered for each workshop.
Prior to attending….
Professional Learning time within schools is limited and often a lot of time is lost in getting people to sign up and register for new online tools or download new programs to use.
Presenters will need to specify what needs to be done prior to session in order to maximise hands-on learning time. This knowledge could be communicated via information sheets that include screen shots or through creating screencasting videos.
Hands on, social, collaborative:
Sessions will not be “chalk and talk” or “death by powerpoint”. There will be opportunities for participants to engage with each other and practice skills that have been taught with the support of others around them. I’d like to see the use of a a shared Google Doc for collaborative note taking and a twitter hashtag for people to share their thinking and their learning as the presentation is taking place.
Have a “Call to Action”:
The professional learning session won’t be a ‘one off’; a requirement of each session will be a ‘call to action’ where participants will need to utilise their new learning back in the classroom environment.
Time for feedback, reflection and sharing:
A follow-up session in future weeks will allow participants the opportunity to share their experiences with others, discuss problems they encountered and ask further questions. I also feel this expectation will hold people accountable for taking action.
At the conclusion of each session, the participants will complete a short survey to provide feedback to the presenter about the content and style of their presentation, details of what they learnt and ways they can use the new learning. (The eventbrite software also allows manage survey responses following an event) The presenter will also complete a self-reflection on their session to identify strengths and areas of opportunity for future presentations. I’d also like to see some sort of coaching\reflection conversation to support the presenter, reflect on the experience and identify possible areas for improvement.
How do you\does your school deliver professional learning ?
Do you use a workshop model like this ? What have you found to be the strengths\challenges with an approach like this ?
Do you have a totally different model for professional learning ?