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If you want to be in the know about what’s going on at Lutheran Schools Association and what we're exploring, you’ve come to the right place.

4 Ideas to Make the Best of PD

Ever notice how just prior to the first day of school, Twitter and Facebook light up with all kinds of euphemisms for boredom? Death by faculty meeting, for example, and other such synonymous ideas. As someone who has spent the past 7 years engaging in design of professional development experiences, this is so, so sad. PD should be exciting, not dreaded. Energizing, not draining.

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I love PD!

But, I know what they mean.

This past Monday night, the #luthed chat was about personalized PD, inspired by a book, Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development, authored by Dr. Brad Gustafson. The line of questioning was around what professional development formats work best, why we do PD, and what we can imagine as possibilities for PD. A few overarching themes emerged:

1. PD has to be individualized.
Unless there is a personal attachment or gain from the PD, no matter its form, it’s unlikely that something will be gained from it. To me, this means that we need to shake up the traditional professional development structures in schools, to allow for models that stick, or rethink the way that we use the traditional structures.
2. PD has to involve choice.
It’s like with student learning. Adult learning, from what I’ve observed, will be infinitely more effective if choice is involved. So, whether it be multiple workshops, multiple platforms for PD, or myriad other approaches, we must commit to choice in PD.
3. PD has to relate to goals.
Be they district, school, or individual goals, these should be transparent and intentional. Ideally, there would be a chance for at least two layers of goals to be shared. For example, if a school-wide goal is to better meet the needs of ELLs, then individual educator goals should articulate the learning that
4. PD has to allow for reflection.
Have you ever left a PD, committed to trying everything you’d learned? Yeah, me too. It’s simply not realistic. I find that I am in information overload at a PD session, and then I move on to the next thing, and those ideas and intentions often get left at the PD. If we commit that all PD allows time for reflection, discussion, and planning, I believe it would be that much more effective.

A big challenge, as I see it, is that PD has been so top-down, with topics determined long before the year begins and often not communicated in advance. The result? Over-PD’d educators who often don’t really know where to start in seeking out their own PD.

So, I propose a move toward the tenets above, starting within the structures already in place. So, on a typical PD day, why not provide a structure such as this:

  • Start with a full-staff meeting and goal-setting. Leadership sets school-wide (or district-wide) goals, and time is allotted for educators to set individual goals.
  • Incorporate some inputs. Be these keynotes, workshops, an unconference, role-alike groupings, or any other structure, ensure that they allow for some choice, but also link to the larger goals of the day.
  • Incorporate time for outputs. What if we were to provide space and time for personal and small-group sharing? Maybe in an “ideas lounge” or some such location? This could provide the down time needed to go back, re-energized, for more learning. I experienced this at an ASCD Conference I attended a few years back.
  • Incorporate time for reflection and action. Similar to the above, but this builds in a bit of accountability. Perhaps there is an expectation of rounding out the day by setting future goals based on the learning, or writing up a reflective blog post. Either way, what is it that will be the result of the time spent in PD?

Maybe conferences and workshops will continue to exist...I believe they should. But, maybe the goals are more individual, and perhaps an overarching goal of such a day is to connect and network, finding role-alike colleagues, or those with wildly different experiences, such that the learning can become more and more personal, individualized, and chock-full of choice.

Maybe then we'll feel a bit more like these guys, and wouldn't that be great?

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Have you experienced PD in this way? What has worked? What hasn’t? What would make it even better?

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