I’ve been to a lot of EdTEch conferences in Australia and overseas, and they usually fall into two simple categories: the ones that are worth the registration fee, and the ones that aren’t even worth the travel time. That might sound simplistic, but bear with me. What sets apart a great professional learning experience from a poor one is quite basic: what can you do in your classroom or your school the day after that you couldn’t do the day before?
Recently, my school adopted a new approach to Educational Technology Integration. We're following an unconference model, and this has meant that we meet weekly, for no more than 1/2 an hour, in small, constantly-changing groups. Before these meetings, staff announce (via the school intranet) what sessions they might be running. For example, they might run a session called, ‘Using Evernote in Ancient History’ or ‘How I Used Scripts to Automate my Classroom’. Staff can then pick a session that suits their fancy - or their professional needs - and these small groups are constantly revolving as people share their new skills with each other. It’s been revolutionary - a huge success, so this discussion is aimed at sharing ways to ensure that your school is getting the most from professional learning. Here are my 5 tips:
Personalise, personalise, personalise
There is no one size fits all approach to professional learning. People like to be able to identify what they think is most beneficial, so give them choice. But make it an educated choice - be detailed in the descriptions of what you’re offering in your session. An intriguing title is all well and good, but specific problems need specific solutions.
Keep it practical but…
One of the most valuable things to do after a Professional Learning session is to ask, ‘How will what I’ve learnt change my practice?’ If the answer is, ‘It won’t’, then you’ve wasted your time and money. The best way to ensure that Professional Learning is value for money is to arm people with lots of practical ideas that they can take away and put into practice in their classrooms the very next day.
…Make sure it is linked to your school’s philosophy
Practical can’t just be for practical’s sake: all professional learning should be linked to faculty or even school goals. We’ve been pushing literacy for the last year at my school, so a lot of our professional learning revolved around using technology to improve literacy across Key Learning Areas.
This kind of ‘unconference’ model can really mount up, so that individual staff members might not realise how much training they’ve done. It’s a valuable exercise to keep track of the different sessions that people have attended - then at the end of the year you can show staff all the new competencies they’ve gained!
Failure teaches more than success
No one like a know-it-all! Don’t be afraid to start off your sessions with an example of where things have gone wrong. After all, we’ve all had that horrible lesson where nothing seemed to work. Using this as a starting point will really allow your audience to relate with you.
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.