It’s no secret…I’m a lover of professional development! I’ve always been of the mindset that learning is a continuous process that is afforded to all of us in a variety of ways and we should take advantage of as many opportunities as we can. That being said, over the past couple of years, I’ve been on a hunt for #PDThatWorks. It’s a hashtag that we used last year as part of our STEM Certificate Course hosted at RJ Lang Elementary and Middle School for K – 8 Teachers. We too were interested in finding a model for professional development that would inspire teachers to continue the work outside of the session and build capacity in their schools and over-time, the board. I think that I finally found what works for me:
- Building a community with participants
- Time for implementation and reflection
- An opportunity to celebrate and look for next steps
Building A Community With Participants
Our module was 4 days long, over a 4 month period (1 day per month), and this time afforded us the opportunity to get to know the colleagues that we were working with on a deeper level. It wasn’t just one session where we learned something to take back in isolation, but over the course of even the first day or 2, we were quickly realizing that we could leverage the skills in the group in order to learn from one another. As a facilitator, it was exciting to see relationships being built based on reflecting on experiences and connections we might be able to make with the students we have the opportunity to serve. Amongst facilitators, it was great to be able to understand the skills that each of us brought to the course and how we were able to form a great team because of the diversity in our skills. Once the course was finished, we simply couldn’t stop there. As facilitators, we decided that we wanted an opportunity to continue our work together with like-minded educators who were just as excited about learning and growing professionally as we were. #TinkeringThursdays was born out of this idea.
Time For Implementation And Reflection
Ever participated in a PD session where you received many handouts and great ideas to take back to the classroom without any real follow-up, accountability or commitment to implementation? I have. Ultimately, as educators it’s our responsibility to take the learning back to the classroom to implement but often times, without accountability, things fall by the wayside. Good intentions exist but follow-through doesn’t always happen. Being a part of a workshop or course such as this, allowed for participants to take the time needed to implement, reflect and return to have discussions on successes and areas of need. I know that there should be some intrinsic motivation for implementing our learning but let’s face it, collaborating with colleagues who have also had the chance to implement ideas in their own spaces, provides a better opportunity for success. There are many times that I’ve seen ideas that worked well in one learning space and then when brought into my own have had different results. What’s the difference? The students. When we take an idea and make pivots based on the needs of our learners and share, there’s even more learning that can be gleaned.
An Opportunity To Celebrate and Look For Next Steps
On the last day of the course, participants showcased the work that they did with students based on their learning during the course. It was phenomenal. Some participants even went as far as bringing their students so that their actual voices were heard through the projects and tasks that were created. Not only were the presentations or projects diverse, but they spoke to the true learning and teachers were excited to share with one another their next steps for implementing the Engineering Design process. Again, there was the gathering of ideas and an excitement about having been able to learn with such an amazing group over a 4 month period.
Now that I know the type of #PDThatWorks for me, I’m better able to tailor my learning experiences and find sessions that truly honor my style of learning and speak to me as an educator. What type of #PDThatWorks will you find?