Over the past month I’ve had many requests for professional development. But what is unique about the requests of late is that they are meant to be supported over the long term. This pleases me to see administrators, teachers, and committees recognizing that a one hour workshop of “how to” just isn’t going to give you sustained results. But, with that being said, to make long term, programmatic commitment to professional development work,be effective, and not waste anyone’s time, one must understand what the learners are suppose to be able to do and why they are doing it.
So how do you get to there when the requests that come in are so general not well articulated? There are always two main questions I ask when approached to design professional development for staff.
1. What is your instructional goal? What do you want to see happen? What are you trying to change?
2. What do you want the staff to be able to do? What aren’t they doing that you wish was happening?
The answer to the first question is usually pretty general and needs to be further flushed out by asking for a time frame, a context, a measurable means. For example, the initial response may be “i want teachers to use technology more with students”. This is a good start and allows the discussion to explore definitions of “more”, “technology”, and “use”. In the end, you end up with a goal that is measurable; “Student performance on state exams will increase by 8% by increasing student engagement through the use of technologies that support learning objectives” From there you can begin to sort out your “dos”. You can look at what the teacher needs to do and even what the student needs to do.
The second question provides strict guidance of whether or not training is necessary, a training aide, or if something else altogether is needed (procedures, models, etc..). If you find that access to technology is hindering the “do” then training might not be the answer. But if you see that resources and technology tools are underutilized then ongoing training may be just what is needed. Identifying what you want to see staff “do” also provides guidance on how and what to evaluate to determine the impact professional development is having as it pertains to the instructional goal.
So keep your eye on the goal and the “to dos” and you will keep your professional development effectiveness on the right track toward reaching those instructional goals.