Have you ever been presented with PD and then had no time to follow up?
How often do you have an uninterrupted chunk of time to inquire into something that interests you, to push your thinking and improve your practice?
Do you have enough opportunities to explore and think collaboratively, to unpack and discuss big ideas with others of varied experience?
Today we had a half day of professional learning, different from any of our previous PD days. It was based on a survey in which staff indicated their preferences for the structure and content of the day.
Here’s what it said on the Google doc which was shared with teachers:
This table shows by far the most popular choices in our survey. Please put your name in the group you’d like to join. Use red if you are willing to facilitate the group inquiry (more than one person is fine!) Note: There will NOT be a presentation. The purpose is to work on a shared inquiry.
In my eagerness to blog about the day, I’m writing this before canvassing staff for feedback. Based on anecdotal evidence from people I managed to chat with, it was highly successful!
Our central idea: Connecting globally extends our learning.
Like in any good inquiry, the group needed some powerful provocations to pique their curiosity, encourage their thinking and motivate them to inquire further. Viewing the tweets in the #pypchat stream demonstrated what was possible. We looked at what students stand to gain by their teachers being connected globally (students too, but that’s another story). Steven Anderson’s interview on building your PLN encouraged teachers to want to start building their own. Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s clip on why we need to be connected educators inspired them further.
We brainstormed a range of issues into which the group felt they would like to inquire. Some of the questions were answered incidentally along the way, but there will need to be further follow up if they are all to be addressed. Like any good inquiry, it took on a life of its own and teachers ended up spending most of the time exploring Twitter as a tool for connecting with other educators, finding and sharing information and extending our own learning.
By the end of the session, participants’ perceptions of professional learning had shifted from here:
- An environment of trust in which teachers from across three campuses of our school were willing to share their anxieties and fears.
- Teachers with varying (or no) levels of expertise supporting each other to try and figure things out.
- A sense of excitement and achievement as people overcame their fears and frustrations.
- The benefit of having an uninterrupted chunk of time to explore something in depth.
- The importance of starting from the ‘why‘. Teachers needed to see its value before they were ready to pursue this particular inquiry. (I have tried to introduce Twitter before and largely failed.)
- When teachers are still engaged in their exploration and haven’t left the room twenty minutes into lunch break, you know this is effective professional learning!
Further follow-up on What Ed Said soon.