Monday, March 12, 2012

Planning for Hybrid PD (Part 4) - Teacher Input

 Five weeks goes so much faster than expected! It's already time for me to do my next face-to-face workshops with my two cohorts in my hybrid/blended professional development. I will say I feel more excited than usual about the workshops because I really have a connection to these teachers now, something I don't often get to experience in my position.  Usually, I am in and out in a couple of hours, or a day or a few days, but with these two groups, we've been together, physically and virtually, going on five months.  I definitely think it's making what I have to offer and what they have to offer so much more connected and personal because we have had time to work through things, change things....time is not something that is often given in PD and it's been rewarding.

Here's a quick recap of previous 'lessons' from the prior 3 face-to-face workshops:
Lesson One: Begin a professional development experience assessing the background skills of participants.Ensure they are given the necessary tools, starting points, and resources to feel comfortable with what they are going to be doing, see the purpose behind what they will be doing, and know where and how they can get continued support. 
Lesson Two: Work on building a sense of community and support among participants, where they feel comfortable sharing their struggles, their experiences, their ideas and expertise. Providing a safe environment where it is okay to try new skills and strategies and knowing it is okay to fail or struggle and that others are going though similar experiences, gives teachers confidence to try to change and improve their own practices.  
Lesson Three: Make the activities and learning relevant to the teachers every-day teaching practice.  By providing activities that focus on learning the skills, how to integrate technology appropriately, and also cohere to the specific content and curriculum the teachers must follow, it is more likely that they will begin to change their own practice.  If they can see the relevancy to their own daily experience, they are going to be more willing to implement new tools and strategies.
In this fourth face-to-face we have reached a point where the teachers themselves are wanting to go in various directions based on their needs, and so, I wanted to honor this and provide them with some control over the content of what we do together this week. Coincidentally, in the #edchat online pd chat I participated in just last week, the topic was:
 "With the need to leave comfort zones for relevant professional development to take effect, should teachers continue to control their own learning for PD?" (for a nice summary of last weeks #edchat, go to http://blog.testsoup.com/teacher-directed-pd-edchat-summary-3612 posted by @testsoup's John Walters) 


 I believe my answer to the question is that yes, teachers should have some control in their own learning, but it needs to be appropriately timed and after other things have been done. In my instance, where we are focused on a specific software tool, The Geometer's Sketchpad, it was important to go through the three lessons outlined above in order for the teachers to reach a place where they want to explore more and try new things.  Giving them choice up front would not have provided a great starting point and would have more likely frustrated them because they would have been coming from a place of possibly discomfort with the software, or uncertainty with how the software could help their instructional practice.  My thoughts: definitely, teachers need to have some say and some choice in the PD that is provided, but that the choice again needs to come from a background of comfort, collaboration and relevancy.

My lesson this week is to provide teacher choice and input into what they want and need. I gave teachers  the chance in the online unit we are finishing up to offer up suggestions for what they wanted to do in our face-to-face time this week to help them continue to learn the software and how to implement. Not everyone responded, but those that did gave some great suggestions, and so our topics this week are focused on software skills that they expressed specific interest in exploring more. Interestingly enough, several also asked for an overview of additional professional development resources because they are considering options for the summer. I have planned our entire time together this week based on their input - the software skills they asked for as well as time to explore other PD resources, such as Sketch Exchange, our free webinars and our online courses.

Lesson Four: Provide teachers with a choice in what the professional development focuses on..  Let them choose topics of interest, or topics they are struggling with, or topics they feel will be of benefit to their specific content are or their specific students.  By providing choice, you are allowing teachers control over their learning and the ability to make it personal. This provides a sense of empowerment and motivation.
I think those teachers that contributed suggestions will feel validated that their suggestions were listened to and honored, and those that did not make suggestions will hopefully feel more inclined to do so next time. It goes a long way in continuing the sense of community and feeling that we are all collaborating and learning together.

To view the other posts in this series, click on the following links:

Planning for Hybrid PD - Comfort Level and Confidence First
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 1 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 2
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt 1 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 2) - Develop Community and Supportive Environment 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (Part 2) - F2F Feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 2 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - Make it Relevant 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - F2F feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 3

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