If you have no road map, you have to create your own. – Jacqueline Woodson
It’s the middle of the school year. Your school district has a professional development day quickly approaching and someone turns to you and says, “what do you think we should do?”
Does this sound familiar?
Professional Development days are magical opportunities built into the school calendar that allow staff members to come together and learn without the stress of the average school day. These days, staff development can take many forms from active physical large group sessions to passive virtual sessions behind a screen and they are always meant to propel staff learning forward.
There are many ways to create a successful professional development day. Some of these would be to use guest speakers, the creation or formation of a group project, and simply to provide teachers a “free afternoon” to get caught up on schoolwork. No matter what type of professional development is provided or how it is setup, there should always be a goal in mind for each session and a curricular activity that follows it up to directly support and impact learning in the classroom.
In this blog post, we will look at the creation of a Professional Development Roadmap. This roadmap is one of the steps found inside of the EdTech Integration Plan that also includes:
- Create a District Snapshot
- Define Your Endgame
- Formulate an Essential Question
- Create a Staff Needs Assessment
- Identify Staff Member Needs Based on Title and Position
- Build a Professional Learning Roadmap
- Create an EdTech Menu
- Develop Standards-Based Lesson Plans
- Develop Recommendations
- Share Your Plan with Administrators
- Create and Approve your Final EdTech Integration Plan
Three Things Every PD Session Needs
One of the most important things about your Professional Development Roadmap is the ability to not only provide your staff member what they need, but to also provide the district with a reason or rationale for why they are being asked to attend each and every session. PD, no matter if it ties into district, curricular, building, or department goals should always have three things in order to be considered successful:
- A reason for being
- A call to action
- A follow up action that leads to classroom instruction
Meeting Staff Members where they Need It
In an earlier blog post, we learned about the importance of creating a staff needs assessment (Or self-assessment). In this brief survey, one of the questions that should be asked is “in what ways do prefer to learn.” Usually created as a drop-down list, options for this question might include:
- 1:1 Learning with a Coach
- Small Group Learning
- Large Group Instruction
- Virtual Learning
By asking your staff this important question and having a good idea of how the majority of your staff is interested in learning, you will have a good idea of the best way to create your professional development roadmap.
Let us look at all these types of learning and dig into the pros and cons of each.
One to One learning (1:1) can be considered many things. Mostly this refers to a session where you have one coach and one staff member. One to One learning serves both the coach and staff members greatly because they are given the opportunity to ask direct questions and dig into topics that would not be able to tackle in a larger group for a variety of reasons.
Where 1:1 learning is ideal for certain situations and even for certain types of individuals it is not always the best way to plan professional development due to the amount of time it takes to have your coach meet with each member of the group. I do, however, think that it has some advantages in professional development planning. For example, when providing large group training, for example, to office workers, I like to schedule a final session with each member of the group 1:1 at their desks to make sure that we cover individual questions about individual projects or tasks that only they must work on each day.
For the sake of discussion in this post, Small Group Professional Development refers to a handful of staff members getting together for a learning session. Generally, this is where a coach sits down with a grade level or less than 10 in a room.
One of the nice things about working with small groups of like-topic staff members, a coach, can be more dress-down and more relaxed in their coaching sessions. Conversations often surrounding a common topic and questions are often on point for the needs of the group.
Growing in numbers, Medium Group Professional Development might be when a coach works with several departments (or grade levels) at the same time to even a crowd the size of a full building staff. Generally, these are what faculty meeting style PD sessions.
One of the great ways to use Medium Group Professional Development is to introduce a common topic in a short amount of time and then build a commercial around an additional opportunity where coaches can work with smaller groups of teachers.
When building faculty meeting sessions, it is best to keep things short. Remembering that most faculty meetings are after school, a shorter session is far better than a longer session due to the fatigue of staff members after a long day of teaching.
Every so often, an opportunity comes in front of an instructional coach where they need to address an entire school district on a particular topic. Sessions such as these are usually online (these days) and are designed to cover extremely broad topics.
Much like building level faculty meetings and even smaller group sessions, anytime a coach is in front of a large number of people, the goal should always be to show an overview of the topic and provide a call to action for the coach to get into classrooms to work more intimately with teachers on specific skills or applications.
When thinking about all the items that a staff member needs to learn throughout the course of a school year, there are times where physical or live professional development is not the best way to transfer knowledge.
For this reason, there is always the opportunity to create a virtual learning program to quickly teach many staff members the same thing at the same time.
A good example of this type of professional development comes at the beginning of the school year. Many school districts ask their staff to read several policies and take a standard survey to check their compliance with any new rules and regulations. This is often provided in the form of a short series of videos and an online quiz to show attendance and completion of the project.
Creating a Professional Development Calendar … in Advance of the School Year
Your district professional development calendar should be conceived and outlined over the summer months when everyone is together planning out their building and department goals and objectives. I always found that the summertime is the best time to meet with district leadership 1:1 and discuss their upcoming goals for their buildings. This is an exciting time to bring up the inclusion of the Instructional Coach into the schedule.
Where it is true that the building and district leadership create the overarching professional development calendar and roadmap, the Instructional Coach should have an opportunity to support any district initiatives that come up so that they are ready weeks if not months before an actual event that was placed on the calendar during the hotter days of the year.
Building a Calendar for All Staff Members
When a new staff member is welcomed into the district, they are often provided an opportunity to attend a New Employee Orientation. However, what happens once NEO is over and staff members need to learn how to survive in their classrooms? One of the best ways to support new employees and especially brand-new teachers is through the creation of a Teacher Learning Academy.
Example of a Teacher Learning Academy:
- New Teacher Orientation (All New Staff Members)
- General Information
- Human Resources
- Finance Department
- Technology Department
- Account Setup
- Help Desk Ticket
- Safety and Security
- Digital Learning Department
- Curricular Applications
- Google/Microsoft Applications
- Classroom Hardware
- Email / Calendar
- General Information
- First Year Teachers … (Every other month)
- Google Classroom
- Google Sites
- Second Year Teachers (Every other month)
- Supporting Curricular Activities
- Example: Using Audio/Video in the classroom
- Supporting Curricular Activities
- Third Year Teachers (Every other month)
- Some type of project that benefits the district
- Fourth Year Teachers (Every other month)
Certified Staff Members
Professional Development for Certified Staff Members usually comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although there are scheduled times for certified staff members to have meaningful professional development, one of the best opportunities to work with staff members in a non-stressful matter is during the summer months.
Although the opportunity to create what is commonly referred to as “Summer Academies” or “Bootcamps” due to contractual, financial, and philosophical reasons, I have extremely fond memories of working with teachers from all grades and subject areas during summer sessions.
When planning professional development for office workers, you need to keep a few things in mind. The first thing is that these staff members are not used to attending professional development. For this reason, I always make sure that I have everything set up for them in the room before they show up. This includes both a laptop (plugged in) and a wired mouse. (Word of advice … NEVER try to do office worker PD with only a tiny track pad … you will thank me later)
When planning professional development for administrative assistants, I tend to have a basic outline that is similar, yet completely different than what I schedule for certified staff members.
Example of Administrative Assistants Training:
- Session 1: Intro to Drive and Docs
- Session 2: Intro to Sheets and Forms
- Session 3: Intro to (something more specific for their position)
- Session 4: 1:1 session at their desk
By creating a 4 session (or 3+1) format, generally in 90-minute segments, you can support all office workers no matter where they are on the digital learning ability scale.
How many years have you been teaching and how often have you ever seen your administrators as active participants in professional development?
When it comes to creating a meaningful and long-lasting professional development program, the learning does not just stop where the hallway begins. There are so many things that can be done to support your administrators.
No matter if your administrators are veterans or relative newbies, there is always something that can be discussed when it comes to the extremely important topic of “what do they want to see when they walk into the classroom?”
In the past, I have led some awesome Administrator PD sessions where instead of teaching directly at them, the sessions were designed more towards helping them create a clear vision of what classroom instruction should look like through the lens of digital learning tools. We covered topics such as the SAMR model, and I shared with them some of the more popular projects that I do with their teachers to help them understand my role as an Instructional Coach.
Professional Development when setup correctly is a wonderful thing. It has the opportunity to build staff morale and bring a group of teachers together focused on a common goal. When planning your professional development, it is best to start in the summertime by discussing a district/building/department goals and objectives for the school year and mapping out various times during the school year to make the best use of your Instructional Coaches. No matter what type of PD session is offered (large, medium, small) it is important to remember that everything should in some way propel the use of 1:1 conversation in the classroom between the Instructional Coach and the staff member.
If your district is interested in learning more about this professional development philosophy, I am happy to meet with you and discuss how you can best leverage your Instructional Coaches both in the classroom and district wide.