I had the good fortune of presenting last weekend at the @nyschoolboards Annual Convention & Education Expo (#nyssba17) on behalf of @NYSCATE. My topic was titled Leading Change: 21st Century Professional Development. Part of my presentation identified reflection as an important activity within contemporary professional learning – and my presentation experience motivated me to practice what I preached by reflecting on the experience (this was the first time I had presented on this particular topic).
In an effort to model good practice in professional learning, I incorporated some more contemporary elements into the presentation, including back-channeling (@TodaysMeet), data visualization & audience engagement through word clouds (@Mentimeter), and explicit collaboration (via small group dialogue). Below is the @Mentimeter word cloud developed by session participants, in response to my question to list three (3) characteristics participants think are important in 21st Century Professional Development.
I was excited with the output of participants – their feedback clearly pegged important elements of 21st century PD.
However, when facilitating professional learning, I find educators still need to work quite hard at incorporating these characteristics into our delivery. I know I had to work hard last weekend – there is still a natural tendency to want to control the message by serving as the primary source of content on the session topic. We consistently see this in our classrooms as well – where many instructors are still unable or unwilling to give up control of aspects of learning to students. Rather than enabling participants (students) to learn from one another or to figure out the answers on their own, presenters (instructors) still often feel the need to provide the answers themselves.
Last weekend, I felt increased energy/engagement in the room and an improvement in the learning environment when participants broke into pairs to share their own experiences about how they learn best and what has worked (and not worked) in their own professional learning experiences. Ultimately, in retrospect, I wish I had incorporated more of these group conversations into the workshop – that activity would have much more closely embodied the characteristics of good PD that participants identified early in the session and likely would have led to more understanding of the workshop topic/theme.
In addition to further refining the flow and activities of the workshop, I’m wondering if @nyschoolboards could help further encourage good professional learning in all of its convention workshops with a couple of tweaks to its format:
- Convention presenters are given a power point template to use for all presentations. What is (generally) implied by this requirement is that presenters are to use a slide deck in a stand-and-deliver format. Perhaps by encouraging some alternatives to a power point template, workshops offered at the convention will utilize more contemporary PD characteristics and facilitate a more robust professional learning experience.
- All of the presentation rooms I visited were set up as illustrated in the photo below – presenters in the front and participants sitting in rows of chairs in the middle/back. While I understand this could introduce space issues, perhaps organizers could ask for and enable alternative room designs that encourage more group dialogue and collaboration.
Ultimately, this presentation reinforced my need to continue to be mindful to not fall back into center-of-stage professional learning tendencies and consistently focus on incorporating more collaborative (and less stand-and-deliver) activities. @kelly_freiheit put it best (and then modeled it best) in a recent PD workshop I attended when she said “If we don’t change our practice, we can’t expect our students to change.”