Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project Blog

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Professional Development Leaders or Lead Learners?

Well, December has been a slow month for posting here at the BWP blog. I guess everyone is just busy trying to get through his/her last part of the first semester. But with a new year we face new challenges.

Our job as NWP trained educators is to spread the word about our literacy training. Getting in front of a group of teachers terrifies some folks. Yet, if we do not lead professional development, then how are others to learn what BWP has to offer them as educators as well as their students? As I read a post by Mark Wagner recently, I wondered how many of us could use his advice to improve our own presentations.

Wagner follows the belief to not “think of yourself as a trainer or instructor. Think of yourself as a Lead Learner. After all, the best leaders are also learners.”

His wife Eva, a kindergarten teacher, offers some additional useful advice: “Each positive experience a student has in kindergarten is a $1 deposit in their ‘love of learning’ bank, but every negative experience is a $10 withdrawal. Be sure your participants enjoy your session, even if it means moving slowly. Also, be sure participants 'practice with a purpose.' Remember, your job is still to help them be the best people they can be.” Considering that much of what we have to teach now involves technology in one fashion or another, be prepared to overcome any issues that might arise. One bad technology experience gives the pessimist the easy excuse of “it never works.” Turn even bad situations in professional development training into positive learning experiences.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at 12 tips Mark Wagner shares for leading professional development:
1. Prepare your materials (handouts and online support, including an evaluation) prior to the training.
2. Test everything and rehearse prior to the training.
3. Arrive early to setup and greet participants as they arrive.
4. Start on time by welcoming participants. (Introduce yourself and the topic of the workshop. Include a hook or demo to build interest.)
5. Provide a welcome activity. (This should get participants thinking, talking, and introducing themselves. It is best if this is related to the topic at hand and to a greater emotional connection beyond the topic.)
6. Make the presentation exciting and focus on learning by doing.
7. Use the resources (knowledge and creativity) people bring into the room.
8. Check for understanding and adjust on the fly.
9. Wrap up with a reflection activity. (This may be related to the welcome activity, content covered during the event, or participants’ next steps.)
10. Allow time at the end of the training for the participants to complete the online evaluation. (This should be during the training, not after the end time.)
11. Be sure participants have your contact information for follow up.
12. Review the evaluation responses and adjust for the future.

Miguel Guhlin, director of Instructional Technology Services (and former classroom teacher) in San Antonio ISD, adds to the list himself with some reflective comments here.

Can we not also use these in our classroom preparation? Blogs and wikis are great resources to use for providing PD session participants an avenue to find either review or extension information from your session(s). Consider how David Warlick and Wesley Fryer use free wikis to do just that for their workshop presentations.

Do you have anything to add to Mark's great list? Do you have any PD session success and/or horror stories to share that we can all learn from (either as a presenter or participant)? Leave them as comments so we can all grow from the experience.

Have a great new year. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with each and every one of you. I hope all your endeavors in the new year are blessed.

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