Friday, November 20, 2009

Rethinking Professional Development

I have been thinking about effective means of professional development for teachers for a long time. I started my edtech career as a Professional development specialist at Tom Snyder Productions. They still use my picture on their website. Not to bite the hand that still occasionally feeds me (I freelance for TSP), but lately I have been questioning the effectiveness of the group training model. On the surface it seems like the most efficient way to reach the largest number of people with the most information. In reality however, it doesn't quite work that way. I find it hard to get people to attend, hard to meet the needs of everyone in the room and hard to make a one day event sustainable over the long term.

I have found that my most effective instruction for teachers takes place one-on-one. I meet with faculty, discuss their needs and then help them to form a goal and implement their plans. This takes more of my time, but ultimately does pay off. I've been thinking about ways to formalize or systematize this method of PD so that I can reach more people in this way. It may take longer to get to everyone, but if I can create a system of one-to-one technology mentoring, ultimately I think I will get more people doing more technology in meaningful ways.

So here is my plan. I am approaching faculty at my school with this idea. In particular, I am talking to faculty who are up for review the following year, and asking them if they would be interested in spending a semester prior to their evaluation meeting with me one-on-one every 2 weeks or so to explore ways that they can better integrate technology into their teaching. I also created a sub group on the ISENet ning and hope this will help participating teachers to reach outside of their face to face network for ideas and to reflect and interact with each other.

I'm really excited about the potential for this project. So far I have three teachers on board and am hopeful that I can get a few more. I've even come up with a name (thanks to my Twitter network for help with this): Technology Exploration And Mentoring (T. E. A. M. Davis).

Have you ever tried anything like this? Do you have any suggestions for me? Are there resources for this kind of one-on-one coaching model that you could point me to? Any and all ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!


Lesley said...

I think this is a very interesting idea and look forward to hearing how it works for you. I work as a tech integrator and find that while the group setting things seem to go okay, nobody really follows up with actually learning or doing something with what we talked really does take the one-on-one time to get that going. I run into teachers and they tell me how much they enjoyed a session but lacked the time to actually get "into" a topic, or I have the same people at beginning sessions over and over again.

However, in my case I am responsible for several schools so I'm not sure how to best reach everyone, as I have 8 middle schools to act as a resource for! Perhaps though even starting with 1 school and a few teachers would be better than continuing on as I have been and feeling like I'm not really reaching anyone.

Unknown said...

I am using a model similar to that with my faculty. I have 80 faculty members that I am responsible for working with. Our current model requires teachers to meet with me once an academic quarter. Some of course meet with me once a week. During the first meeting with me we explore new possibilities, set goals, and answer any "technical questions" they might have. Teachers have favored this model, because of the individual attention that they get. As we move forward I have had some teachers invite me into their classroom to team teach and model the technology use as they become more comfortable with the technology. When I meet with them about goals we try to focus them around a specific NETS standard.

David Andrade said...

I've never tried this, but I like the idea. Most PD sessions I run have 3-6 attendees. They are required to get tech PD for their certifications too, but many don't come for what ever reason.

I'm going to try this model (of 1-on-1) and see if I can get it to count as CEU's for the teachers.

Jesse Morehouse said...

That is a pretty cool idea. Id be interested to see how it plays out. Keep us posted!

Along a similar line, I have been working with teachers (as a group) to demonstrate how they can use web 2.0 technologies to pursue individual development during PLC time. I posted a brief description of what Im doing on my blog, The High School Computer Science Blog. The presentation I use (10 slides for a 3 afternoon training) is there in preview but Id be happy to share it if it would in any way add to what you are doing.

Good luck and Ill be following this one!

JLWagner said...

I like the idea with one addition --

they promise that after they have been "trained" they train someone else.

You will
1. Be unable to do this all.
2. I believe you DO NOT want to be seen as the TECH Guru -- all tech ideas begin and start here -- kind of leader.

I like the idea -- as long as it ripples out.

Liz B Davis said...

Lesley - With such a large staff I can understand why a one-on-one approach would seem impossible, but as they say a long journey begins with a single step. We may only reach a few, but a few might be better than none at all.

Jorrflv - I love the idea of using the NETS as a framework for the journey. Since I've become an independent school educator, we don't tend to focus on standards. But of course standards can be a very helpful guideline for an experience like this.

Dave - the other think about independent schools is we don't have CEUs or PDPs or those kinds of requirements which can make it more difficult to get teachers to attend workshops. At least when they do they are there because they want to be there, not because they have to be there.

Techkillljoy - Thanks for sharing your blog post. I love the metaphor of finding the thread, unraveling it and tying one on. How is it going? Are your teachers participating? Can you share any of their blog posts?

Liz B Davis said...

Jennifer - Great point, but I'm not sure I'm in the position to ask people to promise me anything yet. But I do need to think about how to get this idea to ripple out.

Anonymous said...

At our school, the most effective PD has been through small voluntary focus groups. Based on that model we started a group this year for teachers interested in integrating technology. Once in a while we have a 'show and tell' session for the whole staff where a few teachers share tools they have used and how they have used them. The word has spread and as other teachers have seen the effects, the small group has grown larger and others have asked for 1-on-1 help so that they can get on board too.

MikeFisher821 said...

Angela, here's a copy of the PD Model "Menu" I give to districts when they decide how they want to use me. My "iCREATe" model sounds similar to what you are describing...

-Mike Fisher

Tom Kennedy said...

Your experience matches my own but I have never considered formalizing the one-to-one approach, I have simply worked with teachers when the expressed an interest or asked for help.

I think the group approach has its value, namely to introduce or provide an overview of a given technology or related practice. Its a great way to generate excitement. However, I, too, have observed that working individually with staff produces more sustained results and changes in practice.

You have given me some real food for thought. Thanks.

Mike Ritzius said...

I doing this with in the classroom, not for PD. We have 5 teachers in a 1-1 computing environment with approx. 100 students, all skill and grade levels (9-12). Using technology, we let the students move at their own pace. The advanced students run through the program with little help from us and we are free to teach 1 on 1 or very small group to the students who need it. Check out our first write up.

For PD, you don't have to do 1-1 for everyone. Set up the topic online, let those with high interest dive in, they become your evangelists. Everyone else moves at their own pace online with supplemental 1-1 from yourself or the evangelists. It's slow to start, but once your high performers come together, the whole thing just snowballs.

Lynne's Lists said...

We are trying something similar in our district with Library Media Specialists. We are using a peer coaching model to provide the framework for sustained staff development. The model comes from the Puget Sound Group in Washinton (Partners in Learning) which has partnered with Microsoft in the Innovative Teachers Network. There is a lot of research that supports peer coaching as an agent of change and many models to choose from. We are still in the initial stages but we hope that our peer coaches will be able to mentor and sustain PD in their schools to help transform more classrooms and media centers into 21st century teaching and learning environments. Lynne

Ann Darling said...

I like your ning Idea, it is a great way for you to add additional blog posts as they come up and also keeps your group organized and focused. One thing that works for us is the team teaching on a specific project be it a skype or simple wiki page for a class. Teachers appreciate you as the safety net and are more likely to continue using that specific skill as they become more confident.

Unknown said...

Yes. One-to-one works. I offer PD courses for teachers and few leave ready to implement a project. I am a Integration Specialist fortunate to have a flexible schedule during which I co-plan, co-teach and co-assess with classroom teachers (a faculty of 120+)
The group instruction often sows the seed, gives the teacher an idea. The best PD is during the planning and classroom instruction. Planning sessions help me to focus the teacher on the content, the essential question, and then we talk about how the technology could support the pedagogy. Many teachers are happy to have me by their side in a class, sometimes leading, sometimes supporting, but present. It is a great model and I often find that teachers are excited to try a similar project with another class (and limited support from me) or are eager to repeat the project in the next academic year.

Michael Gorman said...


I know you are correct about large group professional development. People seem interested and then the next day happens. While I am not an expert I really believe you have the right idea on personalizing the experience. I work with 1000 middle school students outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana along with about 50teachers. I have had some recent success with the following ideas which relate to what you are talking about.
1. I will Co and Team teach a unit. Possible a unit they already do and assist in working technology into it. I call it turning the juke box into an iPod. Even wrote a post on this in my blog.
2. I encourage the use of professional development money to bring people to a conference and spend time with them on the way down, while there, and the way home.
3. As people develop I have them share in voluntary inservice during collaboration time. we call it @21st Century Wednesdays.
4. I have recently started a closed NING for our school only. This has caused people to bring up professional development ideas and we just started our first book talk using Daniel Pink's Book. Actualy have about 20 people voluntarly participating.
5. I reserve big group time to go over the big picture, including the why of educational transformation. Teachers must have a reason to try new technology, not just because it is new.
I know you will have great results with your new initative. Mostly because you are reaching out to individuals and differentiating your professional development. Sound like something we are always asking teachers to do. Please post how your efforts grow.
Thanks for the post because it has caused me to further reflect how I best meet the needs of kids as I work with teachers.
-Mike Gorman

Anonymous said...

Just diving into the elearning environment myself. I have dabbled with a few tools but not really had an overall plan. Still don't have that plan but I am working on it.

At a conference recently the Global Marketing Manager of Gloria Jean's talked about *infected carriers*.

If you do progress with one-on-one sessions, focussing on value in the classroom and how it saves time for the teacher, you might create an infected carrier who can pass on that message for you. Then your group sessions might be more self-nominated.

Jennifer Roland said...

I think Jennifer is on the right track.

Rather than requiring the teachers you work with to provide training to their fellow teachers, though, you could work to model that behavior and encourage it among the teachers who seem to have an aptitude for teacher training.

It will be hard for you to deliver all of the training yourself in this manner, and anything you can do to get others to help you with the task will be beneficial.