Thursday, May 8, 2008

Professional Developments That Pop!

What kind of professional development is meaningful to me? In the post What is Professional Development?, Sylvia lists 6 kinds of professional development: academic coursework, workshop/sessions, formal research, informal, classroom embedded, and action research. I can’t tell you how many times I have been through some professional development where the whole time was wasted because none of it was meaningful to me. I’m not saying all of them were bad (though I’ve been to some that would be considered that), but it really seemed a waste of my time. After reading that post, I began to think about what makes professional development “good” in my view and here is my list:

1. It is relevant to my subject area. I have been to too many that had nothing to do with what I teach and was told that I had to attend because it was required by the district and there wasn’t anything in my subject area for me to attend at that particular time. Why not let me go at an alternate time and skip this?
2. It is not filled with “fluff” to meet some kind of time requirement. The presenter was told that it had to last 2 hours so we do meaningless “ice breakers” for awhile.
3. I leave with something that I can actually use in my classroom. I love when I learn something I can use and can’t wait to try it out.
4. It involves some active participation from me, rather than just sitting and listening. This is in reference to the bad presenter who just reads his PowerPoint slides. I can’t just sit and listen to someone drone on for 2 hours but that may just be me.
5. The presenter is knowledgeable about their topic and I can feel motivated after being around this person. I can’t stand when a presenter doesn’t know something and fakes it while I know that person is faking it because I do that particular something. I like the presenters that can say, “I don’t know but is there anyone here that can help me answer this question.” Isn’t this the way the students feel sometimes?
6. The presenter has real life experience with what they are presenting. Sometimes my eyes glaze over if they can’t show that this really works in a classroom because they have never tried this or they are just reciting what someone else has done in the classroom.
7. I learn something new that I didn’t know before. I love learning and if I haven’t learned anything new, then I feel like I have wasted my time. I’m not sure the presenter has any control over this because the audience will have different knowledge bases.
8. I am given a reason for why what I need or could do is worth doing. Have you ever wondered "why in the world would I do this? "

2 comments:

Ben said...

Those are some excellent criteria for a worthwhile professional development session. As a band director I seem to get hung up on number one and presenters can't seem to relate to what I experience everyday in the classroom. There is nothing more frustrating than wasting six hours of my day for the little bit of information I gleaned from a powerpoint presentation that I could have read for myself in an hour. I often leave wondering if some of these presenters have ever logged any actual teaching time?

loonyhiker said...

ben: I also wonder the same thing. When I teach my univ. course I try to keep in mind all the things I hate, and try not to do the same things when I present. What are some of these presenters thinking?!