As teachers, we sit through a vast range of professional developments – some compulsory and some elected. We would all have sat through the brilliant and the boring, the engaging and the excruciating. But what is it that makes a professional development effective?
There are a number of factors that I feel are crucial to an effective PD.
Firstly, relevance. Now there are two sides to this. As an attendee, I need to make sure I select appropriate workshops to my context. Assuming I have selected appropriately, I would hope that the presenter/s are providing learning that is relevant in terms of curriculum, contemporary society and its resources, and the learning of modern students
Engagement is also crucial. Every presenter will have a different style, and different topics will require more or less talking from them. As a teacher-learner, I, like my students, want to be engaged. I want to hear about things that I can explore, adapt to my context and apply in my own teaching. I want to be able to interact with others in the room, including the presenter. I want this engagement and excitement to continue after the PD with the connections and networks it has allowed me to develop.
In my opinion, a PD should not answer every question. Participants should walk away with old questions answered, but with their heads full of new ones to explore themselves and continue the discussion with their colleagues. The most effective learning experiences I have been a part of as an educator are those that I have walked away from feeling exhausted but excited because my brain has been buzzing all day with ideas to apply to my practice.
Finally, I think effective PDs leave the participants with at least one practical thing that they can take away and use almost immediately. Sometimes the theories that are presented at these workshops can be quite overwhelming, but if there is a practical example that can be applied to one’s practice straight away, then I, personally, am more likely to take the risk by trying something new.
So, they are my four main criteria for an effective professional development. I’d love to hear from you. How do you gauge a workshop’s effectiveness?