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Dorothy Bialke

I believe that if an idea is worthy of "sticking" it first must be internalized by the leader. Once the leader understands the value of this idea he/she can develop a plan to help others implement it as well. Time dedicated to discussion amongst colleagues about how they are implementing the idea is key to its success. These collegial discussions should continue for as long as it takes to become common practice.

John Gross

As a retired teacher I'd say, relevance can make a huge difference. Oft times SD is a thrown together presentation on a poorly thought out topic. A topic that the attendees have no ownership of in every day teaching. I think the best SD presentations I ever attended were on subjects like classroom management, discipline and behavior modification. These were topics relevant to the everyday classroom. Preplanning and a lot of it has to go into a SD program.

I was, for the last 5 years of my career, in charge of district wide technology SD sessions. These sessions were done in a computer lab and were all hands on training. I found out very rapidly that relevance was absolutely a must. We always trained on one piece of software until comfortable usage was taking place in the district. Many times a shotgun approach is used and very little is gleaned by anyone. Also, time must be allowed for the trainees to use the skills they are "taught" in the SD session. A lot can be learned by asking the staff what would be a comfortable and usable SD program and go from there.

Angela Maiers

Chris, unfortunately, PD is about filling time and space rather than enhancing professional learning. PD that "sticks" considers the following:

1.Time-how much time is needed to work on the work. Expecting quick results after training sessions set everyone involved up for failure.

2. Expectations: Are expectations clearly articulated before and after the sessions? Do teachers know exactly what they must do as a result of the training?

3. Collaboration-will staff have a chance to work together after the training to discuss, reflect, and plan?

4. Resources: Will teachers have what they need to support implementation?

5. Relevancy-Buy in happens when the training is applicible to the work they are doing in their classroooms.

These seem like obvious considerations,but far too often these elements are not apart of the planning process, and what "sticks" with teachers is a frustrating and disappointing PD experience rather than transformative, lasting initiative we had hoped for.

Great post-lots to think about!


Joe Poletti

I am a new assistant principal (with the last 10 yrs. at state dept, university, and central office jobs). I have been working with 11 teachers in a new PD model I call modified lesson study. The idea is to sustain the conversation of best practices.

In small groups, we visit lead teachers and observe their classes for full class periods. We use a comprehensive note-taking document that covers many aspects of teaching and learning.

The true gold is not in the pre-visit meeting when we go over the lesson plan, the note-taking tool, and the general and unique challenges we face. The true gold is not in the 1.5 hours we spend observing and taking notes in the lead teachers class.

So far, the true gold has been in the 1.5 hour debrief with the observed lesson as the context for professional discourse. The conversation is rich and rewarding.

My commitment to the 11 teachers in the first iteration of this project is to maintain long-term, informal,open and unique professional conversations with each of them about individual teaching practice.

My goal is that we build a small professional learning community, a small brushfire, that continues to burn.

This is a strategy I have thought about for a long time, and had been unable to get off the ground until I returned to schools. It is predicated upon relationships and trust that we build as we work together on a daily basis.

Tracy Rosen

Sounds wonderful, Joe. I'd love to be involved in PD like that! I sure hope you are documenting your experiences somewhere...I'd be interested in reading about it.

Tammy Rasmussen

This sounds similiar to what we are implementing in Oregon through the Oregon Mathematics Leadership Institute. This has been funded through NSF and in it we use a Lesson Planning Framework, pre-observation protocol, data snaps during the lesson, and post-observation. The half day process has allowed us to ask questions that moves us towards authentic conversations related to how students learn math and how the questions we ask move students towards deeper mathematical understanding.
I say authentic because any amount of time less than Joe recommends seems to result in conversations that lack in the richness that a 1/2 day allow.

Tammy Rasmussen
Presidential Awardee - Mathematics 2006

Gary Gerst

This is a post Chris that I have been thinking about for the last two years. I just started a new position as the K-12 Director of Professional Development in our district. What I have learned in the short time that I have taken this position is to make sure you are listening to the teachers.
We did a "Needs Assessment" last Spring and I left space for the teachers to openly state what it is that they thought was needed for Professional Development. There was a common theme throughout K-12, that they needed time to work on curriculum and collaborate with their grade levels or departments. The comments came as a result of the one Staff Development Day last year where we let the teachers do this. So many teachers commented that this was the best Professional Development that they had in years because they learned so much from each other in their discussions.
Our theme for this year is "Curriculum Cohesion". Our four Staff Development Days are structured around grade level and departments sharing curriculum and best practices. We often forget how easily it is to get isolated in your own classroom and not be able to share. Our first Staff Development Day was last week and all of the adiminstrators were walking the halls and all were excited about what they heard while teams were talking. The best was when I heard a veteran teacher say "I've got an awesome writing activity that I cannot believe I haven't shared with you all."
As we talk with our Adminstrative Team I hope we continue with this format for another year. We are looking to implement Curriculum Mapping and we have already formed the base for this process to work.
I thoroughly enjoyed your post Chris and all of the responses. I apologize if this is wordy, I am new to the blogging world.

pete reilly

I have succeeded with a simple concept...practice. In order for a new behavior or action to 'stick'; it needs to be embodied.

It's like learning to drive a car for the first time...tires squeal, brakes get hit a little too hard, everything feels weird. After hours and hours of practice, we can talk on the phone, drink coffee, and drive with little effort.

We don't embody things by being taught them or by having insights or good intentions. It really does come down to practicing our new learning.

This is a simple but new concept for educators which is slowly making its way into the leadership conversation.

I am going to be posting on this later this month.


Joe Miller

This is a really interesting and relevant blog post with many fascinating follow-up comments. It sounds like many leaders are focused on depth with their professional development. Depth that includes conversations about craft. Can't wait to see more about the results these endeavors are really exciting.

I have two other comments: (1) very little is mentioned about follow-up and expectation to translate into the classroom. Expectations must be crystal clear and there must be follow-up with the teachers in their classrooms. (2) No mention of using modern technologies to collaborate and discuss craft. What about the role of wikis and blogs in collaborative professional development and sharing?

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