Listen, Collaborate, and Listen Some More

High quality PD begins with listening.  That’s the first step that Lisa Highfill, Instructional Technology Coach at Pleasanton Unified School District took when she planned PD for her teachers.  Lisa captured critical information about her teachers’ needs and interests to help inform the structure and content of her training sessions.  

Teachers chose how to spend their time as they developed new skills and applied their knowledge alongside their peers.  Listen to Lisa discuss how as a PD facilitator, she must not stand in the front of the room and impart knowledge, but rather work collaboratively with her teachers, support them as they actively engage with new content, and continue to listen.  Tune in here or read the transcript below:

Lisa: So we know that we needed to build professional development that was respecting their needs, their interests, and their time.  So we started to survey them. We started to ask them that and gather information and really study that part. How could we group these teachers — how could we put them into either grade level groups or project interest groups or ability level groups? This could be around digital workflow, it could be just their use of google apps if they are comfortable.  Some teachers were ready to go off and build more curriculum and ready for the blended learning instruction. So we really divided up teachers according to these groups and built our training sessions for the days based on what they wanted.  Very specific.  

So once they came to these trainings, it was incredible.  Some really wanted that full day training and that work time built into it — so full day training does not mean that I’m talking full day or filled full day. It means that I talk for a small amount of time and give them their tasks and let them explore and then apply. Apply the knowledge. And where am I during the professional development? I’m definitely not checking my email — I’m sitting with small groups, I’m working when they get stuck, when they are taking risks; which I just love because teachers started to try out web tools that they had seen earlier. They were like, “I remember this one, I really want to make this work, I want to build a lesson around it. Where do I start?” I could sit down and work with that teacher in a small group to meet those kinds of needs.  And as we were working, and I always say this to teachers — that if we are up lecturing, we never can get the gist of where our students in our classrooms are.  Well the same goes for when you are doing professional development. If you are up front showing your slides, you really don’t know where people are at. And as a coach I need to know to what depth people are getting it, where they are still struggling, where their interests are, where can I go next. How can I follow up? Because our coaching model in our district is after we do these large group or small group professional development we make appointments with the teachers one on one. And I needed to know — how can I follow up with them. What lesson did you work on that day, what was a struggle? I knew I’d send you back and you’d be working on creating blogs and I’d have to come in maybe and work with your class at the same time. So it was really a great time period while we were doing the professional development, studying our teachers — we were watching, we were observing, we were in with them — instead of lecturing at them.

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