Recently, I was part of a group planning a PD session for our district subject association. Our job was to coordinate a session on a web 2.0 tool called “The Civic Mirror” that we have been using with great success in our school’s Grade Ten Civics classes. Without getting into too much detail about the actual tool (another post perhaps), I would like to describe what I think contributed to a very effective experience for participants and ourselves.
Pre-session Info Gathering:
At our planning meeting we decided to address some FAQs in the introduction for the workshop. We had a pretty good idea what participants might be thinking and what might create barriers to them buying into the topic of our session. We brainstormed four questions that we thought would address these issues and then created a quick survey, using Google Docs, for participants to complete before they arrived on the day. The results confirmed our initial thoughts and that allowed us to focus our time early in the workshop on recognizing these concerns and addressing them if possible. I think this allowed participants to feel that their input was valued and allowed us to be efficient with our time.
Shared Presentation Responsibilities:
As a department, each of us had a range of experience with using Civic Mirror in the classroom. As we planned for the session it became apparent that we all had various competencies and anecdotes to share with the group. In our discussion we decided that we would divide the presentation along those competencies and interests. But more wisely, we also determined that whomever was leading a discussion in a particular session would have control to direct and contribute to the session. We were all very excited and passionate to share our positive experiences but we anticipated that this could lead to a lot of interruptions with a group of outspoken and “type-A” individuals. We made it very clear that we would not jump in and hijack someone else’s portion of the presentation. The result was very focused and organized presentations with clear leaders directing the pace.
Participants Participating (!):
A long running joke I often hear about teacher PD is that in the spirit of trying to improve teaching, it often inadvertently demonstrates what to avoid. With this in mind we tried to make the workshop an interactive experience with participants playing an active part as much as possible. We were also motivated by the structure of Civic Mirror. As a mostly student-led simulation of citizenship and government, we wanted the teacher participants to understand that it would involve changing their role in the classroom from the “sage on stage” delivering conceptual material to a “civic life coach” providing advice on how to navigate the intricacies of political, social, and economic decision making in our virtual country. I’m not sure how well we accomplished this since time management became an issue. But in two of the five sessions I believe we did this quite well.
It may seem trite or obvious but when presenters are obviously happy with and motivated by the content they are delivering, things just seem to go better. As a group we had complete buy-in from the start. Each person wanted to be there and see the session go well. It wasn’t about personal agendas or self-aggrandizement. I tweeted out this comment a few weeks ago: “Leadership isn’t giving a presentation at a staff meeting”. I’ve heard a few complaints lately that when it comes time for positions of added responsiblitily (PARs) it seems there are a lot of presentations at staff meetings by “aspiring leaders”. These presentations are seen as “leadership activities” to be included on a resume. Without getting into this too much, I think it is noteworthy to point out that when a session is run by a group and not an individual, and it isn’t for their immediate benefit, then participants are more interested in hearing what you have to say.
Time will reveal the effectiveness of this PD session, but at the moment it feels like we got it right. There was lots of buzz afterwards which indicated that we got people thinking. Many said that they had their concerns addressed and would look for a way to use Civic Mirror in their schools. Best of all, I think it was a great team-building experience for our department. It reinforced to me that various members have great things to contribute. The presentation was definitely greater than the sum of the individual participants had we done this by ourselves. That is why I think this is an instance when teacher collaboration worked.
May 2013 M T W T F S S « Apr 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
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