PD that works – A Personal Project Approach

An innovation which has taken place at my current school was commenced last year. It was decided that we would have a greater focus on allowing staff to use allocated PD days to pursue their own passions and needs rather than keep the one PD for all approach. This became a project for each staff member. From personal experience it has resulted in a significant change in my teaching practice and understanding of how we should cater for students with higher abilities. In the end, my professional learning combined a number of approaches, as outlined below, which it would have been difficult to without the flexibility allowed by the school.

Planning

The first post is to have an understanding of what I wanted to learn about. From the schools point of view it was necessary to have an accountability framework but for the teachers it is a great way to look at what their personal learning needs were, think about what strategic focus the school had and also to consider the needs of the students they teach. This was the starting point for everyone on staff.

Coaching

Each staff member was allocated a coach who had completed training supported by the college. This was an integral part of the process, helping to promote and enable deep reflection. When the coach asked good questions (and she did!), it helps you to see more clearly where you need to focus your energy. It also helped me to clarify how I would use the new found knowledge.

Reading and Reflection

Searching out books and readings about the topic gave me some background and also helped me to know what it was that I needed to learn about. We had a couple of staff meetings set aside for this and rather than working in my office I chose to go into another part of the school to ensure that I wasn’t interrupted.

The reflection was an important part of this process. This is the opportunity to fine tune the learning I want to pursue and think about how I might like to achieve that.

School Visits

One of our regular PD days were set aside for staff to work on their personal PD focus and I used this opportunity to visit a school to have a professional conversation with another school leader and see first hand what another site of learning might be doing. I was there with two other staff from the school which was really the highlight as we had time in the afternoon to discuss our observations and give feedback to each other with our projects. This in turn lead me to engage in some more reflection about my project and a further clarification about where my project was going to head.

Multi-day PD Workshops

The workshop style PD I have attended has involved multiple days with interim tasks to try out and develop. It has also allowed reflection, collaboration and discussion. It has been about something passionately want to learn about. This is what I fortunately able to undertake, a 6 module course which involved all these things. I have attended other multi day PDs which haven’t had the same impact but the fact that it tied in with my project was the catalyst for its success.

Implementing things with students

The long term nature of this approach to PD allowed me to implement a number of different strategies with the student. Having the ongoing PD workshops and the free staff meeting times allowed me to evaluate how these went with the students and consider the improvements I needed to make. A key part of the process is also to get feedback from the students. Working with smaller groups allowed me to get this verbally; however, written feedback would be another way to get a response form the students.

Staff Presentation

This can be seen as an accountability tool but it is also the most valuable part of the process. It served two main purposes for me:

  1. It gave me a clear purpose for my learning
  2. It brought the learning to a new audience

I have had a number of opportunities to share what I have learnt and each time I refine it for my audience, and at the same time new learning gets synthesized into the presentation. If you wish to see the result of my learning journey, look here.

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