Professional Development – Is it worth it?

Just recently, all staff at my school received an email from our Professional Development (PD) coordinator  indicating that the budgets were already stretched half-way through the school year and that further PD would only be approved if it was essential. After reading a blog by Dr Ash Casey,  I’ve been thinking about how useful PD is and how much of what we actually do at these events is actually put into action?

I know from my own experiences with PD that you often come away with a handful of great ideas but once you get back to work the next day, you have a mountain of emails to sort through, lesson notes etc stacked on your desk and by the time the dust has cleared the things you have learned have already been stored away and you slip back into what is comfortable.

It has lead me to believing that if we head to these days and just come away with a good feed (and sometimes not even that) and a nice cruisy day away from students, and we never change our teaching methods to introduce what we’ve learned, we are in essence wasting money that could be spent better on other things.

So, as head teacher of a department, what can I do to make sure that my staff are using what they’ve learned at a PD course to not only improve their teaching but more importantly, improve the learning of the students we teach. As a result, I’ve decided to create a document that staff will fill out when they return to school that will assess what they learned at the course as well as how and where they can implement it into their teaching. This can then be followed by a review of their practices in say 3 months time to see whether they have used what they learned.

But what should I include exactly? My starting questions are:

  • Identify the practices/ideas from the PD course that you attended that you feel you could/would be helpful to introduce to your teaching
  • For each practice you have listed, identify areas/topics/units that they could be employ

The follow up will probably include questions such a:

  • How well do you feel that you have integrated the information learned at the PD course into you teaching?
  • Indicate, which of the practices/ideas you have tried, which unit it was in, how effectively it worked and how you could alter it so that it would be more effective.

I’m interested to hear what people think. What else could I include? Do you use anything similar? How successful is it?

just for starters …

In the last week of the school term, I facilitated a session on integrating technology to PDHPE teachers at the CEN 2010 NSW State Conference. Full of enthusiasm, I had created a list of what I thought would be useful ICT resources and websites. What I had forgotten to take into account was that many of the schools in attendance don’t have the IT resources that I am blessed with at our school. I get the feeling that many would have left wondering how they were going to be able to integrate many of these resources when their school has a poor wireless network or limited access to computers.

So what I’ve done (with the help of a few other PDHPE teacher blogs) is try to identify 3 ideas that PDHPE teachers can use to get started even when they have limited resources or access to resources. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Blog sites: I feel a blog site is an essential tool for engaging students. It makes their work public for others to see (even if it is only their own classmates). People other than their teacher giving feedback really helps get the process going. You could use a blog in a number of ways:
  1. To post individual student work (students email you a copy of their work for you to post) – this can help getting students engaged in higher order thinking analysis style tasks.
  2. You can post a statement and get each students to post their thoughts to the statement as feedback. Feedback can be set to be moderated by the blog’s author and if done publicly (ie through a projector in class) it shows the students how the process works.

NB – For both of these, the work can be done as homework and emailed to you if don’t have access to computers during lesson time

  • Text to movie websites (E.G. xtranormal) – many people would use this by getting the students to create their own scenario or short video. However, when you don’t have resources to do this, why not use it to create your own stimulus material? Create your own scenarios to show through a projector. You could leave the ending open and have students write a script for an appropriate ending. As the teacher you could then chose a number of these and add them to your original scenario to show the class in the next lesson. The advantage of this is that the students don’t get caught up in the novelty of the technology rather than spending time on the learning activity.
  • Video reviews – giving students a video camera to create an infomercial about the concepts that they are learning about and then uploading it to their MP3 players. One that I’ve used is to divide the class into groups and get the students to create an instructional video for each the fitness tests that explains how to set up the test, how you complete the test and what constitutes a good performance. The students video’s have been uploaded to moodle for the students to download. If you don’t use Moodle I’m sure that a site like podomatic would allow you to do a similar thing (I’m sure someone can confirm this or give me a better option!)