Ingredients of a Great PD

Not to toot my own horn (although I clearly aim), but I think that I do a great job when facilitating a professional development session; that’s what the attendees say on the evaluations. After each PD I facilitate, I always run down what worked and what didn’t work to improve for the next session I facilitate. My notes, in addition to the feedback from attendees given in the evaluations and conversations had, help tremendously with that. I received some emails from colleagues who attended a PD I gave at my school recently. The PD was on cultural competence and here is some of what was said: 

  • “Every one of us raved about your presentation. Hopefully you can do a school-wide presentation- it would be beneficial to a lot of teachers.”
  • Thank you. It was a great workshop but your delivery was outstanding. You held my attention the whole time; and if you knew me well, that is not easy to do.

I happened to run into another colleague who said, “You should give a PD on how to present like you did. That was great.” That comment got me thinking about possibly creating a template of sorts that I or anyone could rely on to create and facilitate a great professional development session. I played back a few of my more recent PD sessions and I found some essentials that every PD session must have. 

There are two parts to every PD that a facilitator must pay great attention to (as should teachers in the classroom): (1) the content, and (2) the delivery of the content. The content of course is what your speaking/training/facilitating on. Your delivery is how you go about speaking/training/facilitating. At the end of the day your session has to be great and you’ve got to make it greater. Here is how:

CONTENT: Your Content Must Cause A REACT-ion…

  1. Relevant – Whatever your topic, it must be relevant and timely. If you want to present on social media, Myspace is not a relevant topic… certain social media platforms are more relevant than others. You want to focus on what is of interest relating to teaching and learning now to hold attention and meet the needs of practitioners. 
  2. Engaging – Whatever your topic, it must be engaging for attendees. Sticking with our social media example, what is the fun in talking about how to use social media in the classroom or for projects without actually using social media during your session? Training on how to use Facebook is that much more engaging when you have an activity among attendees that incorporates the use of Facebook.
  3. Applicable – Whatever your topic, attendees must be able to apply what you’ve taught during the session. So, if you’re teaching on social media and you’re engaging your participants with any particular platform i.e. Facebook, make sure that what you are instructing is something teachers can actually do with students… by that I mean something their principal or vice principal would approve of.
  4. Collaborative – Although you are the “expert” up the front presenting, you want to incorporate the knowledge in the room when working through your content. Your job isn’t to lecture but rather to provide teachers with information and strategies on how to apply it in their classes. Allow them to share with one another (and with you) on how to merge your content knowledge with their pedagogy and assessment creation.
  5. Transformative – Whatever you teach, you want your participants to leave the session transformed. Your content should completely enhance or alter how they go about teaching and/or disciplining students. Your participants must feel like a changed individual; ready to implement what they’ve learned to achieve the desired results.  

CONTENT DELIVERY: When Delivering the Content, You Must Be the 5 E’s

  1. Educated – You must know something about what you’re instructing on. Maybe you went to school for it or you took a PD yourself on it. Maybe you read something. No matter how you learned it, you must know something in order to instruct on it.
  2. Experienced – It helps to have actually done what you’re advocating participants do in the classroom. Having applied what your instructing practitioners to apply bolsters your authenticity and sharpens your expertise level.
  3. Energetic/Excited – You must have energy throughout your presentation. If you are energetic about your content, it’ll show and it’ll rub off on the participants. They won’t have a choice other than to be engaged and attentive.
  4. Encouraging – You must encourage participants of your PD that what you’re asking of them is doable and that they are capable — no matter how difficult the task or information to process. 
  5. Empowering – Along with encouraging folks, you must empower them to do the work. Provide actual exercises and practice that they can replicate in the classroom and common sense strategies they can actually apply. 

Running a PD is tough work. It is time consuming to put together and nerve-racking to present. But when done right, it is an amazingly fulfilling and supportive experience whereby you help both practitioners and students. I wish that I could teach more students. However, I can reach more students than I can teach through facilitating a PD. The same goes for you. You can reach more students with the PD’s you offer and the knowledge you provide teachers during those sessions. But make sure you follow these tips to make a great presentation even greater.

Let’s continue to press towards the mark!


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