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I have been thinking about effective means of professional development for teachers for a long time. Lately I have been questioning the effectiveness of the group training model. On the surface it seems like the most efficient way to reach the largest number of people with the most information. In reality however, it doesn't quite work that way. I find it hard to get people to attend, hard to meet the needs of everyone in the room and hard to make a one day event sustainable over the long term.

I have found that my most effective instruction for teachers takes place one-on-one. I meet with faculty, discuss their needs and then help them to form a goal and implement their plans. This takes more of my time, but ultimately does pay off. I've been thinking about ways to formalize or systematize this method of PD so that I can reach more people in this way. It may take longer to get to everyone, but if I can create a system of one-to-one technology mentoring, ultimately I think I will get more people doing more technology in meaningful ways.

So here is my plan. I am approaching faculty at my school with this idea. In particular, I am talking to faculty who are up for review the following year, and asking them if they would be interested in spending a semester, prior to their evaluation year, meeting with me every 2 weeks or so to explore ways that they can better integrate technology into their teaching. I also created a group here and hope this will help participating teachers to reach outside of their face to face network for ideas and to reflect and interact with each other.

I'm really excited about the potential for this project. So far I have three teachers on board and am hopeful that I can get a few more. I've even come up with a name (thanks to my Twitter network for help with this): Technology Exploration And Mentoring (T. E. A. M. Davis).

Have you ever tried anything like this? Do you have any suggestions for me? Are there resources for this kind of one-on-one coaching model that you could point me to? Any and all ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!

Tags: development, growth, professional, training

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When the goal is implementation, you are correct when you say one-on-one support is required.

I applaud you for thinking of ways to individualize professional development and provide needed support. I teach instructional design, and this intense creative process requires a lot of shoulder-to-shoulder coaching. For years I have used other teachers familiar with the design process as coaches. I try to maintain a ratio of 1 coach for 6 participants. With this level of support an exciting collaborative dialog begins to take place among the teachers as well.

If I was by myself with 20 teachers, I might as well be in a library with 80 teachers conducting a session far more informational than transformational.

Use technology when it works, but you know how much teachers need you by their side sometimes to put creative ink on paper.
Thanks Preston. I think a 6 to 1 ratio is a great suggestion. I don't know how many will take me up on the offer to work together on this project. So far I have 4 people interested.
We are implementing a one-to-one PD approach this year. Last year, our technology planning committee (comprised of teachers of varying tech levels, instructional technology faculty, and division heads and school head, determined that teachers should hold a minimum technology competency for professional productivity for our 5-year plan. I created a set of competencies and had the committee revise and approve them. The idea being that teachers would self-assess their competency level. In addition, teachers assessed their level of technology integration based on a rubric of curriculum integration I created with committee approval. Teachers were encouraged to keep their results private. In the meantime, we solicited all faculty to volunteer to be technology peer coaches for the basic competencies.

Based on their self assessment, all faculty (well almost all) wrote and submitted technology goals. They chose the means by which they wanted to acquire the needed training or tech integration. Each of the division technology coordinators and myself, as Chair of the Instructional Technology Department, meet on a regular basis. We analyzed the goals and categorized them by basic competencies or curriculum integration. We assigned technology peer coaches to those whose goals were based on mastering basic competencies. The instructional technology faculty will provide one-to-one training and consultation for basic competencies, but mostly for those whose goals center on integration in the curriculum. We are keeping track of who we work with and on what level, using Google Doc spreadsheet.

Our goal is to meet with each faculty member to discuss his or her goal and to help them realize the goals. We are not sure how we will evaluate the success. What I do know is that in order to make technology integration and use meaningful, teachers need help at point of need. They also need to have a point person who initiates the conversation.
Wow Barabara it sounds like you are doing great stuff at your school. How big is your population? How many people are on your staff? (I am the only tech integrator at my school.) Do you have any resources you can share? I would love to see the set of competencies that you came up with (and anything else you might be willing it share).
Our ad-hoc technology planning committee devised a five year plan. We started with the self assessment of basic competencies that we identified that all teachers should master in two years. Next, teachers self assess their student's use of technology in their curriculum. Teachers were required to submit technology goals based on the self assessment. I have attached our 5 year plan with the competencies and self assessment. The document describes our process.
I wholeheartedly agree, Liz: we don't expect our students to sit there and be lectured to, and to come away transformed, why should our faculties? I love how you're putting time into planning ahead of time. At our school we're moving away from the lecture towards committees solving problems--and that becomes its own professional development in many cases. One group is specifically working on professional development ideas--mainly peer to peer critical friends groups, videoing and discussing, and such. But other groups are working on diversity, technology, academic field days, to name a few. I have the urge to organize it all and keep track, but I think giving up control and trusting (and sitting in on meetings) may be more realistic and fruitful. I was inspired by Clay Shirky's idea that you have to try stuff and accept some of it will fail!

I think you're right about large groups. Every time we consider large group activities, my inner voice keeps saying, "training is dead." Technology in the classroom has become both so pervasive and expansive, that's it's very hard to get a homogeneous group together.

One variation we've had on your idea was to form groups of teachers within the same department. The most successful was with our foreign language department. They set a collective goal of looking at oral proficiency and then set individuals goals. Probably the most important thing was the time they had together talking about their use of technology. Different leaders emerged and discussions were always focused on their learning objectives.

We had four days set aside for the group meetings and then I worked individually with teachers on their projects in between those meetings. Teachers received a modest stipend for their participation. Even though we weren't able to offer the stipend again this year, most teachers asked that we continue the project.

You can say a wiki page we set up for the project at this address:

The case study page gives you an overview of the projects.
Reading the comments I'm reminded how important it is to clearly identify the most important goal for PD. Is it student achievement? Or is it student achievement through the use of teachnology? There can be overlap, but the answers to these are rarely the same. The goals can enhance one another, but I've seen a lack of clarity and openness about the most important goal create many problems.

Thank goodness there are technology initiatives and grants that create opportunities to explore its use. But I have found the adoption of technology far easier when these goals are subordinate to student achievement goals. For example, let's say student achievement is demanding PD address issues of reading, writing, and clarity and focus in lesson plans by the effective use of research-based strategies. Then technology might be examined for how it might support comprehending expository text, or writing main ideas and supporting details, or comprehending writing patterns.

There will always be a need to explore technology, and a need explore the best PD to help where students are struggling the most, technology or not.

Being clear about both achievement and technology goals will help you decide how PD should be conducted; it will help you decide when to sit side-by-side with your teachers, or when to coduct some asyncronous or syncronous technology event.

I've seen how failing to be clear about these goals prevented people from seeing clearly where students needed help the most; therefore, it prevented us from designing the best PD.
Hi Preston,

I think that PD – and this refers to all types of PD, not just PD related to technology – should encourage and support learning:
• within one's area of expertise
• within one's area of passion
• that complement's one's area of expertise
• that takes people outside their comfort zones

Research has shown that by engaging in novel challenges we nourish the brain to remain cognitively sharp. A PD program that facilitates both professional and personal learning helps keep people fresh. Ultimately, the students and the school benefit when the teachers are stimulated, curious about learning, following their own passions and also staying current within their specialized areas.

While student achievement is one goal, I do not think it should be the only goal of a professional development program. Indeed, one view of teaching and learning is that it is ALL about professional development – both for the students and the teachers!

Cheers, Laurie

You are at the heart of what motivates adults to learn. Excellent. Most of my failure had to do with my inability to connect meaning, purpose, and passion to learning that helped teachers improve teaching (this means doing something different).

In the end, I did not have to go far, it just took me a long time to get there. I found the need to generate short cycles of improvement within the effective improvement models. Take UbD or Lesson Study, for example. Teachers generally have not found meaning, purpose, and passion in these fine models of improvement; rather, meaning, purpose, and even confidence, was ignited in short cycles embedded within the model.

More specifically, if our goal is to align standards, curriculum, and assessment, design a quick hands on process of aligning these items. Let teachers see, feel, and experience this alignment and they begin to remember why they became teachers in the first place. They begin to understand why data and essential questions matter.

This is a good subject. I'll write a new post on this later today.

Thank you.
Where is the teacher's time coming from to engage in these more personalized approaches to PD? We would gladly do more of this sort of thing with teachers, but even those motivated to do so have a lot of trouble making time for them.
It would come out of their free block. I'm planning to meet with them every two to three weeks for a semester.


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