Best--most effective--pd comes when a person or small group feels a sense of urgency and motivation about something he or she wishes to accomplish. You catch them right at that crucial moment. Similarly, it helps when there is a more personal and intimate feeling to the experience. This also helps you stretch the person a bit further than he or she anticipated and sets up later work. Finally, I love when pd really provokes and prods.
Least effective occurs when someone has decided what everyone must hear. Then the delivery is simple droning.
I agree with Mark - stay away from the one workshop for the whole community. Boring! We've had a lot of success with offering several quick workshops put on by colleagues in house. It's a chore to make sure there is something for everyone and enough choices to sustain 2 or 3 workshops slots. But we have done this several times over the past few years (not just with technology, but with diversity and environmental awareness) - and it has been quite popular.
I think the question I often struggle with is sustaining the professional development throughout the year (not just for that one day). We have begun a teacher blog to try to keep the conversation going but even that needs prodding once in a while.
When it has been sustained at our school, it's occurred mainly for two reasons. The first, someone in a key leadership role, wouldn't let it die. The second--and this is by far the best--is when a small group of teachers took something and ran with it.
I should have added something else to my points about when it has worked. I find that PD works best when rather than become superficial, perhaps because of too many topics our a simple one-shot approach, the focus is much deeper and probing.
All of our teachers are assigned to a tech class during one of their free periods each week. In addition to the small groups of teachers (4 -8 at a time), I also see teachers who request it once a week for a 10 minute one on one. In the summer I teach 3 hour workshops on important topics for those who are interested. Before the teachers were required to attend the weekly sessions I found that I couldn’t build on anything and I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. These short sessions are just enough time to cover an important topic that can be reinforced the following week.
Most successful: small groups, ongoing throughout the year; meets the needs of faculty; indulges a variety of areas (for example, yoga, massage, nutrition, ceramics, politics, technology); faculty sharing with faculty; variety in the method of presentation; time for reflection; experiential/engagement opportunity; on-campus and off-campus sessions (i.e. funding is provided for off-campus attendance at workshops and conferences); faculty encouraged to attend sessions outside of their teaching specialities
Least successful: sessions that need follow-up but do not get follow-up; topics presented to the full faculty that only meet the needs of some of the faculty; lack of variety in how the session is presented; lack of faculty input in determining prof dev offerings
Okay, am a few months late in joining this conversation, but I've enjoyed reading everyone's replies and hope the conversation picks up again.