What Makes Good Staff Development?

Originally Posted January 6, 2009

Today I did my first staff development presentation to my whole faculty. I’m ok talking in front of people, and I can talk in front of teenagers all day long. But there is something a little unsettling about talking in front of your peers to “educate” them. My task was to roll out the district’s new essential curriculum. I think there is always a weird element to staff development when you’re doing something that is “required.” However, we were given permission to tweak what we were doing in our building to make it better fit our needs. I think that part was great.

I tried hard to make the presentation interactive, modeling the teaching strategies we want our faculty to be using, integrating brain based activities, movement, discussion, and multimedia. I’m not quite sure how I really did, since it is harder for me to gauge an adult audience than it is an adolescent one. We tried to design a format that wasn’t “sit & git,” where you’d rather chew your own arm off to escape rather than listen for another minute. We then had our teachers break out into different groups who rotated through three presentations on how their colleagues were integrating the strategies we are asking them to do. They were short, about 10 minutes each, and they were hearing from their peers. I think that piece can be very powerful. Some great questions were asked in the sessions I was able to see.

I always thought there was a lot that went into these days, but I think I took it for granted until today. There are all kinds of crazy little details that need to be taken care of in order for things to run smoothly. I’m tired and I’m excited to sleep tonight. I learned a lot today and I’m hoping things will improve the next time around for me.

Interestingly, one of the hardest things about presenting to your peers is that they are very similar to students. But because they are your peers, you have to handle your audience differently. We are just like our students in SO many ways. 🙂

So what makes for good professional development? Having been on a staff development committee for a few years and now being an instructional facilitator, I’ve had a chance to be in the seat and up on the stage. I’ve seen some VERY bad and VERY good presentations. I believe that it needs to be interactive. It is a rare person who has the charisma to truly hold a large audience’s attention for a long period of time. And just as you do in your classroom, you need to try to accommodate different learning styles. I believe that teachers need to get something they can “walk away with.” Something they can immediately start to use. You, as a presenter, need to value the time of your audience. Have a purpose for everything you do and be sure that it is relevant. And if you have any control over the format, you need to have more than just the traditional lecture hall style presentation.

I have a lot to say on the issue of staff development. One of the things I love the most about my new position as an Instructional Facilitator is that is it essentially “personalized professional development.” These big staff presentations are rare for me. I spend most of my time working with teachers one-on-one. I feel that this is a much more effective method and I am glad I have the opportunity to do it. I may write more in the future on this topic, but it’s time for me to veg out now!

Possible Questions for Comment:

  • What is the best/worst staff development you’ve seen and why?
  • What would your dream staff development look like?
  • What are some good staff development ideas you’d like to share for the greater good?


4 thoughts on “What Makes Good Staff Development?”

  1. Originally posted by Buckie on January 7, 2009

    I am also on the Staff Development Committee. SD days are much more interesting if you have something to do with them! I wish that we could always have built in time to work in our rooms on SD days…but I guess that is illegal or something. I like active learning…but not silly time wasting activities like juggling! Have you been to the Quantum Learning Training (if not you HAVE to go!)? That is the sort of thing I like to learn about at SD- things that I can actually take and use in my classroom the next day. Congrats on your new job! That is supercool that you are an IF now!

  2. Originally posted by me on January 10, 2009

    I agree, they are more interesting when you have something to do with them! And yeah, people always want more time to work in their rooms, which is understandable in the time crunched life of a teacher. And yes, it actually is illegal..sort of. 🙂 In our state all SD on the state mandated SD days must fall into one of 6 categories. None of these allow “work time” and the state requires all kinds of documentation to prove that your teachers are “learning” and not “working.”

    I haven’t been to the Quantum Learning Training, but it looks interesting (http://www.qln.com/). Thanks for the congrats and the tip!

  3. I appreciated your comments on Dr. Wesson. I wish I would have attended his lecture. You are doing a great job being an Instructional Facilitator!

  4. Posted at the request of S. Tod:

    I’m convinced that any staff development idea must be . . .

    1. Interesting, fun and stimulating to staff
    2. Immediately and readily applicable in the classroom

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