5 Proven Strategies for a Successful PD Day

Does the talk of professional development in your building make teachers cringe and hope to plan their next root canal on a PD day?  Professional development doesn't have to be painful or boring for teachers.  Under the guidance of a forward-thinking principal, @MrGrimshaw, and with the help of an awesome present and past PD rep, @thompson_SHS and @justintarte, respectively, at Seckman High School, we have been able to add fun and interactivity  to our PD days. Now teachers are getting more out of professional development and more teachers are getting involved with PD.  Here are 5 strategies we have used to increase teacher engagement and enjoyment of our professional development days.

1.  Make sure each activity is part of your PD plan.

The first step to a successful PD day is to have a long-range professional development plan.  Scheduling random sessions with no rhyme or reason to them will leave teachers unsure of what to expect on professional development days and leaving the days feeling thrown together and disjointed. Just like with a successful unit of study, determining ahead of time what skills you want teachers to gain during the PD cycle will  help give PD days more fluidity and purpose.

2.  Give teachers an opportunity to move around during the day.

The best way to ruin a PD day is to have your teachers sit in one room listening to a speaker all day long.  Just like students, teachers want to be able to learn actively and stay entertained throughout the day.  Consider planning activities that will allow teachers to move around as they learn.   One activity in which I participated at #EdcampSTL and then recreated for a PD day in my building is called Things you Can't do While Kids are in the Building.  We created a list of things that kids can't do while they are at school and set up stations for teacher to do those things.  We had stations such as screaming in the library, sprinting down the hall, playing shufflebook by the library (a building-wide hit), a paper airplane throwing contest, and others.  The stations were open for 15 minutes between each of the day's breakout sessions and had the goal of helping faculty members to bond and to start conversations during breakout sessions and to continue them after the sessions ended.

3.  Feedback is key.

After each professional development day, we utilize Survey Monkey, a free online survey creation and analysis site, to poll teachers and determine the success of our day, the presentations, and the presenters.  This helps the PD committee to determine if we are going in the right direction, if teachers feel that we are adequately meeting our PD goals, and it is helpful to get an overall feeling for how professional development is perceived throughout the building.  Additionally, we send out a survey at the beginning and end of each school year to see what we did well, what sessions we should offer the following year, and to solicit hosts for  the upcoming year's PD sessions.

4. Give teachers a choice in what they learn.

Earlier this week, I was talking to a friend who teaches in a neighboring school district about how her school runs professional development.  Her biggest complaint is that every educator, no matter what they teach, sits through the same PD sessions.  In my building, we use a breakout session format, giving teachers a choice of 4-6 breakout sessions on each PD day.  Typically our mornings are made up of whole-staff activities and in the afternoons teachers will select which sessions the want to attend. Moving to this model from a more traditional professional development model has been difficult,but with the help of teacher leaders who have volunteered to lead PD sessions, our breakout session approach to PD has been a huge success, allowing teachers who previously felt as if PD had nothing to offer them a chance to personalize their learning.

5. Utilize the experts you have on hand.

I have 126 colleagues in my building.  That means my school has 126 experts in it.  There are 126 people who can offer unique points of view about their areas of expertise.  This means that there are 126 possible presenters for professional development days.  I challenged each of my colleagues to share their passion with the faculty on a PD day this year.  While not everyone accepted my challenge, those were not only able to share new information with their colleagues, but also had the opportunity to grow as a professional and experience something new by stepping out of their comfort zone.

Success with professional development won't happen overnight, nor will it happen between now and your next PD day.  However, making sure that the right people are in leadership positions and involving the entire staff in the long range planning will go a long way to improve the quality of professional development offered in your building.  Don't be discouraged if everyone doesn't get on board at first; keep trying and planning engaging sessions and before you know it, your colleagues will be happy to attend and participate in professional development days.

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