Design professional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, social-emotional and learning needs.
Almost all professionals who have engaged in professional development (PD) can recall examples of their own underwhelming, ineffective, and passive PD experiences. Sadly, it is not necessarily common for schools or universities to invest in fostering a dynamic, supportive staff environment that cultivates the social and emotional competence and capacity of their teachers. In the March 2022 post, What if Professional Development Could Be…Fun!?, I explore ways in which professional learning can be designed to be active, engaging, collaborative, relevant, and yes…even fun. Prioritizing time for participant interaction, collaboration on problem-based activities, and opportunities to establish social presence in PD activities organically supports the cultural, social-emotional and learning needs of adult learners.
In another post, Professional Development & Technology in Higher Education: What’s Working?, I outline eight practical tips for designing PD for adult learners with technology integration in mind:
- Use What You Are Teaching: don’t just lecture about a helpful strategy or tool, model it and have participants actively engage with it
- Develop Something That You’ll Use Right Away: if it’s relevant, instructors should be able to implement a takeaway within a few weeks
- Receive Feedback: create opportunity for feedback on the PD “session” as well as peer-to-peer feedback on implementation of the takeaway
- Improve and Level Up: create opportunities to workshop the initial takeaway with ongoing PD and support; effective PD isn’t “one and done”
- Local Responsibility and Buy-In: institutional/school-wide support is needed, it’s not just the responsibility of teachers/instructors to internalize and implement PD initiatives
- Long-Term Focus: avoid the temptation to chase fads or take a “flavor of the week;” make sure PD aligns meaningfully with long-term goals of the school/district/institution
- Good Timing: consider the larger ebb and flow of the academic calendar and when instructors will be in the best position to be fully present for a PD initiative
- Empower Peer Collaboration: give teachers/instructors the time and opportunity to learn from one another.
Finally, in the January 2022 post Best practices in professional development: What educational institutions might have to learn from the business sector I investigate best practices in PD as they are modeled outside of the world of education. With a background knowledge in best practices for adult learning, and after having examined numerous effective examples of PD in the business sector, I composed my own “top ten” checklist for learning designers to consider when organizing PD enterprises. They are as follows:
- PD learning opportunities must be customizable to make sense for individual needs/contexts
- PD activities ought to be curated in-house as much as possible (vs. relying on external vendors)
- PD should help open channels of communication and collaboration between colleagues both horizontally across departments, and vertically between employees, supervisors, and senior leadership.
- PD should help employees better leverage technology in their work environment
- PD opportunities should make space for leadership development
- PD should not be considered extra work on top of established work expectations; PD activities should be embedded into existing work hours and/or should be embedded within appropriate release time
- PD should offer opportunities for collaboration where learners work with each other to accomplish a shared goal
- PD should be problem-based and should produce final products/solutions that are authentically useful to the workplace
- PD should be accessible (often utilizing online platforms) and offered continuously
- PD should allow opportunities to learn from—and be mentored or coached by—experts in the field.