Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bad PD

I am thinking about the last awful professional development session I attended, mainly because I am taking a course this winter in staff development and educational technology, and that's what the first assignment asks us to do.

This of course is a difficult assignment because they are all generally bad, although usually not for the same reasons. And mea culpa some of them are ones I have done. To pick one (not mine) at random: the organizer asked everyone to be sure to be at the training by 8:00 a.m. On a Saturday morning, but had failed to tell the trainer to be there then. So the PD started an hour late to a group of grumpy teachers. The first hour (or at least it seemed like an hour) was spent going over a tedious history of the organization behind the topic of the PD. The entire material that we needed to cover could probably have been covered in an hour, but was successfully stretched out to three hours. No follow-up. And it was several months before everything was in place to actually apply what we learned about in the training.

Another session, one that I did facilitate, turned out to be severely overbooked by the training organizers. There was a serious failure to think through ahead of time which sessions training attendees would go to (and for many of them, there were no options). The assigned room for the training did not have enough seats, let alone tables or work surfaces. The session was supposed to provide an overview of features of the MacBook and Mac OS X for teachers new to the Mac. A session like this will have lots of questions and confusions, so the ratio of presenters and helpers to attendees is critical. In this case there were two of us in a crowded room trying to help forty or more people. I'm not sure what anyone got out of the session.

Some takeaways: There is some formula governing the the technical content of the material, the expertise of the learners, and from those two what the ratio of teacher to learner should be. In general, I think, the lower the level of expertise, the lower the ratio of teacher/learner. Adequate facilities are important (room size, seating, line-of-sight, sound, heating/cooling, lighting, table space if relevant, etc.) Starting on time and respecting the time of the learners is just good manners. Follow-up would be nice.

The National Staff Development Council has developed standards for staff development. Most of the problems described above failed on the process standard of design (trainings incorporated inappropriate or weak learning strategies) and weak content (failed to deepen content knowledge given the amount of time).


1 comment:

Russ' said...

i hope your bad experiences will help you as you plan your staff development or at least help train other teachers in the use of technology.