Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flippin' professional development for teachers

Who else has sat in a staff meeting, exhausted from a busy day of teaching and found themselves totally tuning out to the so called PD, which usually looks like someone at the front of the staffroom talking to teachers, who are sitting 'listening'.

There is little opportunity for interaction, discussion or challenge and even IF the person at the front has some amazing gold to share, it is still extremely difficult to remain engaged in the learning when you are tired and thinking "I need to mark the kids writing from today, I need to email parents about camp, I need to talk to my team leader about a behaviour issue, I need to get home and pick my kids up, feed them, do homework, cook tea....." - who's with me? I know I'm not alone on this, as evidenced by all the hilarious staff meeting memes out there!

Now I need to raise my hands and plead guilty as in my time as a deputy principal and professional development facilitator, I have OFTEN found myself at the front of the room, staring out at people and wondering if they are hearing or caring about a word I say.  And I am sure we are thinking the exact same thing "There has to be a better way!"

This week I had the privilege of facilitating another Ako Panuku Hui ē, Tāiki ē! hui in Auckland, one of 3 hui I have facilitated this year.  The purpose of this hui was to firstly discuss and analyse the changes in education across Aotearoa and then introduce the following drivers of change - agency, connectedness, ubiquity and collaboration and how these provide opportunities to improve outcomes for tamariki by changing teaching and learning practices.  My co-facilitator Dee Reid and I wanted to model some of these practices throughout the PD hui and set up the two days so that we provided examples and ways of working that fostered these four kaupapa. We created an online Google Site and pre-populated the it with clips, links, resources, examples and questions around each of the 4 kaupapa.

Ako Panuku Hui on PhotoPeach

 On day 1 we began the hui with a open discussion about what is driving change in our own schools and how different people feel about the changes.  Then we introduced one of the key drivers of change at a time e.g. agency and directed all the teachers to the online content.  They had time to read, watch, research, play, learn and reflect and then we came together as a group to share what we had learned, what resonated with us, what challenged our thinking, what examples (if any) we saw of this in our school and what we would now commit to implementing in our classroom to provide opportunities for agency, ubiquity, collaboration and connectedness. As you can see from these pictures, all teachers on day 1 were engaged in the learning (for the entire day!).  They worked their way through the content at their own pace, they contributed their ideas and thoughts online through a shared google doc and face to face through our discussion time.  They had the ability to rewind and share the content with others.  They had time to explore and reflect and relate it to their own practice and most importantly, apply their new learning to their context, as this was the outcome for day 2.

Day 2 gave the teachers time to now create a resource that they could use in their own practice, back at their own school that directly linked to one of the four key drivers of change.  Each teacher had a several of hours to plan, design and create their resource and then had 20 minutes to share their mahi back to the whole group.  This was recorded and shared with everyone so we now had a kete of rauemi (a whole kit of resources) for everyone to access, if they wanted to.

When I asked the teachers how they felt about this style of professional development, they told me it was enjoyable as they could pick and choose things that interested them personally, it met their individual needs, it engaged them, they enjoyed having choice and the time to delve deep, they loved coming away with something practical they could use in the classroom and their professional learning was exponential. I won't lie - it felt really good to see this model was successful in terms of the learning outcomes we hoped to achieve and the engagement level of our participants.  Even better was the extremely small amount of time I stood at the front and talked to everyone aka poured the PD down their tuned out ears :)   This is just one small example of the way we could flip our traditional staff meetings to better engage staff and actually achieve some of the desired outcomes that we hope our PD will provide for our teachers.  If we as educators firmly support and believe that all of our children deserve an education that provides opportunities for student agency, ubiquitous learning, collaboration and connectedness then SURELY our teachers deserve that too?

Let's start a movement and phase out meeting for meetings sake, meetings that are all talk/no action, meetings where we all leave and think what did we achieve today or worse, what difference will that make for any of the kids in my class?   Perhaps we even need to start by phasing out the word meeting!  Let's move towards engaging, targeted professional development that meets the needs of staff, that let's them participate anywhere, anytime, online and face to face, where we connect and collaborate and even better, where we walk away with practical ideas, strategies and resources that we can use in our classrooms tomorrow that will support learning outcomes for our kids.

I know it sounds hard and I don't want to fall into the trap highlighted in the above meme of 'discussing things that must happen but never will' so I hunted this out on about "5 Challenges We Overcame Moving to a Flipped Staff Meeting", which could help get us started.  I am positive that with a little commitment and hard work it is achievable...who is with me?


  1. Thanks for the post Tamara. Love your thinking. It is where we are heading next year with our staff so your post has given me further food for thought. Nikki :)

  2. Great way to give teachers ownership and value of PD, rather than having it "done to them".And hopefully they will start to make changes for staff at their school.