Monday, February 1, 2010

Conversations vs. Presentations

As many of your know, my job requires me to do a significant amount of professional development. My experiences at Educon this past weekend have left me with many questions about what constitutes effective professional development. Specifically,
  • Students at the conference were invited to participate in many different conversations. Why don't we include our students in our conversations about student learning?
  • The most effective conversations were led by facilitators that did not use text based slides. Images that complemented ideas or concepts generated the most unique dialogue.
  • Lecture resulted in virtual backlash from participants. As soon as someone started lecturing, Twitter recorded their frustration. How often do we use this delivery method during day-long inservice meetings?
  • Small groups were the most effective intimate learning conversations. When I was sitting across from only 2 or 3 educators, we began swapping resources and stories organically. Can we recreate this dialogue during professional development days?
While I realize that the educators attracted to an Educon conference may not match the demographics of the teachers in your district, but I think it is valuable to notice that using these types of professional development can help to promote motivation and autonomy in learning. While I still have a long way to go on my journey as a professional developer, seeing different learning opportunities in different context has opened my eyes to the beauty of learning!


  1. Kristen - Take a look at these protocols for facilitating discussions in your PD.

    It was great to see you again at #Educon by the way.

  2. Yes. Conversation is a powerful form of professional development that can trigger change. It's not a new concept, though its strength is often ignored. Here's an article from 1996:

    Collaboration as Dialogue: Teachers and Researchers Engaged in Conversation and Professional Development.

    A resource I turn to over and over again is:

    Turning to One Another:
    Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future
    by Meg Wheatley. So wonderful.

  3. Some interesting observations on your part Kristen. As Tracy said above, this type of PD in not a new concept for many of us although I do agree it may not be prevalent in many areas.

    We rarely invite our students into conversations around their learning, nor do we do have the same conversations with adults. The model for PD is sit and get, just as lecture is the way many teach because it was the way they were taught.

    Those who were at EduCon I think are best described as self directed learners, collaborative, social, and networked. The idea of learning from one another rather than trying to teach someone else, especially in terms of PD is much more valuable for us. It is a shift for many who use traditional methods of PD, and not a comfortable one either, moving to this type of interaction.

  4. Robin, your comments really hit home with me. Shifting to this method really does cause some discomfort. I am hoping to push past that to make positive change by building relationships with people. Thanks for expanding my thinking!



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