Keeping learning alive after the workshop ends

I have had such a great fall visiting schools, districts, and organizations around the country, but also here in my own backyard of Chicago.

Teachers attending a conference

It is really amazing to see teachers come out of their classrooms to learn about inclusion or differentiated instruction or autism on one of the first days of the school year. I know it is not easy to get away this time of year, but I always hope that participants in my workshops find that taking a few hours away to get focused, share experiences, and learn new ideas is worthwhile investment.

This brings up a topic that I have been discussing in many of my seminars which is how to make professional development days matter. Most teachers find that attending a one or two-day seminar won’t have much of an impact unless specific steps are taken to keep the learning moving forward.

Here are a few ideas for making your professional development matter:

  1. Dig deeper
    If possible design or choose learning experiences that last more than a day. Try to dig deeper with learning experiences that either last more than one day or have webinar, e-learning, or on-site check-in supports.
  2. Bring it home
    Look for opportunities to share what you learned with your colleagues. Perhaps you can present the material to the paraprofessional staff at a brown bag lunch or maybe you can convince your district administrators to let you provide a mini-presentation on an inservice day.
  3. Teaching presenting

  4. Book it
    Continue your study of the topic with a book club at your school or district. This does not have to be an official event. Even if it is just you and one or two colleagues who have shared professional interests, you might create a small book club to expand your knowledge. For example, I met this wonderful teacher a few years ago in San Diego. At every conference she attends she buys two books. One is to keep and one is for her paraprofessional. They read together and discuss the material. What a team!
  5. Paula and conference participant with books

  6. Go high tech
    Use all of the resources that our students love so much. If you like a particular speaker or are intrigued by a topic, go to Twitter to learn more. Browse blogs to find additional information on the topic (or ask the speaker to recommend some).

    You might also create some videos illustrations of what you learned. If you attended a workshop on differentiated instruction, for example, and are now creating a range of graphic organizers to support diverse learners, you could capture some footage of students using those tools as a way of inspiring others to teach with visual supports. These videos can be used internally or posted on Teacher Tube.

  7. Create a goal
    During the training or right after, set a concrete goal related to the subject matter. If you are at a collaboration workshop and you learn five co-teaching structures, you might commit to using all five of them by a certain date. Or if you attend a workshop on inclusive schooling, you might set a goal of starting an inclusive schooling steering committee or presenting about inclusion to your school board.

What are your ideas for keeping learning alive after the workshop?