In an earlier article, Keys to Sustaining a Professional Learning Program that Sticks, we explored the opportunities, methods, and mindsets for building and district leaders to create long-term, sustained impact through professional learning. In a similar theme, we recently checked in with two of our professional learning consultants, Marina Moran and Bridget Nolen, about how to keep educators engaged, motivated, and….even excited (yes, excited!) about professional learning opportunities.
Read their thoughts below.
Marina Moran, Professional Learning Consultant for Schoolwide:
“My best response to your question is that there is not a fixed formula or recipe for promoting adult learners’ engagement. In my experience, it has always been a process that requires a lot of listening and diagnosing on my part to meet learners halfway. Needs can be very diverse within a group due to age, length of experience, and talent, so maintaining flexibility and offering ideas in a variety of ways always helps.
There are intellectuals who want to know the research behind practices and there are also pragmatics who want to walk away with an applicable strategy the second they leave the session. I strive to provide a balanced diet of both, the strategy (WHAT we do) and the rationale or research base (WHY we do it).
Giving back the work is also usually effective to maintain engagement during portions of a session. I often find that educators like to put themselves in the role of the students and experience simulations to better understand the impact of some practices. They also like to spend time applying skills with guidance (not different from what we do with kids).
In all cases, being responsive to the needs, personalities, and moods of the participants at a given moment is what contributes to the efficacy of a session. And that can sometimes be a juggling act, but a worthwhile one!”
Bridget Nolen, Professional Learning Consultant for Schoolwide:
“How do I keep educators engaged in professional learning? I think about it in the same way I’d think about keeping students engaged: by knowing how much information to include in a short amount of time and how to unpack the layers of knowledge they need to be successful. From my perspective, engagement happens when teachers feel motivated to make shifts. And that happens when teachers are included, invested, and treated with respect for the professionals they are.
Building relationships and developing a culture of support is important at the beginning of a partnership. You build trust with teachers by asking what they need to be successful, and when you follow through and follow up on their questions and requests. Teachers have lots of demands on their time and attention, so empathizing with their circumstances while giving them manageable and efficient tips for delivering new curriculum is important.
When it comes to getting educators excited about professional learning, I focus on appealing to their beliefs about student learning. If they believe students are capable and brilliant, then they naturally want to help them reach their highest potential. That’s the same with professional learning. It’s the teachers’ opportunity to reflect upon and improve their practice, which is time we all need and deserve. We can set ambitious goals together and then provide ongoing support to get there.”
The mission of the Schoolwide Professional Learning Team is to inspire educators to embrace best practices and deliver innovative and responsive literacy instruction, in collaborative, dynamic learning environments in which teaching and learning are authentic, engaging, and respectful of all learners.
Interested in speaking with our team? Send us a note any time!