We have seen significant changes in professional learning platforms, formats, and approaches the past six months. I am often asked what elevates professional learning - what takes it to the next level? Whether we are in face-to-face or virtual environments, many of the strategies are the same.
Here is a list of five processes you can employ to elevate your professional learning:
Make contact before the event itself. Much like we connect with our guests about a dinner party or barbeque, establishing a connection to set expectations for what the event will entail is an important part of the hosting process.
Move beyond socializing to social construction. While we want to foster relationships among the learners in a space and help them feel comfortable, adult learners highly value their time. If they expect time to be utilized for strategizing and action planning, be sure they get it. Otherwise, our professional learning experiences are no different than time in the staff lounge or on a Zoom happy hour.
Mix and mingle. Facilitating think-pair-share or posing chat boxes questions over and over again in tandem will lose the interest of even the most committed participants. Vary your collaboration points by inviting learners to share via audio, chat box, annotations, spotlighting, assigned breakout rooms, random breakout rooms, and self-selected breakout rooms.
Provide time for planning and reflection. While we want to purposely apply every minute of our professional learning experiences, that doesn't mean they all need to be filled with noise. Intentionally integrate set times and tools for learners to consolidate their thinking and begin to implement strategies into their practice. For some, this may mean detailed action plans, Google calendars, and color-coded lists. For others, it may be bulleted scribbles and flowcharts of next steps. The form is less important than the function of this time. Make space for reflection and application as much as you do strategy sharing.
Encourage continued connection. Too often, I see facilitators end a workshop or training as though that will be the last time they connect with learners - and for many, it will be. The challenge is that, for adult learners, the work needs to be job-embedded not event-driven. Leaving participants hanging at the end of a workshop without contact information or points for future connection is no different than leaving someone we've just met hanging at the bar. It doesn't extend their learning loop and foster future growth. At the end of each touchpoint, outline where learners can find additional tools and resources as well as connect with the facilitator should they have outstanding questions.
Planning and facilitating effective professional learning requires much more than content curation and strategy sharing.
We need to meaningfully craft our experiences to elevate others' growth.
How will you refine your design and facilitation processes to elevate professional learning?