Saturday, March 16, 2013

Design Thinking for PD

I was participating in a Design Thinking meeting last week and one of our challenges was to design a new model for PD.  It's something I've been reflecting on since my trip to Japan last weekend, as we had a lot of PD in a very non-traditional format (we basically learned by doing - it was a great example of project based learning).  When I first started teaching in the 1980s, PD was confined to a day or two of an off-campus course, or perhaps a conference that could be attended once every few years or a consultant who was brought in to give PD to the whole staff for a couple of days.  Nowadays, with the rise of online workshops, MOOCs, online conferences and so on, much of which is free, PD is looking very different - and it can happen all the time.

A statistic quoted at the start of the year by our Superintendent was this:  only 5% of what teachers learn in large PD settings (conferences, workshops) is used practically on their return to school.  I'm not sure if that's exactly what he said, but it's the gist of it.  As a Design Thinking team responsible for funding PD, this was certainly a concern of ours - since it would appear the money could be put to better use than just sending people away or giving an allowance for them to attend conferences.  One of the things I've noticed with students is that "just in time" learning works really well - could this model also be used for teachers?  Is it better to learn things in small chunks, then to have the time to practice it, before another small chunk is learned?  This changes the role of the person giving the PD into more of a coach or mentor as PD is embedded into teaching practice and time is dedicated every single week to learning and implementing something new.

One of the things our DT group discussed is the need for more "on the job" PD, as opposed to flying off to another city or country for it.  In this case, could the PD budget be better spent on employing a couple more people whose job it was to offer such coaching?

Today I started another online course through ASB's Online Academy.  This is the second course I've done with the OA and it's a very convenient way of learning - at my own time and at my own pace.  Although I have found that I don't often need face-to-face instruction in order to learn, one of the things I have discovered is that I need to feel a sense of community with the other participants who I don't actually see/meet.  Some months ago I did a course where I didn't interact at all with any other participant - I didn't enjoy this, but I learned from it so when facilitating the online courses I now run for the IBO I make sure that I get everyone interacting.  Having a sense of community is important to developing trust and being able to post and reflect openly on the challenges we face in implementing the PYP in our various schools.  At school we also have a cohort of teachers who are working towards a Masters Degree in Leadership.  Although most of the course is online, I think it helps that they can interact face-to-face too.

As I reflected recently on the Flat Classroom Conference, one of the great things was learning from each other.  We did this using an activity called Web 2 Kung Fu.  A similar thing happened at the recent Google Summit that ASB hosted, we did a Google Slam session where members of the audience could stand up and have 2 minutes to share a favourite tip or trick.   Another type of PD I participated in at the Google Teacher Academy in London in 2010 was an Unconference day - where we turned up ready to present something and then we voted with our feet as to which session to attend.  As I'm now involved in planning for our 1:1 Learning Institute for new teachers next month, I'm also adding in a "speed-geeking" session where teachers will rotate to a choice of 4 different stations over an hour to have a 15 minute introduction to 4 different tools.  For us this will be combined with the fact that each of the teachers at the Institute will have to make a presentation on the last day - hopefully these sessions will provide the "just in time" learning they will need to complete their projects.

ASB Un-Plugged 2015 will be a Design Thinking conference.  Over the next 18 months, you are likely to read much more about this as I reflect on this blog.  At the moment I know very little about Design Thinking, but I'm sure that my understanding of it will grow and develop.

Photo Credit: dgray_xplane via Compfight cc


  1. Hi Maggie, two points I want to raise with you for further discussion -

    (1) Only 5% of what teachers learn in large PD settings (conferences, workshops) is used practically on their return to school. - Without looking at any data, this stat feels pretty close to the mark for me. I've sat through countless workshops and not taken away much to embed into my classroom practice (or taken away things and then not used them for whatever reason). There have been a few exceptions though, and when I talked about this with Taryn the common denominator for us was exceptional workshop leaders. Something to think about there.

    (2) One of the things I've noticed with students is that "just in time" learning works really well - could this model also be used for teachers? - I'd love to hear more about the times where you've noticed this (with students). More specifically, how often you notice this type of learning consciously being planned for (and managed) compared to what we typically see in schools (i.e. linear progression of skills, knowledge & understanding). I think 'just in time' probably happens more in learning situations such as UOIs but not so much in more 'traditional' subjects, such as maths, reading and writing (maybe it can't?).

  2. Hi Dave, I do agree with you that there are exceptions to the 5% rule - the best one of these was when I did the Harvard Project Zero summer school, followed by the Visible Thinking workshops while I was at ISA. PZ made me completely rethink what I was doing - and ditch about 70% of it. The VT thinking routines I use a lot too, and I recently taught these to Indian Teachers at the InspirED Teach for India Conference.

    I'm interested in what you say about UoIs lending themselves more to just in time learning than maths, reading and writing. Do you think this is because there is more inquiry in the UoIs? Maybe if we did more inquiry in maths, reading and writing we would see more just in time learning there too. What do you think?

    I guess the just in time learning is something that is hard to plan for, and is often completely spontaneous. What I've noticed in the Independent Studies lessons is that students are very likely to be engaged in just in time learning. Often students will decide to use a new tool (new to them and new to me too) and will explore it themselves to find out how best to use it. Sometimes they will know what they want to do, but don't know which tool to use and we can talk about it together and I can suggest a few that might work for them. More and more I'm seeing that with personalized learning, with every student working in "the zone", that just in time learning happens spontaneously. If we expect every student to be on the same page at the same time and to be using the same tools to investigate and to create and to share their understanding then I'm thinking that the learning is more" just in case".