Designing the Ultimate PD Experience

What could professional development look like if teachers were involved in the design?

Using design thinking, we can further engage teachers and administrators in conversations around adult learning and the needs of educators in specific contexts. Through design thinking, we are able to create an experience that is truly collaborative and encourages people to share their ideas and receive feedback immediately. For our purposes, we use the Stanford Design Thinking Model and our focus is on K-12 educators as the user. It’s important to remember that there are other models out there, those of which may be better suited for your learning community and that a school is full of a wide variety of users – teachers, students, parents, administrators, support professionals, community members, and so on. So, shake off what you have come to expect from professional development (PD) and let’s think radically about what it could be!

Designing the Ultimate PD

Empathize: Describe the user and their current PD experience.

Define: Define a problem statement.

Ideate: Generate radical alternatives.

Prototype: Build and test your radical idea.

Test: Share your solution with users and get feedback.

Ideas for Implementation

If you are interested in running a similar design challenge in your district or school, here are some pro tips and things to consider:

  1. Will the design team include administrators and teachers? If so, how will you form groups so that you can leverage the variety in perspectives?
  2. Think through the flow between partner and group discussions. You’ll notice in our presentation and guided worksheet, each person was assigned a letter: A, B, C, or D.
  3. Set up the space so that is conducive to partner and group work. Clear table-tops for prototyping and open wall space works well for generating ideas on sticky notes. Be sure to have open walking spaces for the facilitator to move around the room and for participants to view prototypes from other groups.
  4. Stick to the time limits and explain to the design team ahead of time that you will be holding them to these limits.
  5. If this is the first time that your colleagues will participate in a design challenge, make sure to debrief about the experience. You’ll find some questions at the end of our presentation to prompt this discussion.

Where should you get started? You may need to modify these materials for your purposes, but check out the presentation that we created and use to facilitate design challenges around this topic. In addition, here is the guided worksheet which the design challenge participants use.

Design Thinking Resources

What is Design Thinking?

Stanford’s d.school Reading List

Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking

An Educator’s Guide to Design Thinking

Design Thinking for Educators by IDEO

Research

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2014). Teachers know best: teachers views on professional development. Retreived from:   http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Gates-PDMarketResearch-Dec5.pdf

Corcoran, T. B., Shields, P. M., and Zucker, A. A. 1998, March. The SSIs and professional development for teachers. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

Garet, M., Porter, A., Desimone, L., Birman, B., & Yoon, K. S. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Education Research Journal, 38(4), 915–945.

Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 1997(74), 5–12.

Schlager, M. S., & Fusco, J. (2003). Teacher Professional Development, Technology, and Communities of Practice: Are We Putting the Cart Before the Horse? The Information Society, 19(3), 203–220. http://doi.org/10.1080/01972240309464  

Troen, V., & Bolles, K. (1994). Two teachers examine the power of teacher leadership. In D. R. Walling (Ed.), Teachers as leaders. Perspectives on the professional development of teachers (pp. 275-86). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Wayne, A. J., Yoon, K. S., Zhu, P., Cronen, S., & Garet, M. S. (2008). Experimenting With Teacher Professional Development: Motives and Methods. Educational Researcher, 37(8), 469–479. http://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X08327154

Zepeda, S. J. (2012). Professional development: What works (2nd ed.). Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

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