We took a risk today and tried a new model for professional development with our faculty, namely, the “unconference” model. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of an unconference, you can read an earlier post I wrote here in anticipation of the day.
As I introduced the event to our faculty, I took a quick poll of the audience to gauge their previous experiences with PD outside of our traditional faculty days. Not surprisingly, most had attended a professional conference of one kind or another recently. When I asked how many had ever attended an Edcamp event or any other unconference-like event, nobody raised their hand. I was hoping that at least a few had some experience with unconferences so I was a little surprised but remained optimistic that we could pull it off. I briefly explained the concept and charged the faculty with taking control of their own PD for the rest of the morning.
Fortunately, we had a few session leaders lined up ahead of time so that we were not starting with an entirely blank schedule. With only two time slots available for the event, I was hopeful that we would be able to fill the schedule and provide a wide enough range of sessions for people to attend. I was excited when I saw the final lineup of sessions and was optimistic that the morning would go well. Below is a list of the sessions that our faculty led.
- Inciting class participation by design: Using homework?
- Using hands-on learning projects in class.
- More than just a letter: Evaluation of and feedback on student work
- Open Discussion on dealing with race and other tough topics in the classroom.
- The heart of the matter: Best practices in advising.
- A model for assessing class participation and providing feedback to students.
- “Shaping the class” An insider’s view from the Admissions Office.
- Best practices for preparing and executing a well organized lesson plan for linear learners.
- Voice Thread – a tool for asynchronous discussions in the classroom.
- A Call to Action: Loomis Chaffee Earth Day brainstorm session. All School action oriented activities for April 22nd in the spirit of our school theme Climate Change & Water.
- The College Selection Process – an open discussion.
- iPads in the Classroom.
- Grademark and turnitin.com. Online grading, editing, and rubrics.
- Athletic recruiting and practice planning.
During the morning, I wandered in and out of all of the sessions and witnessed some of the most engaging and interactive professional development going on. Not surprisingly, the faculty were eager to share and learn from one another in this format and took to it like a fish to water. In each session, somebody took notes to a shared document that swelled to 11 pages by the end of the morning, a nice archive of the discussions that occurred.
While I heard a number of positive comments from faculty during the morning about the format, I wanted to survey them and get some more formal feedback so I created a quick survey that I mailed out later in the day. While I have not heard from everybody just yet (~25%), the initial feedback has been quite positive. On a scale of 1-5, when asked how the day compared to previous PD programs, 77% rated the day a 4 or 5. When asked how interested they would be to have future faculty days use the unconference format, 87% rated it a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5. 78% of the respondents said that they would be interested in leading sessions if we used the format again. I asked people to share their major takeaways from the experience and heard the following:
- “It’s a time when colleagues can chat and get together. We may not schedule enough time into our calendars to do this.”
- “Terrific exchange of ideas – in both sessions I experienced today. I was impressed with the fact that EVERYONE participated, and that ideas were thought provoking – in regular faculty mtng, so many people remain silent.”
- “Good to sit with colleagues that I do not often get to sit with and discuss the topics that affect us all.”
- “I did take away that our faculty is creative, energetic and collaborative when given the opportunity.”
- “empower people and you get results.”
- “My major takeaway was that the unconference format stimulates conversation and discussion far more effectively than traditional PD sessions.”
- “Other teachers are awesome! Groupthink is the way to go.”
- “We (the LC Faculty) are an extraordinary resource….and sharing among ourselves allows us to get into the weeds of the pragmatic, useful, relevant, and actionable in a way that employing an “outside expert” for a day often precludes.
This process also acts as glue for us all…great for morale and institutional confidence!”
- “Sharing ideas with colleagues is fun!”
There were others, but I think you get the idea. All in all, I was pleased with how the day went and am even more convinced that this model for professional development is definitely worth the time and energy. As always, I appreciate any comments or feedback.