The “unconference” comes to Loomis Chaffee

4fingersI have been remiss about posting my Friday 4 of late and would like to get back to regularly posting interesting items that I have come across but need to take a bit of a detour in this week’s edition. On January 6, 2014 we have a professional development day that will be a bit of a departure from what we have traditionally done during in-service days. Rather than bring in an outside speaker and subject the faculty to a more passive version of professional development, we are going to push the envelope a bit and hold our very first “unconference” faculty in-service day. We have been moving in this direction over the past few years as we used the faculty day for faculty-led seminars on various teaching techniques and pedagogy and had our faculty choose the sessions that they wanted to attend.  Last year we added a follow-up session to the end of the day where faculty could explore the topic that most interested them from the morning sessions in greater depth and actually begin using the tools that they had heard about in the morning. The reception to these more hands-on opportunities was resoundingly positive but still only tapped into a small fraction of the expertise that our faculty possesses. Enter this year’s plan…the “unconference.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the unconference model, let me try and capture its essence in a nutshell. An unconference creates space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. The agenda for the day is created by the faculty and all of the sessions are faculty led/facilitated. The professional development is placed in the hands of the professionals, the faculty!

Here are a few links to some resources that will give you some background on the unconference model and how it works.

  • Here is a post from the Powerful Learning Practice website Unconference: Revolutionary professional learning.
  • Here is a short video that was used at the recent TABS conference to introduce the concept of the unconference.
  • Here is a blog post from the ASCD website that explains why they have begun promoting the unconference model for professional development.
  • Here is a document that I cobbled together from several resources with tips and tricks for how to participate in our first unconference.

The power of the unconference is the collective wisdom of the faculty and the desire to be in control of your own professional development. I must admit that I was skeptical when I attended my first unconference, the Edcamp CT that occurs in August at the Ethel Walker School. I was ambivalent about how successful a “programless” day of professional development could really be. After a day of sharing and engaging in the conversations that I was interested in and meeting a whole bunch of passionate educators, I was sold on the power of the masses to be able to create high quality, valuable professional development. I have connected with and collaborated with several people I met at my first unconference and even helped to organize and run the unconference this fall at the TABS conference.

Your homework for this exciting day of professional development is to think about what you want to learn and consider leading a session. If you are looking for some inspiration, here is a list of the Top 13 Teaching and Learning Articles of 2013 from the Faculty Focus website that crossed my twitter stream today.

A closing quotation that seems appropriate would be, “You only get out of it what you put into it.”

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