Planning a Dynamic Professional Learning Session

We all know professional learning helps teachers learn about changes in the profession and how to better serve their students. But, it can also be viewed as extra work (and a time suck) if it the presentation isn’t engaging and the information isn’t relevant for teachers. As schools work to find high-quality educators, creating dynamic professional learning is necessary to retain those educators.

Professional learning is not a one-time solution, but ongoing sessions can help teachers feel better prepared to implement new curriculum, try new techniques, or make data-driven planning decisions. Read on for new ideas to make your professional learning sessions engaging, relevant, and worth the time—no matter what the session length may be!

Plan Your Purpose

Before diving into the “where” and “when” of your PL session, start by identifying the purpose. Who should attend? What resources are you planning to share? Why is this information important? What do you need from others? Answering these questions can help narrow the focus of your session and make it relevant to your teachers’ classroom instruction.

Tailoring your professional learning session to your teachers’ needs is the first step to making it memorable and useful. In a survey conducted by the RAND Corporation during the 2021-22 school year, more than half of teachers expressed that their professional learning opportunities provided low access to expertise on subject matter knowledge, supporting English Learners and students with individualized educational plans (IEPs) or 504 plans, and using required curriculum materials. Focus on sharing high-impact expertise to help teachers actually see the worth in these sessions. Consider how guest speakers from your district, EdTech partners, or other schools can help you share information your teachers are looking for, and how they can help with the planning!

When you’ve selected a topic, consider if this session is worth the time for your whole staff or a specific group. Not every topic is applicable to every teacher, especially when you’re working with subject matter knowledge! With a subset of your staff like new teachers, there may be opportunities to focus on strategies that your veteran teachers may not have mastered. For instance, Discovery Education’s New Teacher Professional Learning Pathway offers 12 hourly remote sessions that focus on effective ways to design and deliver lessons, implement new tools and content, and differentiate learning, while other pathways are meant for more experienced teachers. Look for ways to collaborate with other schools across your district to bring together teachers in similar roles!

 Once you’ve determined who will attend your session, what it will cover, and why it’s relevant to your teachers’ work, bring your teachers together for some learning! We’ve gathered ideas for running sessions of any length—even if you can’t find time to hold an in-person session!

60-Minute Sessions

A full, uninterrupted hour is a precious jewel on school campuses! When you find an hour to gather your teachers for professional learning, make that hour well-spent with memorable and useful information. Consider modeling a full lesson around your topic so teachers can pop their content into your structure and use it in their classrooms! Open the session with some media and a strategy for an instructional hook, allow the teachers to digest the information the way students would, and model an exit strategy for assessment. This type of session can help teachers gather new information and watch a lesson in action!

Another way to pack your hour full of useful information is having your teachers rotate through activity stations. Start by discussing the purpose of the session and provide an overview of what the teachers will complete at each station. Organize 3-5 stations with different information about your PL topic and leave directions to encourage collaboration and conversation in smaller groups. These stations will share helpful information, ideas for student collaboration, and model how to organize and monitor student learning during a station rotation lesson. Once your rotation is complete, gather the whole group to debrief, summarize their learning, and reflect.

30-Minute Sessions

Taking 30 minutes of teachers’ planning time or from a staff meeting calls for engaging learning! Model a strategy for having students interact with new information, like the Visual Walkabout, to help your teachers learn PL content through a new strategy they can take back to their classroom! Wrap up your session with a communication strategy to help teachers share their new PL findings and leave your session with another strategy in their pocket!

Putting the session into the hands of your teachers is another great way to share relevant, tried-and-true content! With a 30-minute session, gather a panel of five teachers to share their favorite resource, strategy, or piece of advice on a topic. Give each teacher three minutes to share their idea and a few minutes to answer questions about implementation! Offering five new ideas to your staff in such a short time is a great way to get as much “bang for your buck” as possible!

10-Minute Sessions

Have a spare 10 minutes at the end of a meeting? Provide a quick tip and model an exit ticket strategy to help your teachers visualize how it could be used in their classroom. You can also share one idea to spark curiosity and offer content that teachers can research further on their own time. One other option is to add an SOS Instructional Strategy into a content-focused meeting!

0-Minute Sessions

When your schedules are packed and you don’t have time to meet, there are still ways to get teachers the information they need. Put a note in teachers’ mailboxes, collect resources that can be shared asynchronously, talk with your teachers while they’re supervising recess or in the hallway, or investigate more flexible options to help your teachers engage in learning on the move. If you’re really pressed for time and need to find ways to offer flexible learning, check out more ideas from DE on creating practical professional learning for your teachers!

As you prepare to support your teachers during the upcoming school year, professional learning is a necessary part of those plans! To kick off planning in the right direction, start by surveying your teachers on topics they want to learn more about or feel would be helpful to their teaching practice. Next, evaluate your school schedule for opportunities to fit that learning in! Discovery Education is here to support your professional learning plans and is passionate about supporting teacher growth—no matter the time constraints!

Planning Professional Learning for your staff? Discovery Education is here to help!