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The Underlying Foundation of Professional Development

If I were to ask the question: "What should be the underlying foundation of every professional development opportunity?" many of you would immediately have an answer. Some of you might say it has to be interesting. While others may suggest it has to be relative to what you are teaching. And still others would suggest that it has to be fun (or if you want to be more sensitive we could combine those three together and call it engaging.)

But I am going to take you a different route and suggest that the underlying foundation of professional development is really all about communication. A large portion of my job responsibility revolves around creating and providing professional development to the K-12 environment. The formula for a good professional development opportunity is simple:

my compelling message + my effective demonstration + your understanding + your willingness to implement = growth

And over the years the one thing that has become clear is that if just one of these elements is missing, we approach what has come to be known as epic fail. You see, if I have an idea of what I am trying to tell you as a provider of professional development, but I am not communicating that well, it will not translate into anything useful. Additionally, if I have a great message and a whiz bang demonstration, but a teacher is just there to put in time and get some continuing education credits, once again, there is a break down in the communication cycle and the professional development opportunity is for naught.

Here are a few suggested questions to ask yourself to help make sure your next professional development opportunity is worthwhile (while ensuring the foundation of communication is intact).
1) What do I think is the goal of this presentation/ workshop/ video, etc?
2) What is ONE useful/ implementable thing I can take away from this presentation/ workshop/ video, etc?
3) What will never work with my students? Why?
4) What do I not understand about what is being presented?
5) Who else would benefit from knowing some of this?

Mindy Hart
CSTA Board of Directors

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