While professional learning varies greatly in terms of quality and intensity, how do we make the most of current school or district structures? Here are two tips to maximize the impact of a one-day inservice: implement immediately and share your results. Learn more about moving a day of learning into your daily practice in this post.

Research, reports, and anecdotal evidence continues to cast doubt on the impact of both one-shot professional learning opportunities (like inservices or stand-alone workshops and conferences) and job-embedded structures like professional learning communities. Given the thousands of dollars per year large districts invest in professional development for teachers, questions tied to overall impact on practice, student learning, and professional efficacy are critical conversations for schools, districts and practitioners.

Is all of this professional learning actually making a difference? How do we know?

Like our students, we need multiple opportunities to practice (20 or more opportunities according to the Center for Public Education) before we can seamlessly and effectively integrate new skills into our daily instruction. And while we must rethink professional learning structures and align resources to maximize impact on student learning and teacher practice, in the immediate we are often stuck with making the most of the current structures available in tight master schedules and predetermined district release time.

One of these structures is the district inservice day.

Last Friday, my school district hosted this school year’s first all-day inservice. Teachers were allowed to choose two three-hour sessions (morning and afternoon) from a deep catalogue of options that spanned content areas, grade levels, and topics of interest like student engagement. All sessions were aligned to one or more of the Teacher Quality Standards, the professional practice rubric that comprises 50 percent of our current evaluation.

While a one-day cram session is less than ideal, the day itself was a success. Educators left energized. Planning sessions began prior to the first session at schools and Starbucks locations across the district, and extended well beyond the end of the afternoon session and throughout the weekend. Social media sharing indicated high levels of engagement, excitement, and collaboration. Staff chose from sessions facilitated by external experts in the field as well as more intimate, teacher-led sessions that highlighted internal expertise.

So, now what? How do we capitalize on the energy generated throughout the day and translate this energy into meaningful experiences for our students?

  • Implement immediately. Intrigued by what you read, heard, learned, planned or practiced in an in-service session? Try it with students today. Build in opportunities to practice what you learn in your daily instruction and collect feedback. What is the response over time? How might students inform the strategies you’re trying? Reflect on the results and pay it forward by facilitating your own version of the session with colleagues. Encourage them to do the same in order to increase practice and replication opportunities.

  • Share the results. Keep the conversations (and Tweets) flowing. Follow up with the session presenter or other participants to share your implementation results. Embed conversations about implementation approximations in building-based structures like PLC’s. Or invite a colleague, coach or evaluator to see your work in action and provide you with feedback.

A day of intense learning need not end at sundown. Instead, let’s leverage the choice, variety, and energy generated by a full day of inservice sessions with students and other practitioners. And spread the experience of one day of professional learning into our daily practice.

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