District Administrator (formerly Curriculum Administrator), October 2001

Here are seven tips for producing professional development programs that are valued—and enjoyed—by the participants:

1. Develop hands-on skills. Teachers want to perform better and to help their students perform better. Thus, “inspirational” speakers who do not impart information that teachers can actually use in the classroom do not make for good leaders of training sessions.

2. Know your audience and resources. Don’t teach advanced techniques to teachers who have not yet mastered computer basics, and vice versa. Also, if tech training is conducted on equipment that teachers do not have in their classrooms or computer labs, then the training has no value. If appropriate, schedule programs flexibly so people can choose the time that best suits their needs.

3. Don’t be afraid to laugh. Presentations and exercises can be leavened with humor or fun activities. Also, if the leader seems to be losing the interest of the class, it’s time for a break.

4. Provide handouts. It is much easier for staff members to follow the instructor’s lead, especially on new and complex subjects, if they have an outline upon which they can take notes. Handouts should include a list of web-based references for more information, and this list should be up to date.

5. Relate the information to the real world. Provide examples from your experience or those of other teachers.

6. Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate. Especially if new software or a series of web sites are being discussed, show them in action. These demonstrations—whether shown by the leader or explored by the teachers in lab groups—artfully break up a long day of training, as well as provide a true understanding of the information.

7. Offer tips for follow-up work. Few computer applications can be learned upon first viewing, even with demonstrations. Give staff members exercises and projects that will enable them to improve their skills on their own time.