As schools continue to model flexibility and resilience during the COVID pandemic, we need to start planning for the 2020-2021 school year. So much is still unknown about the upcoming school year, but what we do know as educators is that teachers need to be continually developed by their leaders. Virtual Professional Development is what is now necessary for supporting our educators in effectively using digital tools for classroom instruction along with all of the other professional development needed. Schools need to pivot and prepare teachers to meet the new normal of online meeting and communication.
Determine the Content
Schools vary in how many days and professional development sessions they have available before students arrive. Leaders should limit content to the most essential training for virtual professional development. Make sure teachers are engaging in culture and schoolwide PBIS systems training, SEL training to support students through this worldwide pandemic, distance learning teaching techniques, and specific content training.
Check out the Virtual PD sessions that Kickboard is providing for schools this year:
- Fostering Resilience in Uncertain Times
- Strengthening Distance Learning with Kickboard
- Tier 1 School Culture Audit
- Strategic Planning for Positive School Culture
- Establishing Consistent Systems for Schoolwide Positive and Corrective Consequences
- Transitions: Taking School Culture from Good to Amazing
- Empowering Staff for Success: Mindsets, Tools, and Strategies for a Positive School Culture (Asynchronous)
Adjust to Virtually Facilitating vs. In-Person Facilitating
The role of facilitator in professional development sessions is to guide participants, not lead them. If leaders are adapting session materials that were already created, make sure to edit the session slides, materials, participant materials, and flow accordingly. Make this switch by assigning more co-facilitator roles throughout the session, adding more professional readings teaching the session topic, having teachers close read for understanding, and creating more virtual interactive handouts for teachers to move their learning from the abstract to the concrete through writing (typing) and reflecting.
For PBIS schools and teachers, professional development typically involves practicing PBIS systems and responses to different behaviors. Leaders can share their screens, show videos of student and teacher interactions or created situations and have teachers norm on appropriate responses and next steps in adherence to the PBIS system.
Make it Engaging
Just as teachers have switched to, “Click your raise your hand button, take yourself off of mute, or type in the chat,” leaders need to adjust how they have previously used engagement techniques for PD sessions. Gallery walks, Stand Up/Hand Up/Pair Up’s, and group presentations are out the window, but there are digital strategies that can still allow for high engagement, participant cognitive work and colleague collaborations.
Facilitators can add polls throughout the presentations, ask for raised hands, have participants share their thoughts or answers in the chat box, use breakout rooms for smaller group discussions, and add information into shared documents together. Teachers should be able to reflect upon their professional development sessions and duplicate the engagement techniques for their students in virtual classrooms. Lastly, bring the joy! Make your sessions engaging and fun for everyone involved.
Laser Focus on the Goal and Purpose of PD
Remember to start the session with the purpose for this particular session and how it applies to teachers. Evidence of having a laser focus on the goal in the planning and preparation of a session might look like having agendas, participant materials, timestamps provided, transitions between activities planned for, purposeful practice, engaging activities, and a session not overloaded with unnecessary information.
For PBIS schools and teachers, think about your staff and create different sessions or activities within the session for new and veteran teachers. New teachers or teachers new to your school should be receiving PBIS 101; digging into what the PBIS system is and all of your schools’ procedures. Returning and veteran teachers should be given additional training in topics like teaching strategies, PBIS data analysis and action planning, or fostering student responsibility and independence.
As a leader, you have the power to calibrate and change which content is presented during summer PD and which sessions can be dispersed throughout the year or individual teacher assignment later on. To help teachers adjust to virtual professional development sessions, schedule PD at the same time of day for consistency, open sessions with the same routine and culture building exercises, leave time for questions at the end, and stick to a similar format. If teachers have action steps or items that need to be submitted to leadership, allot the proper amount of time to complete the assignment and schedule time for leaders to provide feedback and share it with teachers.
Schools around the entire country have shown such perseverance during this world-wide pandemic by switching to virtual teaching for the last 3 months of school without prior training or preparation. So much is still unknown about the upcoming school year, but leaders can positively impact what is within their locus of control. Crafting highly effective virtual professional development sessions for teachers will help prepare them for the wide-range of possibilities for what our schools will look like and face this school year.