This post is written as a part of my preparation to run a new type of professional development session to my colleagues. I see the experience as a my personal ‘PD Challenge’ and would like to think about it in writing, sharing ideas and asking you questions.
It is a session to a new type of audience (to me). There will be 15-20 academic leaders helping teachers of different subjects grow and develop. They are all working for the same organization here in Ukraine (in translation this may sound as ‘Learning and Teaching Regional Center’) and they run sessions for teachers from the local middle and high school sector, answer their questions, recommend resources, etc. They never observe the teachers’ actual lessons, because that would be a job of a different educational unit. The ‘trick’ is that even though the trainers all know each other quite well (having worked in the center for several years), they have never (formally or informally, to best of my knowledge) discussed professional questions and/or shared their methods, approaches and techniques, or challenges of working with teachers, etc. They have never observed each other’s sessions either (each educator is in charge of a different subject, such as Math, Languages, Science, etc.) Being an ‘outsider’ may make facilitating this 60 minute session easier (this is a new city for me where I have never worked, and I have never worked in the public education sector in Ukraine) BUT…
[and here I am brainstorming a number of challenges I think about while planning]
- this session can’t be run in English (which is the only language I am comfortable with in the professional context) Yes, it is true: even thought I am not a native English speaker, all my teaching and training/consultancy career in the last 18 years has been solely in English, including all the documents, paperwork, presentations, communication, etc. The challenge here (and I may need to write a different blog post about this separate issue) that it needs to be my L1 or L2, Russian or Ukrainian. I use Russian with my family and friends from my native city Dnipro, and I use Ukrainian a lot here in Lviv, but this does not mean I feel totally comfortable, or ready, to run a session for colleagues at the professional level. Working on it, and wondering if I should share my challenge at the very beginning (to explain why I am making pauses sometimes!)
- being an outsider I can’t predict or even find out what the audience knows or is familiar with, and what can be new. I had had a wonderful planning/brainstorming session with the academic leader in the their Language Department (the person who invited me) but even putting our heads together we could not think of the exact needs or wants these people (may) have. I think a (large?) part of the session needs to give them a chance to share how they might see such meetings in the future, if they are interested.
- here we approach another question: would the audience be interested/motivated to come to the session of this kind? At the moment there is no clear answer to this question either: they need to be present at the center in the afternoon on specific days, so the session was scheduled to one of those ‘mandatory’ slots. I anticipate some unwillingness to participate at the beginning, and a lot of questions in terms of ‘why do I need it?’ which I have to be ready to answer.
- all the people in the room know each other (well) and the only new person would be me; in combination with some defensive reaction (‘why should I be taught?’) this could create some tension.
In spite of all the anticipated challenges (and most likely, in addition to those I have not anticipated yet), I would like to give it a try. After all, it is by saying ‘Yes’ to new opportunities that we develop in our field. It has been this way to me, I think. I would like to add some more background/history information to show you why I think it may actually work out well.
Last year I made simple small steps to connect like-minded colleagues working in Ukraine as ELT teacher trainers, academic managers, department leaders, senior teachers, etc. I facilitated two teacher trainer round table discussions in Kiev (in February and August). The first one was more general one introducing the idea of such meetings. The second one had a concrete topic (Workshop Sessions) where we all shared our tricks, tips, challenges, strategies, etc. on planning and running interactive sessions for teachers. The positive feedback to me was that the atmosphere created in that hour was warm and open to learning and sharing. This is how I got the invitation to prepare this session from one of its participants.
In the preparation meeting we gave the session a title: Building the Professional Community of Teacher Educators. I will share my notes below and leave my doubts and questions [in square brackets].
Step 1 Introducing myself and sharing meeting goals
- Cross-Curricular Teacher Educator Meetings: Why, What, How, Your Ideas
- Discussing advantages for professional communication and networking
- Brainstorming possible topics for the future meetings
Step 2 Ice-Breaker in small groups sharing answers to (possible) questions:
- Why do you like the role of teacher educator?
- Why are you a good/professional teacher educator?
- What challenges or questions are you thinking of/working on at the moment?
[Considering simple formats, such as Venn Diagram, limited short answers (6-10 words), mind map, or even simple ‘Q & A’ in groups. I don’t want the complicated format of activities in this session to hinder its simple message. Maybe I am wrong.]
Step 3 Sharing values and principles that drive our practice
I will start by giving a couple of my own examples (such as Experiential Learning, Reflective Practice, Learner-Centered-ness, etc. – see more in this post) and explain how they are reflected in the way I work (even in the way this session is organized). In small groups, the participants will make a list of 3-4 (maybe more?) values, principles, beliefs that determine their teaching philosophy.
[Could be ‘Think-Pair-Share’ or a Pyramid Discussion format, where pairs would need to agree on the three most important ‘top’ and then groups of four would need to agree on the new ‘top three’ and then groups of 8 would need to find a consensus, etc. It may be logistically harder in the small room and will depend on the exact number of people present. Thinking…]
Step 4 Follow up after the group discussion: what came up? Any surprises/disagreements? Questions?
I see this less structured piece of session important as a lot can come up if the participants feel comfortable to share. I would like to play it by ear in terms of ‘open discussion’ and intend to listen more than talk, making notes.
[I may also ask if this task is something typical in their training practice, and what similarities or differences they could comment on. I may hold this questions towards a later stage of the session though]
Step 5 Possible future meeting topics
I will share this list brainstormed beforehand asking the participants to rank the topics in the order of priority/interest/importance as they see it for their development. If time allows, they will compare their order in the new groups.
[I am thinking to have these on a worksheet leaving enough space for adding more topics that are more relevant than the suggested list. I am also considering to include 1-2 feedback questions about the format/style of the session, to analyze later]
Step 6 Reflective time with questions and comments about the session
This is it for now. Putting the above ‘on paper’ was a useful clarification process for myself, and I am now feeling more prepared and focused. I am looking forward to your comments and suggestions. If someone has had a similar facilitation experience, I would be grateful for a piece of advice.
Thank you for reading! 🙂