Rule of the Thirds – Professional Development Secrets

teacher workshops

You might be like many who organize professional development. You are experienced, thoughtful and very, very busy.

So what is the “Rule of Thirds?”It’s the biggest little secret in education. There are three BIG thirds in professional development (PD).

The first third of the three comes from the circumstances of the actual professional development day. I am shocked at how often someone asks me to fly 5,000 miles to his or her school and yet there’s a terrible microphone, poor seating and abominable lighting. Some “providers” ensure there are plenty of donuts, as if that would optimize staff learning. Others give me a screen 6′ x 6′ for 500 people. That’s like watching a movie in your living room on an iPod. Instead get a 10 x 10′ screen!

Over the years, I have been asked to speak in a movie theater, a bar, a library, a lunchroom and, even a racetrack. A cheap or free venue is NOT a bargain if the staff has a bad day. Now you should know that I am good at working miracles with whatever someone gives me, but why take risks if you don’t have to?

The first third of the three parts is: optimize learning conditions!

The second third of the value in professional development comes from having a relevant, high quality, and very engaging presenter. That’s right: 33% of the value from any professional development that comes from the caliber of presenter. By the way, those who hire me say that I consistently get “rave” reviews. I will always do my best to be the best you can get.

The third of three thirds comes from the follow up. Every teacher needs to have weekly or monthly “check-ins” that jump-start the changes. Teachers are busy and sometimes stressed. In fact, they are so busy, that you practically have to “get in their face” to get them to do something out of the ordinary. Without adequate follow up, you are getting only one third of the potential value.

Follow up should be 1) book study 2) professional learning communities 3) weekly emails 4) teachers blogging about the strategies they use 5) short weekly staff meetings with quick sharing and celebrations.

Without those three BIG qualities, you have little chance. But now that you know better, see what you can do to make it happen.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Wesley Fryer

One Comment

  1. Mary McNabb

    An excellent analysis of the necessary parts of PD. The setting for PD and the follow-up to support teachers are often the causes of failure of PD to “take”. This is a message that has to be spread across the teaching community.

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