Teaching Opinion

Engage Educators in Their Professional Learning

By Starr Sackstein — March 28, 2017 2 min read
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Conference learning can often be the antithesis of what we preach for student learners: sit and get to the nth degree as PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide flashes across a screen.

Although adults may be able to attend better than students in most situations given the amount of practice and professional courtesy we have for each other, that doesn’t necessarily equate to excellent learning.

Since I’ve gotten older, my attention span has seemed to have dwindle. My time is precious and when I go to a session, I’m eager to actually learn which means there needs to be something within the session beyond Q & A that engages me completely.

It’s because of my own need to be engaged and entertained in sessions that I have made it a point to make all of my sessions interactive in some way. (That and the fact that I’m not fond of the endless droning of my own voice.)

At EdCamps, they say that the smartest person in the room, is the room and that holds true for conference learning as well. And at the ASCD Empower 17 Conference, the room didn’t disappoint.

Connie Hamilton and I had the honor of presenting a session on our book about Hacking Homework and in this session we were able to really get folks thinking about their personal practices and beliefs around homework.

Rather than just preach about what we wrote, however, we thought it would be more effectives session (since it was being offered at 8 am), if we had actual participants in lieu of passive listeners.

One way to get learners involved is something like a Four Corners Activity, where you write a controversial statement about your topic on the slide and you ask participants to move to the corner of the room that aligns best with their beliefs. There is an agree, strongly agree, disagree and strongly disagree spot in each corner.

Once they get to the corner, they get to chat with like-minded folks, but they have to be ready to share out the discussions after a couple of minutes and a few people from each corner open up a discussion based on the opinions that brought them to the corner they stand in.

After hearing all sides from participants, Connie and I shared our thoughts based on our expertise and experience with a slide or two (and some humorous banter) so that participants had some solutions and new information to go back home with.

A few other activities you may want to consider when putting your session together are:

  • a jigsaw with a short text and then expert networking
  • a human continuum
  • a find someone who
  • content bingo

Striking the right balance between providing information as the experts in the room and also acting as facilitators offered the educators an opportunity to really get involved and internalize the discussion as well as talk to people they didn’t come with. After all, we come to conferences to learn and to network, so we have to get pushed out of our comfort zones.

How do you like to learn at conferences? Please share

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