Updated: Apr 28, 2020
During this time of isolation, when teachers are trying to find a new normal, coaches are doing the same. After teachers have found a system that works for them and coaches have their feet on solid ground, delivering professional development virtually will be important. It might just look a little different. Teachers need to continue to learn new methods, and coaches are often trusted to provide great resources. Just like teaching, delivering PD is very different online. There are several things you can do as a coach to create a successful and productive online session.
An online PD session should include all of the essential elements of a great lesson plan—a set time frame, clear objectives, an opportunity for collaboration and engagement, shared resources, time to demonstrate learning, and a closing.
Create time limits for online sessions. An online session should be half as long as a face-to-face session. The perfect online session should only last about 30 minutes.
Make sure you have clear objectives that are not overwhelming. Have one or two goals or tools that you want to share. This is a time to share things you could not share in an email. Share your goals with your teachers—they want to know why they are there.
Collaboration / Engagement:
It is key to create a method for collaboration during PD, especially while teaching online when teachers feel more isolated than ever. Utilize a video chat, ensuring everyone is visible and can see and feel the love of their colleagues. It’s also helpful to use digital tools during the session. Showcase the tools that would be helpful for teachers to use in their online sessions with their students. Remember we are all teachers and learners at heart.
Demonstration of Learning/ Assessment:
It is important to provide time for teachers to demonstrate their level of understanding of what they have learned. Allow them to chat about how they will use the tools you have discussed in their unique situations. Remember to leverage the expertise of your teachers. Prepare to have some of your superstar teachers share how they use some of their tools. This can be a great time to give a "homework" assignment that will allow them time to reflect on how to utilize what they have learned. Make it relevant to them.
Close your session with a quick survey on how your teachers feel utilizing what they learned, and ask them where they need more support. Just like any lesson closing, make this something useful that will help drive your next session. Point your teachers to a quick and easy place where they can find all of the resources they need to replicate what you did in your session. This will allow them to go back and find what they need when they are planning their lessons. This is an important time to share the resources you provided with your teachers as well as evaluate what teachers need going forward and which teachers you will need to reach out to individually.
Virtual PD sounds a bit overwhelming for many; however, the core of it is the same—supporting teachers to provide effective learning opportunities for students. When we as coaches strip away all of the bling and the educational jargon, it comes down to identifying how we can best support our teachers. Teachers need relevant tools and methods, opportunities to engage with other teachers, opportunities to apply what they have learned to their individual situations, and unlimited empathy and support during this time. Providing support can be effective whether it is face-to-face or virtually, just be patient with your teachers and yourself. You can do it!