Teachers come to the classroom with life experiences, their experience as a student, and what they learned about being a teacher. Teachers go into teaching to make a difference. Most of their instruction was teacher-centric. They only know what they know and what their mentor or master teacher presents to them.
Teachers have similar Characteristics of Adult Learners. Teachers come with their own beliefs and opinions, are intrinsically motivated, and just like their students have individual differences. Teachers have so much on their plate. If you add another professional development that is not relevant for them, they tune out, grade papers, and may even leave.
The most effective approach is to connect with the teachers and what they teach in their classroom. Teachers learn best in the same ways that most students learn best: actively, drawing from prior knowledge, and in a comfortable environment. [source] This is where I see the power of coaching and working with each teacher or a small group of teachers that teach the same units. Let’s say you were asked to coach grade level teams of teachers to create project-based learning activities and integrate technology.
- Set up collaborative planning time for the teachers. Work with administration to get subs for the first 1/2 day meeting.
- Do an assessment to determine how teachers teach and learn currently, topics they would like to expand into a project, and the resources available for projects.
- Set up a website with links to examples, projects, and resources about PBL and send them the link.
- Ask a teacher leader or administrator to do an assessment of the teachers determining the stage of concern or how each teacher handles change. <Changing Teaching and Learning: CBAM>
- When you meet during the first meeting, ask teachers to share “how they teach now” and an example of a lesson.
- Review the pacing guide/curriculum/standards to choose a topic/lesson to design a project.
- Share some examples of projects around that topic.
- Ask them how or what they would like to do to change the lesson. Give them time to work together and share ideas.
If this is the first time they have designed project-based learning activities, they need time to learn. This may even be too much to ask of the teachers, but finding time is always a challenge.[Photo from Playshop at Mid-Pacific Institute – teacher teams collaborating]