Days of Staff Development, are they effective?

After a few weeks of chasing students for missing work, internal verification meetings and forward planning, you could be forgiven for thinking, great , now relax, here comes the summer holidays. But don’t break open the suntan lotion just yet, you’ve still got one more hurdle to climb and it’s a big one. It’s staff developments days.

In my ten years of working in an FE college this generally consisted of two days packed with 2 hour long sessions of compulsory training on topics such as behavioural management, how to use the latest curriculum planning tool and the new student record system. Then somewhere buried very deep amongst them are the optional ‘Technology for Teaching and Learning’ sessions.

They normally come in 2 forms:

  1. Show and Tell: These are usually presentations/demonstrations from young newly qualified sports teachers, showing how they’ve been using the latest gadget.
  1. Demonstrations on various tools, taught in PC rooms, where people could drop in and watch.

So what’s wrong with this?

Both of these forms of staff development session might have a temporary inspirational effect that motivates people into thinking about how they will use what they’d seen to transform their module delivery next year. But does this actually happen? After the summer break many forget what they’ve seen, how to apply it and invariably they revert back to traditional teaching methods.

So how can these types of sessions be made more effective?

photographer-301533_640Tip 1. Video the sessions

Video the Show and Tell sessions and put them in an easy to locate online staff development area (VLE?). This will allow staff to revisit the session to refresh their memory and remember what motivated their interest. Don’t just upload a video of the entire session, in one whole chunk; break it into smaller parts, clearly labelling them. This will allow staff to revisit the areas they are most interested in, or the areas they didn’t understand the first time around.

Recreate the demonstrations using screen capture software such as Camstudio or VCRec. Break these down into smaller chunks to, creating simple easy to follow, step-by-step guides.

Tip 2. Repeat the sessions regularly throughout the year

Don’t deliver staff development sessions just at the end of term, have Show and Tell at team meetings, once a month give the meeting over to staff development for use of technology.

Tip 3. Make sure the technology works

Discuss barriers to using technology, and try to resolve them. In my past 15 years experience of delivering technology sessions to teaching staff, one of the greatest barriers is confidence in the technology itself. Many teachers worry about the technology letting them down during lessons as it often does. Therefore if it isn’t working report it, if it gets reported fix it, or ask why not. This includes making sure that the latest versions of crucial software such as Flash, Audio and Video players and the Browsers are installed.

paper-606649_640Tip 4. We need a little time

Another typical barrier to using technology is time, which falls into two categories. Time to attend staff development sessions and time to gain confidence in using the tools. Therefore as well as offering staff development online in the form of video tutorials, as mentioned earlier, offer support when staff are using the tools and a flexible, frequently refreshed staff development programme.

Tip 5. We get by with a little help from our friends

Introduce a Critical friend scheme. Ask members of the team who have delivered the show and tell sessions, to attend teaching sessions where staff are using the tools or technology for the first time and ask them to provide feedback on how they used it also how they may improve their use of it. Supported projects can also be a great confidence builder and motivator. Create user groups where staff can explore new technology and web tools. In short, but frequent meetings they can share tips, resources and best practise methods. Give staff time to organise staff development sessions, to help others use what they have found.

Tip 6. Lead by Example

Last but not least, if you are serious about transforming the learning experience of your students, then embrace technology, identify the benefits, communicate this to staff and make this part of your teaching and learning strategy. Make the use of technology an important part of your staff development programme, not just an optional extra.

See: Tools to enhance learning resources

Anita Holt
Technology Enhance Learning Manager
Institute of learning & Teaching
University of Liverpool

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