Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In-house Professional Development

As we celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year with a one-week holiday, the teachers at CDNIS returned to work two days before the students for a double dose of in-house professional development. This year our senior leadership team had planned for 3 PYP workshops - 1) Planning, Teaching & Assessing the 5 Essential Elements (Language instruction: Chinese), 2) Transdisciplinary Teaching & Learning and 3) The Written Curriculum.

I was registered for the workshop covering The Written Curriculum. While the content of this workshop was a little dry, the instruction and interaction of the group with the workshop leader was conducted in a way that managed to keep us engaged. As the two days progressed I started to compare this in-house training to the three other PYP workshops I've attended in the past (two in foreign places with teachers I didn't know and one other in-house with CDNIS teachers). There are advantages and disadvantages to workshops being held in your own school with your colleagues. Disadvantages include getting carried away with your own tasks, knowing everyone and getting side-tracked talking to people, becoming stuck doing a routine task or working on your own teaching and learning program, being distracted by the familiarity of the people and places when you should be focused entirely on the workshop. The advantages, however, came shining through for me with much more emphasis as I analyzed the dynamics of this particular workshop.

In regional workshops you spend a lot of time getting to know people. You spend a lot of time starting sentences with, "Well at my school..." or "In our programme we..." This ice-breaking takes up valuable time. While it is a valuable learning experience to hear about other school's practices and ideas, it can also a huge distraction from the content of the actual workshop. What I found over the past two days at CDNIS was that the groups working on tasks and activities were able to jump right into the meaty content of the activity because there wasn't any small talk to get the ball rolling. Also, when you participate in an in-house workshop there is a level of continuity and consistency. We all know the basics about how the PYP looks and feels at our own school. We all know the overall strengths and weaknesses within our programme. The small things we don't know in detail, across grade levels and single subject teaching, come into the forefront and can be tackled in these in-house settings. Overall, I found our groups to be very effective and productive over the two days. We worked through these workshops together as team, breaking new ground and getting deeper into what really matters.

All that being said, I still really enjoy traveling to exotic places and meeting other PYP teachers from all over the world. It is important to have a balance of professional development, both at home and away. And of course, even more important to have a supportive and collaborative school administration which makes these types of conferences and workshops a priority for the school community. True global collaboration, integration and sharing of styles and strategies, is still a key element to developing and improving your own PYP programme. It is nice to know, at the same time, that in-house workshops can be very successful, especially when you have a very connected, happy and competent staff of colleagues to work with.