We Learn Best By Doing

Why do professional developments, in-services, conferences, you name it, tend to flop? What are they missing and what can we do as educators to better utilize our time during these gatherings?

It never fails. Leading up to an in-service day you hear grumblings of, “Ugh. I wish I could just have one more day off.” Or, “What I wouldn’t give to just work in my room all day instead of attend those dreaded meetings.” It always pains me to hear these comments, even though many times I completely relate. School leaders tend to spend their time pushing new initiatives, going over logistics, but very little time modeling the initiatives, or sharing best practices.

In A.J. Juliani’s “5 Reasons Why Teachers Learn Best From Other Teachers,” blogpost, Juliani states,

In fact, when I look back at my most valuable learning experiences as a teacher, they are almost always with colleagues and other teachers, instead of with an administrator or consultant or presenter.

I mentioned in an earlier post (read about it here) that our school hosted a conference recently. As we were planning for the conference, we knew that teachers learn best from other teachers, as Juliani discusses, so we knew it was imperative that we plan a conference that is centered around teachers leading other teachers. Hence why the idea of fishbowl style learning came about. At the conference, I co-presented with a fellow teacher on “Authentic Learning and Creating a Collaborative Culture” during one of our general sessions. You can read my blogpost about the conference itself by clicking here.

During our presentation, we knew the importance of not only sharing best practices, ideas, and tech uses in the classroom, but we knew we had to involve our audience from the get go. That is what we do in a classroom setting, right? So why not present the way we teach our students? To begin, we pulled the audience in right away by having them take a Socrative quiz in which we posed 3 scenario based true/false questions. For example, “In a 4th grade math class, the students are learning about perimeter and area. To demonstrate the students’ understanding of the concept, the children work in groups to construct a dog house using cardboard. True/False: This is an example of a truly authentic lesson.” (Looking back, we shouldn’t have made the questions true/false. We should have altered the options to a “strongly agree, disagree…” style question.) After the participants answered the questions, we then opened up a discussion on why we agreed or didn’t agree that the scenarios were or were not authentic. This then led into a discussion of professional developments and how they tend to not be led in authentic manners. Throughout the presentation, we continued to engage the audience, discussed how we took a traditional novel study and revamped it, and then ended with having the audience share ideas of how in the past they have revamped lessons to make them more authentic, and shared future ideas.

Upon reflecting on our presentation, where did we succeed?

  • involving the audience from the start and throughout the presentation 
  • sharing our ideas on how to build authentic lessons 
  • began a discussion on the best tech tools we utilize frequently when it comes to authenticity
  • candy – candy always works with kids or adults to get them join the conversation 🙂
What could we change for the future?
  • model a lesson rather than simply talk about it
Moving forward, I would like to focus on finding a way to have the audience actually “do” something/build something/create something in addition to them being a part of the conversation. Since our presentation was built around the novel unit that we revamped, could we have had the audience work on a part of that project so that they could have actually seen it in action? I will keep pondering this thought for now. 
If you would like to view our google slides presentation, feel free to click here


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