Building RCWP Capacity for PD

For my school colleagues, you may want to skip this piece—it’s about designing and adapting models for inservice trainings offered by NWP sites.  Fair warning.

Yesterday I also attended a session which included some great ways that sites are thinking about planning, marketing, and evaluating the inservice/PD we provide to teachers.  So many ideas were thrown out, I’ll just have to bullet some of the points that got me thinking for RCWP:

At Rutgers WP, they are establishing multi-year partnerships with districts and schools that create lots of connectivity and opportunities to tailor learning to the teachers’ needs.  The have learned how important it is to communicate clearly with district administrators and asking them to identify teacher leaders who can help assess teacher needs and plan PD content.  They also shared how important establishing content, timing, money issues, etc. well in advance of the PD delivery is.  The districts they work with submit proposals each spring of PD priorities for the following school year, giving WP TCs plenty of time for careful design of effective inservice.

Establishing a standard curriculum, then building from that is essential.  Determining what the overarching needs of teachers around our site are and then determining the general structure and time needs (full day, after school, series, etc.) provides a foundation.  The presenters talked about how they encourage TCs to tweak their demos to create workshops based on these examples of best practice in teaching writers.  The presenters cited RCWPs  practice at SI of combining our demos into a handy booklet for every TC in the cohort as one way to help TCs translate demos into inservice for teachers currently outside of the project.

Building site capacity for RCWP to reach out to teachers who need what we have to offer is an issue for our site.  The presenters had a couple useful ideas.  One was having inservice coordinators spend time at each SI to help identify and tap into potential leaders in PD in every new cohort.  Mentoring these new and eager TCs and giving them opportunities to rehearse (demos, continuity events, team teaching) will connect and commit these folks to PD work with us.  Providing events each year that help TCs who are delivering PD to “retool”, stay current, and tweak presentations, demos, etc. could help keep the PD offerings from RCWP fresh, engaging, and on the cutting edge of research-based/promising practices.

A favorite topic of mine during the presentation was the issue of helping TCs obtain release time from districts to participate in delivering PD.  We already pay for subs when needed, but a well-written form letter with some persuasive information and maybe an attachment of some easily digestible article on the importance of NWP and teachers teaching teachers about writing and writing instruction.  A really cool and apparently effective idea the presenters shared was suggesting to administrators that the TC bring a colleague or two along for the PD.  The admins pay for a couple of subs, and in return get free, high-quality PD for one of their teachers. It also gives us the opportunity to engage a colleague in what we do, maybe even recruit a future TC in the process!

One encouraging element of the presentation was seeing that the structure used by some of these dynamic sites is similar to the structure for many of RCWPs PD offerings—interactive content, participants WRITING, research-based practice, use of student samples.  Creating executive summaries (like our demo write-ups) for each workshop would be a great next step for us in the structuring of our PD.

Marketing is an area we at RCWP could stand to improve, in my opinion.  Presenters showed examples of a couple excellent brochures from Vermont and Ohio, one rather plain, the other glossy.  Both were well designed and included the wider variety of offerings.  I think we should consider both folding all of our offerings into a single brochure-ish document that goes out spring and early fall, and making sure the design is, well, cool.  A similarly cool web presence would be important.

This past summer’s Advanced Institute was a great step toward a more comprehensive approach to the PD we design and provide.  We have some work to do, but thanks to the great leadership of Troy Hicks and Jill Hoort, we’re well on our way!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Melissa
    Nov 21, 2007 @ 10:29:49

    These are definitely gread ideas, Heather. I can see a lot of demos becoming good PD sessions, and after our low enrollment at Tech for Teachers, we certainly need to change our marketing. I attended a session on Youth Summer Camps, and they too discussed the importance of forming partnerships with school districts. I think we need to be a part of Aram’s idea in planning to re-structure a few things (see his posting on the RCWP blog).



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