10 tips for workshop presenters any teachers…

I once spent a whole day in a professional development workshop for second language teachers and I learned how to make a fold-up book. That’s all. Nothing else.

When I’m not stimulated and challenged in a learning context, I tend to get impatient and have to watch my body language, so as not to make my dissatisfaction obvious to the whole room. As an educator, though, there should always be something I can learn. If the content doesn’t engage me, I can learn by observing the presenters…

Throughout the excellent IB Workshop Leader Training, the trainers, consciously and unconsciously, modelled presentation techniques. Trainee workshop leaders were encouraged to stand out front and present in groups. It was inspiring to see such passionate educators find creative, engaging ways to share their knowledge and learning. It was an opportunity to observe, watch, listen… and learn.

Ten tips for workshop presenters  any teachers…

1. Speak in your own voice.

Be genuine and natural. Don’t use a ‘presenter voice’.

2. Don’t speak too much.

As lovely as you might sound, less is more. Keep it simple. Get to the point.

3. Share your passion.

Inspire others with your enthusiasm. If you’re excited by what you’re saying, the audience will be too.

4. Be sensitive to your audience.

Are they yawning? Have they tuned out? Are they checking their email? (Draw your own conclusions!)

5. Listen responsively.

Listen and respond to participants. Show that you value their input.

6. Have a sense of humour.

Laugh at yourself. Laugh with (but not at) your audience.

7. An image speaks a thousand words.

Dump your Powerpoint if it’s overloaded with information. Don’t read from your slides. Use powerful images and as few words as possible as prompts.

8. Provoke the participants.

Make them think. Challenge them. Keep them active.

9. Encourage reflection.

Include thinking time. Allow enough time to talk and construct meaning.

10. Be humble.

You don’t know it all…

IB Workshop Leader Training Day #4

Learning by doing: An inquiry into inquiry

IB Workshop Leader Training Day #3

We spend the morning exploring concept driven curriculum, an area I have discussed before on this blog. I’ve summarised Lynn Erickson’s ideas and I’ve shared examples of concept driven learning in the classroom.

Today we sum up our understandings, distilling the essence via a Frayer’s model, which has us creating a definition of a concept, describing the characteristics, listing out examples and non-examples.

The rest of the day is devoted to a concept driven inquiry of our choice, into almost any aspect of Thai culture, via personal exploration of  the Chiang Mai area and communication with local people. It’s not a fact-finding mission, the focus is to be on the process. We spend some time in our groups deciding where to go, what to explore, what conceptual lens to use, which inquiry model will suit our purpose and how we will go about our inquiry… and then we’re off on foot, bicycle or bus.

The presentations the next day are inspiring. You can see more examples here and here.

Each group shares their discoveries and their challenges. Participants have realised that inquiry is not a linear process, and rarely even a cyclical one. The process moves back and forth between asking, investigating, reflecting, connecting, constructing meaning … Some groups find they are even shifting between more than one ‘model’.  This is true inquiry. It has no map, no set pattern and it can be messy. Some of the high school teachers in particular, less familiar with this kind of learning, admit to feeling a degree of discomfort. But it’s the kind of positive tension that leads to authentic learning.

People have learned a great deal today… not just about Thai culture, but about inquiry, about concept driven learning, about working in groups with other strong, passionate people, about ourselves as learners and about the process of learning itself.

Craig is wondering how he can adapt this process for his Grade 4 class. I’m wondering how to recreate it back at my school for the teachers! Perhaps gaining a deep understanding of inquiry learning involves experiencing  it yourself…

Are adult learners different from young learners?

I’m currently participating in a training course for IB educators to become officially recognised IB Workshop Leaders. Learning with and from passionate, knowledgeable and driven educators, with diverse backgrounds and experiences, is proving to be engaging and exciting. I’m enjoying the challenge of being pushed to think about learning in a different context.

I notice again and again, that the issues discussed, the tips the leaders offer, the problems we grapple with and the strategies shared all apply just as much in teaching and learning at school as they do in running adult workshops.

We reflect individually on the conditions that support and hinder our own learning, and then share in groups. There’s much commonality… and difference, of course, and the leaders point out that all these are considerations to bear in mind when running workshops for other adults.

These are some of the factors that come up in the conversation:

(Notice anything?)

As adult learners, we value…

  • Opportunities to interact with other learners.
  • A sense of  learning something new.
  • Enough time to talk, reflect and construct meaning.
  • An interesting presenter, aware of participants’ needs.
  • Engaging and provocative issues to grapple with.
  • A range of perspectives.
  • A clear purpose.
  • A variety of presentation styles.
  • A safe environment in which to try out our ideas.
As adult learners, we don’t enjoy…
  • Being passive while a presenter lectures.
  • PowerPoints with too many words.
  • Lack of internet access.
  • An overcrowded agenda.
  • Physical needs not being met
  • Not enough time to reflect and internalise.
  • Lack of support and follow-up.

We’re asked to examine a list of the characteristics of adult learners and consider the implications that these have for us as workshop leaders. It’s true we need to be aware that adults have accumulated a (longer) lifetime of knowledge and experiences that might affect our learning. Adults might come to the new learning with more preconceived ideas, stronger opinions and possibly a resistance to change. But as I work my way through the list, I’m struck again by the fact that learning is learning and there is not much difference between the way adults learn and the way children do. Before I’m criticised (yet again!) for my tendency to oversimplify, let me clarify that I am not comparing the natural curiosity and exploration of toddlers to adults studying for a PhD. (Or am I?) I’m sharing my beliefs about the ways learning works.

As an educator who thinks deeply about learning, I have spent a great deal of time over the years considering almost all the things on this list in the context of student learning. How much will I need to adjust my practice when working with adults?

These are my school’s articulated learning principles: (If you read this blog regularly, you’ll have seen these beliefs referred to repeatedly!)

Everyone has the potential to learn.

  • We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, preferences and interests.
  • Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  • Learning occurs by acquiring skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to other contexts.
  • Learning is active and social and best takes place through collaboration and interaction.
  • Learning takes place when we feel secure, valued and are able to take risks.
  • Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  • Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, and requires learners to take ownership of their learning.

It seems to me that if I bear these in mind, as I always need to do in learning situations, facilitating adult workshops will not be all that different from teaching in a classroom.

IB Workshop Leader Training Day #2

10 (more) ways for teachers to learn…

You can’t be a teacher, if you are not a learner.

I’ve written many times about teachers as learners, professional learning, reading groups and learning through collaborative planning.

I once posted 10 ways to grow as an educator, based on my reflections on my own learning and growth at that point in time.  This week, I’m fortunate to be at an IB workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand, training to be an IB workshop leader. Reflecting at the end of the first day, I have some ideas to add my list of ways teachers can learn…

1. Engage with teachers from different places and cultures.

Twitter is a fine place to start, if you can’t meet them in person.

2. Interact with teachers who teach other disciplines and different age groups.

Talk about learning in your context. Really listen to them talk about learning in theirs.

3. Get out of school!

Learn in a beautiful, natural setting. Be inspired by nature.

4. Visit another school.

Preferably one that’s very different from yours.

5. Watch other teachers teach or present.

Learn from what they do… and from what they don’t do.

6. Tweet from a conference.

Sum up the key points 140 characters at a time.

7. Interact with other people who share your passion.

If you’re lucky, you can find them in your school. If not, connect online.

8. Reflect on your own learning.

Stop and think about what you learned. Write it down. A blog is best, a scrap of paper will do.

9. Teach teachers.

Share your knowledge, experience, expertise and ideas with people who know as much and more than you do.

10. Be open-minded.

There is something worth learning from every person you meet and every situation you find yourself in…

IB Workshop Leader Training Day #1