This information guide is for facilitators of workshops for Teaching for Change events. We use this guide as an internal reference for our own staff and anyone interested in presenting at one of our teach-ins, curriculum fairs, or other events.
The guide is based on what we have found to be most effective for offering workshops, largely based on feedback from participants.
For our professional development, we seek to make it as rewarding and engaging as possible for participants, responding to their particular needs and interests. Teachers have all experienced mandatory professional development that is a waste of time and does not draw on their needs nor experience. Our goal is to ensure that any professional development we offer is rewarding, meaningful, and helps to “construct” rather than simply “deliver” knowledge.
Towards that end, we offer this guide. We also take time to review draft workshop outlines and related materials such as slides for all our presenters — those on our staff and external. We ask to see drafts in advance so that there is enough time to provide feedback, for presenters to make edits, and for us to review them again.
We ask that presenters follow these guidelines:
- Engage participants: Learning is enhanced when participants have a chance to process, make connections, and contribute. We seek to draw on the knowledge and ideas from everyone in the room, not just the presenters. If it was only a lecture, they don’t need to attend and instead could just watch a recording. See suggestions in the next section for engaging participants.
- Less is More: Identify one or two key objectives for the session. Avoid trying to squeeze a semester course into a one hour workshop!
- Breakout Groups: To allow real time for discussion, you may want to do one breakout of at least 10 minutes, rather than two or three shorter ones, unless you are modeling a mixer lesson. Another consideration for online breakout sessions is their placement in the run of show. Unless they are purely introductory, we suggest they be in the middle with enough time to have gained some content but not so close to the end that people drop off.
- Evaluation: We value feedback from participants. It is rewarding for presenters and gives all of us ideas about what worked and what might need to be changed for future sessions. Comments are also helpful for writing stories or social media posts about the event. Finally, the evaluation models to participants that we value their opinion. It is also where they can request a PD certificate or whatever else we are offering attendees. For all these reasons, it is imperative that at least five minutes be provided at the end of every session to fill out an evaluation form. Presenters often want to squeeze in more information – but this evaluation time as part of the formal session is non-negotiable. We will provide the evaluation form and will share the responses with presenters.
- Honor the Time: Our commitment to participants is to start and end on time. We start at the allotted time with those who are in the room, rather than delaying to wait for those who may be arriving later. The opening can be an activity that seamlessly folds in later arrivals. Likewise, the session should formally end at the designated time. If there is no “next session” for participants to get to, the presenter can offer to stay and talk with participants who are interested after the evaluation is complete. But that should be after the session formally ends, allowing those who need to leave to do so with some formal closure. If it is a teach-in or conference with sessions following, then it would not be an option to talk with selected participants since everyone needs to go to their next workshop.
- Align Title, Description, and Content: Make sure the presentation is representative of what was promoted to participants.
- Consider the Audience: When designing the session, take into consideration that participants will have a range of background knowledge on the topic and a variety of roles. It can be helpful to have an opening activity that allows you as a presenter to gauge how much people know already about the topic so that you are not explaining things that they know already or using terms they might not know. For most of our sessions, the participants are primarily pre-K-12 educators from across the country. Because our sessions are voluntary, there is already a commitment to address the topic and often some background knowledge.
- Visuals: Make visuals attractive and easy to understand. Avoid complicated visuals that require extensive reading by audience members. PowerPoints should follow best practices about layout and amount of text. See suggested considerations in this guide for power points. If you have slides, handouts, etc. please submit all for review by the deadline. With your permission, presentation materials and recording will be made available to attendees post-event.
- Run of Show: We ask that you prepare and share a run of show with timing, activities, materials, and whatever support might be needed. View example workshop outline with interactive components.
People learn the most from the presenter and each other when they are active participants.
Here are some suggestions for how to accomplish that online and in person.
Model the Lesson: Rather than telling participants about a lesson, engage them in components of the lesson. This allows them to experience the lesson and consider how they might use or adapt it for their own students. Following the experience of the lesson, there should be time for participants to debrief in small groups about their reflections and ideas for adaptations. This allows the presenter to also receive feedback about ways they might improve, adapt, or expand on the lesson.
Small Group Discussions or Activities: If the session is not about a particular lesson, but instead a presentation on history, children’s books, or other informational topics, there should be opportunities for participants to process what they are learning. We ask that the run of show include at least TWO interactive components such as:
- Allotted time for small group discussion and full group debrief (verbal, chat, padlet, or other format). Provide guidance for small groups with suggested questions or activities. As an example, for our Teach the Black Freedom Struggle classes, we pose the following:
- Share a story or moment from the discussion that you found moving or provocative.
- What thoughts do you have about how you might bring this history into your classroom — or how you are already teaching about this?
- Materials for review and time to reflect — could be primary documents, data charts, a children’s book
- Virtual whiteboard, padlet, or other interactive apps
Don’t Overdo It: As noted above, less is more. Give people time to interact in meaningful ways. Too many small groups, for example, can keep people busy — but not allow for real discussion to get underway. Unless it is modeling a mixer lesson — but even then, we recommend fewer rotations online than in person. For mixers online, we have found three rotations work well.
Q&A: We also encourage a Q&A either throughout or at least 10 minutes at the end. However, keep in mind that a Q&A session does not count as an interactive component of your presentation. And we recommend finding ways to group questions before you respond.
Sample Run of Shows
Once your workshop is accepted, or sometimes before, we will provide deadlines for your run of show and PowerPoint. We will provide feedback with enough time for you to make edits if needed.
Our staff can meet with you to brainstorm ways to structure your session.
November 21, 2022