Two weeks ago, while co-presenting a keynote with Jeff for the WIAOC, I made an off-hand statement about our after-school PD offerings that got me thinking.

For the last 3 years at ISB, we have had open PD sessions 3 days a week, every week of the school year, some sessions more successful than others. We’ve tried a variety of different formats from topic-specific sessions (SmartBoard, Podcasts, RSS, etc), to general “thought-provoking” conversation and videos in our Wired Wednesday sessions, to simple walk-in personal tech support.

We are so happy to see just how many of our very busy teachers are interested in our variety of tech offerings, but we also know we can continue to improve our repertoire of support. So, every few months, in an effort to serve our teachers better, we reflect on which sessions are most popular and which might need to change, but we always end up offering something on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, every week.

As I was describing these different formats during the keynote, I happened to mention (partly in jest) that perhaps they would be even more successful if they weren’t offered on such a frequent basis. Maybe if there were fewer offerings, we’d have even more teachers attend because then, the sessions that we do offer would be perceived as more “special” and “worth” attending….

It just so happens that the very same week was also our last week of after-school PD support, which was clearly stated in Jeff’s regular e-mail. Interestingly, that week we had a larger group of teachers vying for our attention than we had had all year. Now, that could be due to the very busy end of the year stress, or maybe, it could be because it was clear that these were the very last times for our after school tech support.

I also happen to be reading The Paradox of Choice, in which the author, Barry Schwartz, claims (and I’m paraphrasing and simplifying here) that the more choices we have, the less likely and able we are to make a decision.

So, now I’m wondering: could it be, that by offering more PD opportunities, we are actually making it harder for our teachers to decide to attend?

What do you think? Should we offer sessions once a month? Once a fortnight? Rotate sessions so that we’re not doing the same three format every week? Offer certain sessions once a month and others once a week?

I <3 Jelly Beans 09 by NightRPStar on Flickr
Paradox of Choice cover on Baltimore BookWorm

0 thoughts on “PD: How Frequent is Too Frequent?

  1. I would have thought once a week at a regular time so that they don’t get confused about the time and day. But radical thought — why not do a survey of them to ask their thoughts as what is working and not working?

  2. A colleague and I conducted Tech Tuesday bi-weekly PD sessions at our school and experienced a gradual reduction of attendance and interest. It can be frustrating trying to figure out how to hold their interest. I tend to think that – at least at our school – technology integration is still seen as optional. If your doing something new, that’s great and everyone applauds. If you keep doing the same old thing, well that’s OK too.

    The central problem is, I think, that it will take a transformation systemically but that change will have to be driven by individuals. How can we get enough individuals to effect this change? We’ll keep trying next year – beginning on the first Tuesday.

    I look forward to hearing about how you guys make it work.

  3. 1. I know that personally, if I don’t use and practice something on a regular basis, I don’t gain mastery of it. I have to be using it regularly in order for me to become competent and confident, so in that respect, the frequent PD would be much more useful.
    2. I agree that if something is readily available, people tend to lose interest because the session is not seen as “special”.
    So I’d suggest running something once a week, perhaps early in the week, rather than 3 times a week, but then, at that first session, suggest that if they wanted to pursue that topic, there would be a follow up session on (a day later that same week), and that would satisfy those who are hungry to learn.
    And finally, sometimes it isn’t about your offerings at all. Sometimes it’s just that due to personal factors; a very busy week, feeling under the weather, too much marking, other commitments etc. the people just can’t attend, and you’re searching for reasons, and it’s really not anything under your control.

  4. I wonder if a gradual reduction in attendance is due to teachers having the need to process the information you’re giving them within their own classrooms for a while before they come back for more. Sometimes just one new “innovation” can be enough for some teachers to work on throughout the school year.

  5. @Sue,

    Yes! A survey! Great idea! I think we’ll have to do this right when we get back at the beginning of next school year (since we only have 2.5 days left this year). Actually, thinking about this reminds me that I had a survey planned for this year, but I never sent it out and I can’t remember why. Ah, well, it’s on the to-do list for next year!


    I think you’re right on both counts: 1) tech as an option means people don’t feel compelled to commit and 2) we need to start with individuals. I think we struggle with some of the same issues here, plus the fact that teachers are just so busy. I think the survey that Sue suggested above will go a long way in helping – at least it will hopefully give us some concrete steps for improvement based on what teachers actually need.


    I like the idea about offering one regular session at the beginning of the week and then only offering additional sessions if teacher’s are interested. That’s a great way of meeting everyone’s needs without being overwhelming. And, I totally agree about some factors being out of our control, especially considering how busy teachers are, sometimes there’s just no time…


    Good point! I wonder if we can use the “less is more” strategy to offer a selection of topics in the first semester and then repeat the same ones (with a twist) in the second semester to allow teachers to either feel successful at something new, or add on to what they already learned in first semester. Something to think about for sure!

  6. I meet with a knitting group once a week and I value this because I know if I miss it, that will mean 2 weeks between the time I can get their support and help. It also gives me a week to process any new things I might have learned and to prepare questions if I have any. We also have an online group in case anyone needs immediate help though. I think that if some people had the opportunity for that much PD, they might put it off thinking of it as a lower priority. In their minds, they could say that since you meet 3 times a week, they always can go “next time.” Sometimes people value things more if they feel it isn’t just a habitual thing. I’m not saying they are right but just that they might see it as that.

  7. Thanks for beginning this conversation! Two years ago we offered once monthly “Tech Tuesdays” that were rarely attended, so we dropped them. Now I believe that by offering them only once a month, they kind of got lost in the shuffle.
    The most interest shown in integrating a Web 2.0 tool into the classroom came this year as one teacher had her students present their Animoto films in the media center. Teachers who normally wouldn’t think of trying anything “techie” were in the media center and got hooked on it. So perhaps one of the keys of success is having one teacher who has already used the tech tip or tool who is willing to be a spokesperson.
    So, I am now inspired to begin the Tech Tuesday (or some other name) sessions again this year, beginning with Animoto!

  8. Our trainings are better attended in the first half of the term. By the last third,faculty are too crazycrazy to attend and don’t want to throw new technologies at their students mid-stream.

    The TED talk about the paradox of choice is excellent primer to Mr. Schwartz.
    Technology Enhanced Learning Services at Yavapai College – TELS

  9. I find it interesting and ironic that you think you are offering PD too frequently. I am dealing with the opposite at my school. I started with only offering classes once a month and the teachers and administrators were looking for more. For the last half of the year I was offering classes once a week. I told my teachers that Thursdays would be tech training day. The first Thursday of the month would be “open lab.” They could come in and ask me anything. Then the other weeks would be some type of application (Photo Story, wikis, podcasting, etc.) That sort of worked. I think it was a little difficult because I started it so late in the year and stuff. I’m going to start in September trying it that way and then if I need to make a change I can do it later. Something else I did was offer to train departments in certain applications. For example, I trained my foreign language department in Podcasting. I am also working on setting up a time with my Math department to teach them Math Type. Good luck and I hope we are both able to find a happy medium to help our school communities.

  10. @Pat

    I think that’s exactly the problem we’ve been facing. This year we’ve changed the format to 2 times a week, but in two different locations. That way we’re accommodating people’s needs for having a choice of location and day, but running the same workshop both days. So far I think we’ve seen a bigger turnout on average, but we’ll have to see how it goes over the course of the year.


    I definitely agree that seeing other teachers share their successes is a great way to get teachers interested. It helps demonstrate how achievable something is and shows that it’s not just the techies that can find use for the tools. Good luck with your new Tech Tuesdays!


    Good point – the end of the year is always more hectic.


    Well, I think we’re coming at it from 2 different angles. You started with less and people wanted more. We started with too much and people didn’t need all of it. There’s a big difference between once a month and three times a week. I think we’ve found a good system now in the new school year with one topic per week, but 2 different days and 2 different locations. Offering department based training has also always been successful for me in the past – it’s a good way to be able to really tailor the training to specific student learning needs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge