Flipping the Lens: Finding New Perspective On Delivering Quality PD

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Did I just say that… and do I really sound like that?

I’ve always been told I look and sound exactly like my younger sister, just with darker hair. I’m still not convinced we look alike, but after listening to my most recent presentation, it easily could’ve been my sister speaking. Scary!

Even more frightening is the wording I chose and the stammering that occurred throughout my delivery of the professional learning.

Those poor teachers.

Without the close vetting of this “unwanted” video, I’d never have realized how much I needed to improve. Sometimes “looking in the mirror” can hurt.

To be 100% truthful, I’m considered the “face” of our school district and I conduct numerous interviews that are then streamed on our local cable channel and on our district YouTube channel. How many of those interviews have I watched to see how I can improve on the next, you ask? ZERO!

It’s time to change my paradigm and realize that video self-reflection can be one of the most valuable tools we have as educators. Here’s my most recent glimpse of my reflection.

Leading others to understand and comprehend the NGSS, Next Generation Science Standards, has been one of my most challenging and enjoyable experiences as an educator; however, I also had to experience failure before I began to understand what my colleagues truly needed from the professional learning experiences I delivered.

I realized, or more was told by my supervisor, that what I’d been presenting was going over the heads of many of the educators in my captive audience. I completely missed the glazed over look in their eyes and I was oblivious to the absence of the universally understood nod of acknowledgment.

Have I Really Been Out of the Classroom That Long?

I missed “the look.” I failed to realize that I was coming from a science background and that I’ve been working with the standards for several years, therefore, I have the necessary schema to be able to read each performance expectation (PE) with ease. However, I wasn’t helping to develop the schema for the educators to whom I was presenting. I’d failed to realize many teachers had not taken a science class while in college and had never taught a science lesson before my presentation.

This was an egregious mistake on my part and I had to fix it.

Just as if these teachers were my students, it was time to scaffold. The next time I presented the same material to a different set of teachers, I used the same example, but this time I really took the time to break down the science content in a manner so that all teachers — as learners — could comprehend it. This time I observed my audience closely and I watched confusion transform to understanding.

We aren’t always fortunate to have a supervisor or trusted colleague present during our professional learning sessions, so what’s the next best option? Video. Capturing my instruction on video is so incredibly out of my comfort zone, but extremely valuable to my own professional learning. By building my own capacity to lead an effective professional learning experience, my work will be more impactful to those educators eager to incorporate phenomenal science in their lessons.

Context: This video is a 12-minute clip of a 30-minute presentation. Edits are designed to condense the lesson into a more manageable viewing time frame. The content for the presentation was modified from NGSS Demystified by California Academy of Sciences.

My Notes and Observations:

  • I ask teachers to turn to a standard. I should’ve made sure everyone had a copy of the standards and that the copies were the same. When I asked teachers to open the standards, they were all looking at different pages and possibly not even the same grouping of PEs depending on the copy. If they all had the same copy, I could’ve asked teachers to turn to a specific page so we were analyzing the exact same standard.
  • Several times I ask if anyone has any questions. A more productive method would’ve been for me to ask, “What questions do you have?” By asking the question in this manner, it’s a more direct question. This direction assumes one has a question and invites the audience to ask.
  • After each grade presents their lesson idea, I don’t do a summary or a reflection of all ideas or let the teachers discuss what they believe would be the best idea once all were heard. Teachers can learn a great deal from the collaborative process with their peers, which I completely eliminated by moving on too quickly. The next time I deliver this presentation, I’ll write each idea on the board, then allow for a whole group discussion to develop a lesson that could be used in the future. Who wouldn’t want a lesson ready to go after a day of PD?
  • On several occasions, I call the PE a standard. The PE is the expectation once students have completely mastered the standard. The standards are written in a 3-dimensional design and encompass multiple Common Core standards as well. Let’s face it, the world of education is filled with acronyms. If those acronyms aren’t used correctly by the presenter, you can’t expect the audience to use them correctly, either.

Don’t be afraid to take a critical look in your “mirror” and listen to your own voice in order to grow in your profession. Videotaping my practice allowed me to “flip the lens” and do some tough but meaningful reflection. Sometimes the reflection, the errors you identify that are so obvious from the outside, and even the sound of your own voice, can be horrifying to some and to others, pure beauty. Keep vetting your videos and watch as your reflection transforms into a professional masterpiece.

Disclaimer: The process may take some longer than others, and the need to improve your practice may be more urgent than it seems.

How do you regroup and improve your practice when you discover your delivery of a lesson or professional learning was less effective than you’d hoped? Post your best strategies in the comments.

Shelly Hammons is the Federal Programs Coordinator at Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro, Kentucky. She has taught middle grades science for 11 years before moving into her current position. Shelly is a graduate of Murray State University and University of the Cumberlands. She is currently working with the 12 elementary schools in her district on the implementation of NGSS and is a member of the Tch Next Gen Science Squad. Connect with Shelly on Twitter: @HammonsShelly.

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