When Professional Development is designed for the Adult Learner, knowing that adults need opportunities to be hands-on, should do and not just view, that they have an average attention span of between 8 to 20 minutes, that they have a wealth of knowledge, that they are highly practical, and that they need to see the value of the learning, it works and you will see evidence in post-session surveys.
Here are some ideas that have worked for education technology working sessions:
- Getting participants hands-on as quickly as possible. Brief intros and a broad stroke of purpose and goals - possibly turning to participants for purpose and goals.
- Changing activities and approaches frequently.
- Adjusting as needed - paying attention to the body language of participants and having some activities ready should the session lag.
- Breaks. This may seem obvious but adults need to stretch, move, and walk away in order to return fresh.
- Getting feedback and participation different ways. Some will feel comfortable speaking out, others will prefer reflecting on paper, others will like an online survey or a back channel.
- Sparing use of Powerpoint - but - not so spare that there is nothing to follow or see for your visual learners.
- An electronic version of it all somewhere - a Wiki, a Ning, etc.
- Some type of paper handout. We don't want to kill trees but we are in this interesting in between stage right now involving adults who are "paper-trained" - and those who are immersed and comfortable in the fully-electronic delivery of media. Give them something to hold in their hands and you will see relief on the faces of many participants.
- Reasonable times for all activities - not too long or too short - adjust if you start seeing people taking a break when times for working hands-on.
- A reinforced theme - go back to that whenever possible.
- A "parking lot" for ideas or tangents that are brought up.
- A positive activity describing the intent of the session and asking people to buy in somehow - we posted a large smiley face, gave out star stickers, and asked people to post 2 things on how they will be ensuring they stay positive at their schools while managing change.
- Participant sharing in different ways - not just talking - showing, demonstrating, sending out links, etc.
- A druther - 2 projectors in every room - one for the present(ers) with a screen and one for the participants with a screen/wall as well - speakers for both - jump drives if needed and a spare laptop