Purposeful PD: How can I extend the learning experience?

Several years ago, I became part of a committee that developed a new framework for how our service center "does" professional learning. (By the way, my director Craig gave me the book The New Pillars of Modern Teaching to help prepare for this committee work, and that book completely changed how I think about teaching and learning. nbd 😉 Many of my recent blog posts include some connection to Pillars.)

From that committee work, we developed our organization's Professional Learning Model (PLM). At the core of our PLM are seven "Design Essentials," and these elements should be part of every one of our professional learning experiences (or meetings): application, choice, collaboration, critical thinking, curation, extension, and feedback. Choice (design), curation, and feedback are also from The New Pillars.

My teammates and I embraced utilizing our PLM, but it has not completely caught on center-wide YET. We're now working on the updated version of our PLM, named the PLM+ (a la Disney+). Because of the pandemic, we're also including what the elements now look like in both face-to-face and virtual learning experiences.

One of our Design Essentials that I've focused on this year is extension. We know that "drive-by PD," and "one-and-done PD" does not work, so extension helps address the question:

How might we increase the amount of time participants are engaging with content?

This year, in Zoom and webinar-worlds, my addendum to this question is "What's the best use of our synchronous time?" This question led me to ask what learning can happen prior to or post the face-to-face PD session? Pre-pandemic, I typically had some ideas for pre- and post- PD, but this year provided the opportunity to be more intentional about my strategies and ways to extend the learning.

When we first started Zoom-ing, I created a little video to show how to use the chat, join breakout rooms, and rename yourself in Zoom, and I sent that in a pre-email. After sessions, I typically sent a follow-up email that includes the link to the slide deck, just in case someone missed it or didn't bookmark it during the webinar. As we became more familiar with Zoom, and as my pre- and post-work became more intentional, I realized the tasks fell into one of these four categories: logistics, community building, content, and information gathering.

Pre-and Post-[Purposeful] PD: logistics, community building, content, information gathering
Pre- and Post- work might fall into these categories


Depending on the complexity of pre-work tasks, I send emails 1 - 3 days prior to my professional learning sessions. Because my webinar sessions are rarely over 1-hour, I want our face-to-face time to be as meaningful as possible. I also understand the demand of educators' lives, especially now, so the pre-work tasks typically consist of small activities such as post an idea on a Jamboard, download an app, watch this video (<5 minutes). For a recent session about curation, I asked participants to watch a little video that described our definition and details about curation. During our face-to-face session, we didn't need to reiterate that definition in much detail; instead, we spent time collaborating and sharing ideas. 

Here are a few ideas for each of the four categories for Pre-PD:

  • logistics: schedule, location; how to navigate technology; clarify the agenda and audience
  • community building: presenter's welcome (video or text); participants' welcomes (collaborative slides, Flipgrid, Twitter hashtag)
  • content: watch a video or read an article; reflect on a teaching practice; bring a lesson or assessment
  • information gathering: needs assessment; readiness assessment; "inclusify-ing," such as asking for name pronunciation, pronouns, and a favorite song
Here's an example of a recent pre-email. Which of the categories above did I include?

Pre-email example


After the professional learning experience, I hope participants keep thinking about the session, and I want to ensure they have access to session materials. Possible ideas for what I send in post emails:

  • logistics: link to slides/recording, certificate, subsequent sessions
  • community building: a platform to continue networking (hashtag, discussion board)
  • content: share evidence of implementation or reflections (possibly for additional "credit")
  • information gathering: provide additional curated resources or allow participants to share more resources; feedback surveys
Here's a post-email. Is this too much information for after a session? (I'm still working on "How do I know this practice is effective?")
Post-email example

Extending the learning doesn't completely alleviate the one-and-done PD problem, and in a future post, I'll address ideas to help the learning transfer. Taking care of a tiny bit of work prior to and after the session allows me to focus on the best use of synchronous time. 

Are there more effective ways to extend the learning beyond face-to-face time? Will any of these practices transfer to classrooms? (These ideas really remind me of the original flipped classroom methods.) What else can professional learning designers do to ensure the learning is not an example of drive-by PD?

Always learning about extending (and transforming) professional learning... 🤔