Designing Effective Professional Learning

As a learner in a special topics course on Effective Professional Learning at Lamar University, my goal was to collaborate with colleagues to effectively apply innovative teaching practices to professional learning (PL). I accomplished this by designing and modeling authentic PL activities that are active, have a significant duration, are discipline specific, and then evaluating their impact on the professional learners.

Our first task was to create a presentation that explains why the alternative model of PL is necessary for our organizations; I chose to create a video with a voice-over narration. When trying to present an idea as a call-to-action, it is important to “hook” the audience early with a meaningful story or anecdote that truly express the “why” i.e. the reason you are making the presentation in the first place, and the reason your audience should care about it. We have learned about the principles of backwards design, an approach to a curriculum design that begins with the end in mind and designs toward that end, and can design our presentations with the same principles in mind.

Sinek said that the presenter needs to start the presentation by expressing the end goal in mind so that the audience knows why they are being told this information to begin with; the rest of the presentation should move towards explaining how to accomplish this goal. Starting with a story or metaphor is a good hook because it can present the audience with situations that are familiar to them and pique their interest because this is something that they want to solve in their own professional practice.

We as professionals in the field of education definitely need be more conscious of the “why” instead of the “what” and “how” in our endeavors , whether we are in the classroom or when we are acting as agent of innovation and trying to get others on board with our ideas. I can now say I know for sure that I need to be "bigger picture" oriented and think of the “why” first if I want to not only achieve my professional goals, but also have others believe in and adopt my ideas and passions.

Call to Action - Alternative PL.mp4
Call to Action - The Story Behind the Story
This story-behind-the-story slideshow describes the "why, what and how" of my call to action video strategy.

Looking at the advice on presentations from Sinek and Duarte, helped me put together my call to action video. I started with relatable anecdotes which expressed current issues that most educators find troubling, which are Duarte’s “what is” statements. While I kept the information and lecturing to a minimum, the audience would have been hooked by what tugged at their heartstrings - who doesn't want students to be more engaged, go home excited about what they did in school and have skills that they can take to their future college and careers? I then went on to do what she said by telling the audience what I could do for them, why they should adopt my view, and what the steps are that they need to follow to take action and get their desired outcomes, i.e. the “what could be”, while providing concrete examples of what has worked as evidence of the outcomes.

I then created an alternative PL outline that will enable my colleagues to see how my ideas from my innovation plan can be moved forward and ultimately help create significant learning environments that will use technology to enhance learning. My PL plan outline addressed the 5 Key Principles of Effective Professional Learning (Gulamhussein, 2013), the roles of the leaders and the audience, a schedule/ timeline and the types of resources needed. My aim is to show how a new approach to PL can foster a new spirit of creativity, leadership and collaboration across a discipline and on a campus. I also included a Learning Outcomes 3 Column Table as an example of the curriculum that could be developed by a team implementing this PL program.

Planning the Alternative PL Assignment

The alternative PL outline above was mean to describe the "big picture idea" for a PL strategy that could affect the whole school district and would take several years to implement completely. I created the PL Strategy and Resources spreadsheet below to explain in detail what would be a yearlong first phase of an innovation plan; the 3-Column Table to the right describes the learning goals, activities and assessments of the PL strategy for teachers. "A Future-focused Professional Learning Approach for Physics " will serve as PL strategy that will drive innovation in science teaching and learning and serve as an implementation model for other content areas.

PL Strategy 3 Column Table
PL Strategy and Resources


Duarte, N. [Duarte Inc.]. (2009, December 16). Duarte design's five rules for presentations by Nancy Duarte. Youtube [Video file]. Retrieved from

Duarte, N. [TEDx Talks]. (2010, November 11). Nancy Duarte uncovers common structure of greatest communicators. Youtube [Video file]. Retrieved from

Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the teachers: Effective professional development in an era of high stakes accountability. Center for Public Education, Alexandria, VA.

Sinek, S. [Skillshare]. (2015, May 5). How to begin your presentation with Simon Sinek. Youtube [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sinek, S. [TEDx Talks] (2009, September 28). Start with why -- how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound. Youtube [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2008). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.