Setting up workshops for teachers
Summary: Some tips on how you can make workshops work well
Here are some tips I have picked up over the years whilst setting up series of internal CPD workshops for teachers in 4 different countries- sometimes very successfully and sometimes less so. This is what the more successful ones had in common.
You need to give the teachers:
1. Choice and involvement
2. Reasons for coming
4. Practical ideas
5. Ways of coming up with their own ideas
6. Ways of making a major change
Choice and involvement
This factor is the biggest difference between getting teachers coming to workshops happy to learn something and teachers finding every excuse not the come or coming with such an attitude that they learn nothing. You can get teachers involved in choosing:
- The venue
- The time and date
- The starting date of the series of workshops
- The length of the workshops
- The frequency of workshops
- The topics of the workshops
- How practical or theoretical the workshops should be
- Who gives the workshops
- Any food or drink provided
- The venue of any place you go for drinks after
In my experience, a questionnaire with follow up chats with as many teachers as possible individually or in small groups is the best way of finding out what teachers want without it becoming a major issue, rather than a big discussion in a teachers' meeting.
Other ways of getting teachers involved include feedback after the workshops and asking them to give future workshops themselves.
Reasons for coming
If you cannot afford to pay the teachers for actually being there when they would otherwise be free, there are ways of giving them something that doesn't involve such major expense. The simplest and cheapest is just to give the workshops when they would otherwise be working, e.g. during the summer or other quiet periods. Another possibility is to pay the person giving the workshop a good rate and then give people who attend regularly the chance to give workshops themselves. You should also pay everyone's transport to the venue- especially appreciated if they would otherwise have to pay for themselves to go into the office to do photocopying etc. If the workshop is not at the office, you can offer to bring anything they need to pick up from the office there. The final idea is to pay for food and drink before, during or after the workshop.
Much more than in a higher qualification like an MA, teachers expect internal workshops to give them something they can use tomorrow to make their life easier. This could consist of copies of photocopiable worksheets; warmers and other games (especially ones with minimal resources that can be used with many different classes); new teaching techniques that can be fitted in with a normal class without too many major changes; and recommendations for places to find any of the above.
Ways of coming up with their own ideas
Although a bunch of games they can use tomorrow might be enough to motivate teachers to come to the first workshop, eventually they will find (just like their students learning a language) that they have forgotten all the ideas from the first workshop or are starting to them all mixed up. This problem can easily be solved by arranging the ideas in a workshop under several headings that could lead to other ideas as the teachers start using them (e.g. "lying games") or by going through the process (e.g. brainstorming) that helped you come up with ideas. If you have managed to get all your teachers involved in giving workshops, they might need help in building this into their workshop plans.
Ways of making a major change
With all the provisos above about a workshop for teachers being mainly for sharing practical ideas, if you can sneak a description of a whole way of teaching that teachers might be unfamiliar with into the workshop (Silent Way, CLIL, TBA etc), then total satisfaction is guaranteed!