Passion and Professional Development: Four Philosophies For Lead Learners

I wrote the following 300 words for the Spring 2007 edition of the OnCUE Journal, which is available in print and online to CUE members. Sara Armstrong, editor of the OnCUE Journal has been kind enough to grant me permission to reprint this article on my blog. The twelve tips that follow will only appear in the online version. Consider this a preview of the Spring edition, which focuses on professional development. (Incidentally, the article draws from my experience coordinating the CUEtoYOU professional development program for CUE.)

Passion and Professional Development:
Four Philosophies For Lead Learners

A passionate student is a learning student1, and the same is true for teachers. If you are leading a professional development event, be sure to engage participants on an emotional level – aim to unleash their passions. These four philosophies can help.

The Lead Learner Philosophy: Don’t think of yourself as a trainer or instructor. Think of yourself as a Lead Learner. After all, the best leaders are also learners. There is wisdom in a Native American proverb, “He who learns from one who is learning, drinks from a flowing river.”2 Be passionate about what you are learning (and the session you are leading). Enthusiasm is contagious.

The Face-to-Face Philosophy: In today’s world of blogs and podcasts, information transmission is no longer an excuse for a face-to-face meeting. It’s a terrible waste. Respect the participants in your session by tapping into their experience, their passions, and their creative energy. Include many opportunities for interaction in your agenda, and provide links where they can access “how-to” details after the session.

The “and Life” Philosophy: Pets and babies help more teachers learn about technology than any trainer. Don’t hesitate to connect with participants’ lives outside of school. Invite them to share ways they can use what they are learning for personal goals. Also, remember they need to care about whatever they are learning – it needs to be relevant to their work, and ultimately, their life.

The Kindergarten Philosophy: Each positive experience a student has in kindergarten is a $1 deposit in their “love of learning” bank, but every negative experience is a $10 withdrawal. Be sure your participants enjoy your session, even if it means moving slowly. Also, be sure participants “practice with a purpose.” Remember, your job is still to help them be the best people they can be.3


  1. Thanks to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. This hook came out of a collaborative brainstorming session with her.
  2. Credit for the Lead Learner philosophy goes to Mike Lawrence, executive director of CUE. He may also be responsible for the proverb, which he cites often. ;)
  3. Thanks to Eva Wagner, kindergarten teacher, professional developer, and frequent inspiration to the author. (She’s also his wife.)

Twelve Tips for Leading Professional Development

  1. Prepare your materials (handouts and online support, including an evaluation) prior to the training.
  2. Test everything and rehearse prior to the training.
  3. Arrive early to setup and greet participants as they arrive.
  4. Start on time by welcoming participants. (Introduce yourself and the topic of the workshop. Include a hook or demo to build interest.)
  5. Provide a welcome activity. (This should get participants thinking, talking, and introducing themselves. It is best if this is related to the topic at hand and to a greater emotional connection beyond the topic.)
  6. Make the presentation exciting and focus on learning by doing.
  7. Use the resources (knowledge and creativity) people bring into the room.
  8. Check for understanding and adjust on the fly.
  9. Wrap up with a reflection activity. (This may be related to the welcome activity, content covered during the event, or participants’ next steps.)
  10. Allow time at the end of the training for the participants to complete the online evaluation. (This should be during the training, not after the end time.)
  11. Be sure participants have your contact information for follow up.
  12. Review the evaluation responses and adjust for the future.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a PDF of the article as it appeared in OnCUE.

7 Responses to “Passion and Professional Development: Four Philosophies For Lead Learners”

  1. EDITing in the Dark » Passion and PD Says:

    […] Mark over at Edtechlife has an interesting post that quotes Sara Armstrong of OnCUE. The quote has crystallized some of the thing that I’ve been thinking about in terms of teaching in general and the approach that we have taken in Education and the approach that I plan to take in Science. Similar to the “forgetting curve” post yesterday, it’s passion and application that seem to be ever so important in any manner of teaching or professional development. We all know that people who are forced to attend PD never get anything more than a pen out of the event, but those that are motivated, even though they haven’t gained anything practical have at the very least had their passion fueled. I think we’ve also seen how that if you are not really keen on teaching the topic in question, it’s not going to be as good as if you are really “into” it. Very much like how actors who aren’t “buying in” don’t really deliver well, when the instructor on stage doesn’t believe in what is being taught, the process is considerably more painful than it needs to be for everyone involved. Afterall, the greatest problem that we face is how to make our staff and students care at all about what they are teaching or being taught. […]

  2. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » The Impact of Web 2.0 Says:

    […] Our conversation started out with a lot of talking about CUE and CUEtoYOU Professional Development Services, but soon moved into discussion about topics I’m passionate about, such as the “lead learner” philosophy and the “face to face” philosophy – and of course, Two-Way Teaching. They asked a lot of questions about how Web 2.0 technologies might extend traditional conferences – and how something like the k12onlineconference might compliment something like the CUE conference. The podcast (and text chat transcript) are now available: Women of Web 2.0.14 (Via […]

  3. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Link: Towards Passion-Based Conversations Says:

    […] Some time ago I linked to a post by Will Richardson about passionate learning that caught my eye. The concept eventually found it’s way into my thoughts on passion and professional development. Konrad apparently heard Will Richardson mention the idea in a presentation, and he blogged about it, too. Now, he’s introduced the importance of passionate conversations in the learning process: We need to learn how to sustain conversations that are initiated by the students themselves, not [just] conversations that emerge from the official Ministry documents or our own interests and beliefs. I think that passion-based learning will help, but I also know that there is much more that I can do. It seems to me that this new approach will require that we revisit Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Perhaps we could refine the notion of “instructional conversation” (Tharp & Gallimore, 1991) where the teacher is involved in “assisted performance.” This approach is not perfect but I think it gives us a good place to start: “To truly teach, one must converse; to truly converse is to teach” (Tharp & Gallimore, 1991). […]

  4. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Passion and Professional Development (NECC Submission) Says:

    […] Here is the fourth of five submissions I made for NECC 2008. This session is the biggest departure from past presentations and workshops I’ve lead, but it’s not entirely new – it’s based on an article I wrote for OnCUE last year. (I blogged the article back in December.) Also, of course, I try to put these ideas into practice with each workshop I do. If this is accepted, it will be the first time I lead a session focused on sharing these ideas. Incidentally, unlike the previous submission, this is a return to a focus on professional development for me – rather than focusing directly on teaching. But, I think the content would be appropriate for use in a k-12 or higher-ed classroom as well as in professional development situations. Let me know what you think. […]

  5. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Passion and Professional Development… Online Says:

    […] As I read the assigned reading for this week I was reminded of an article I wrote a while back. It was based on my experience as a professional developer, and I called it “Passion and Professional Development: Four Philosophies For Lead Learners.”It was focused primarily on face-to-face learning. In fact, one of the philosophies was called “the face-to-face philosophy.” However, many of the principles carry over into online facilitation. I’ve structured my comparison and contrast of face-to-face and online teaching based on these philosophies. […]

  6. Unleashing Student Passion « 21st Century Collaborative Says:

    […] and pairing it down, he was able to take some key ideas and phrases and work them into a piece he was writing. How efficient is that?The key to true innovation is engaging collaboration. And the key to […]

  7. Educational Technology and Life » Blog Archive » Effective Professional Development Says:

    […] Passion and Professional Development More: […]