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.