Sunday, August 13, 2017

Checklist for Effective PD

Having great content is important when delivering a professional learning opportunity but it is not enough. What is also important is to ensure opportunities are well organized and leave participants feeling they got exactly what they expected.  

Here are some considerations, followed by an explanation of each, that will enable you to accomplish just that.



Send out a calendar invite to intended participants. Include the full address, cross streets, directions to finding the entrance and room. Send a follow up before the event asking those who haven't RSVP'd to do so and asking those who have RSVP'd if their plans have changed.

Name badges

Have name badges. At the very least have the stick on kind. If you forget to do that, have people fold a paper and place on their desk with their name/affiliation. If possible get fancy and have a name badge or card that has relevant information for the day i.e. WiFi password, hashtag for the event, participant Twitter handle.

Check Your Tech

Get to your room early and check that your projector and speakers work before the class starts. Also check that the WiFi is working and that all digital resources and sites can be accessed. Ensure there are power strips so participants can charge phones and devices. If participants needed to bring headphones or devices, notify them in advance. If participants need to set up accounts, in some cases it may make sense to do this in advance so instructional time is not spent on account creation.

Informational Charts

Have information posted in the room that participants can refer to. This will avoid interrupting the day. Information should include:
  • Computer log in
  • Program sign in
  • WiFi access
  • URL for day’s agenda and materials
  • Facilitator names / Twitter handles
  • Bathroom location

Technical considerations:
  • When posting paper adhere in at least two corners. The center tape ups tend to curl in and the signage becomes unattractive and at worse unnoticeable.
  • Try to grab attention with what you post. A simple brand logo with a touch of color can help.  

Agenda / Digital Materials

In advance of the session send participants the agenda which includes your presentation, evaluation survey, log in info, WiFi, and all other materials and directions. This way there are no surprises. Participants know exactly what to expect and when.  They don’t have to worry about taking notes on your presentation, instead they already have it and can begin making meaning. Remember to have a link to the agenda posted in the room for anytime, easy access. Make sure that your agendas are posted an accessible digitally after the class in an easy to find online space. For example, create a Google Sheet with all classes and agendas that can be embedded in the website of your department, school, or company. Check out these tips for creating a great agenda here and here.


  • Double-sided tables:
    If you are serving food, don’t waste time with a single-sided table. Pull the table away from the wall and allow two rows to form on each side of the table. This way you get through the line much more quickly. If there are many people in the room, plan for participants to get lunch in shifts to avoid long lines.
  • Special dietary requests
    Put food for those with dietary requests in a separate area. This way you minimize the risk of not having food for those who requested it. If you are serving breakfast, remember to have non-dairy options for coffee creamer and cream cheese.   

Get Social

Professional learning experiences provide a terrific opportunity to celebrate the work of the organizer and participants. However, this requires organizers to have social media hashtags and accounts prominently displayed. Make sure this information is on your agenda, posted in the room, and on slides. Prepare to do a wrap of takeaways at the end of the day and consider live-streaming it on Periscope or Facebook live.  

Build Community

Create an online community for participants. This is a place where they can share information before (Intros), during (polls, question responses), and after (challenges, successes, sharing work) the day.


Greet Participants

Set the tone with a positive greeting. Presenters and all members involved in planning the day should greet participants and let them know how excited they are to have them become a part of the opportunity. Help participants engage in conversation with one another over coffee, tea, fruit. You know the drill: What brought you here today? How did you find out about this opportunity?  

Have information posted on how to log in to the computers and sign into the program, but allow this to occur in a casual and stress-free manner. This cordial start, gets the day off on a positive note.

Sign in

There are too many times where the sign in becomes a distraction.  Don’t let that happen to you. Make sign in invisible.  There are many ways to do that.  
  • Name badges / cards or folders
    Have participants take their folders or name badge. The ones left over are absent
  • Icebreaker
    Have participants answer a digital or analog icebreaker that includes their name and affiliation. Use this to record who is in attendance.
  • Physical sign in
    If a physical sign in is necessary, keep these tips in mind.  
    • Don’t print double-sided
    • Alphabetize the list
    • Spread out on multiple pages to avoid a line for one piece of paper
    • Place the sign in outside the classroom. Participants provide their signature prior to walking into the room. Consider splitting the alphabet in half and having the first half of the sign in on the left side of the entrance and the rest on the right side. Make sure the entrance to the room is not blocked.

Put Participants at Ease

Too often presenters point to the fact that “there’s a lot to get through…” or say things like “in the interest of time…”


This stresses out participants. Less is more. Put participants at ease and instead assure them that they have exactly what they need when they leave your opportunity to be successful.  

Engage & Interact
Sit and git learning can be a real yawn. Make sure your participants have opportunities to interact and do hands on work. If you're showing a video, incorporate techniques like frame, focus, and follow up (WNET guidelines). If you're presenting, provide a back channel for participants to share ideas and reflect. You can check out more ideas for engaging participants in this article.

Instill Confidence

Let the participants know you are right on track and ready to put what they learned into practice with statements like:
  • "After our time together you'll know exactly how to..."
  • "We are right on track..."  
This way you’re focusing on what they have learned. The audience is assured that they got what they came for out of your time together.

End on time

It goes without saying you must not end late. Doing so shows lack of respect for the time of participants and poor planning. On the other hand, you also don’t want to end early. Too often presenters will talk about “getting participants out early.” Don’t do that. When you do, you are devaluing the experience you are providing for participants. You have also misled them. You gave an end time and now you are saying in essence, that something you planned to share with them is no longer important.  


Evaluate How'd you do? To answer that, review your evaluations. Google forms provides a free and useful platform you can use to survey your participants. Best practice is to have participants complete evaluations during class and have a link to the evaluation at the end of your agenda.


If you and your participants used a session hashtag to capture the day, it becomes easy to curate your experience using a tool like Storify.  If you have a savvy participant, who likes social media, you may even have a class volunteer interested in doing this. Recap your event highlights which ideally include great quotes, photos, videos, and resources.  

Follow up

Email participants a follow up to provide evidence of attendance, summarize the learning, and include the curated recap of the event. Remind them to visit your online community and share some enticing content that they may want to go there to check out right away.

What do you think? Have you experienced learning opportunities that could be improved if some of the items on this checklist were included? Have any of these strategies worked for you? Are these strategies you would try when you present? Is there something missing?
This article was written with contributions from Clay Smith and numerous other educators who are members of the #NYCSchoolsTech group.

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