Your favorite professional development opportunity

This month’s topic for Continuing the Conversation focuses on discussing your favorite professional development opportunity that you participated in during your career. These could be online for face to face courses, a seminar, institute, fellowship or workshop—is it still available? How do people apply? Why should they apply?

I have been fortunate in my career—and have traveled to many different locations for professional development opportunities, taken many online classes, and engaged with many outstanding educators and scientists.  In considering my favorite I thought back to conversations with colleagues throughout the years and had many fond memories pop into my head. There are those friends and colleagues I met in Costa Rica while exploring inquiry based instruction within rainforest ecosystems; one of my friends who I spent two weeks with nearly fifteen years ago as part of a NASA NEWMAST workshop in Maryland; as well as the many educators I have met and become connected with at summer institutes or national conferences.  Each experience in itself gave me insight into new pedagogical practices, assisted in developing content expertise as well as building a network of colleagues many of whom I still interact with regularly.  While there are many PD opportunities that I have been involved with throughout the years, in hindsight all of them seem to abide by some of the guidelines and recommendations that have come out in reports in recent years.

These reports provide information on:

The aspects that my favorite (okay favorites) professional development opportunity incorporated included these three recommendations—and I should state before this report became available. They include the experiences in the Costa Rican Rainforest, the in-depth learning about astrobiology from an online course offered through Montana State University, and a fellowship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.

So what was your favorite professional development opportunity and why?  Is it still available and how would others apply?

The Leading Edge is a blog that asks those involved in science education leadership whether that be administrators, policy makers, supervisors, state leaders to continue the conversation on something that was presented in the recent issue of The Leaders Letter, an e-newsletter that is a joint project of the National Science Teachers Association and the National Science Educational Leadership Association. To sign up to receive future issues of the Leaders Letter, click here To see archived copies of the e-Newsletter, please click here.

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  1. Bev DeVore-Wedding
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I have so many favorite PD opportunities that to narrow it down to one or two . . .TESI-an Earth Science Institute at Michigan State U., Houghton MI, 2005-2007. Three summers of wonderful learning, sharing and meeting colleagues who truly shaped the next 7 years of my professional life and personal friendships.
    TESI V gave us five weeks of hands on learning about mining, metals through native copper deposits in the UP as well as meeting persons who still influence me professionally. The last summer, 2007, was a summative meeting of all five cohorts of TESI. Wow! Powerful teachers and friends to this day.
    A second masters degree from Montana State University online, 1998-2000, definitely gave me a nudge to data-driven, standards based teaching and learning. People I met then still cross my professional path.
    Last and certainly not least, NSELA summer leadership institute on Science Literacy also affected me in terms of techniques and technology to engage students in reading scientifically as well as becoming scientific literate citizens.
    These three encouraged me to step beyond my comfort zone, incorporate new methodologies in my classroom, how to use data to make curriculum and student decisions, work with other professional educators, scientists-theoretical and applied, and have continued to push me further professionally.
    AND I had a lot of fun too!

  2. Amy Banks
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I was fortunate to be chosen to participate in the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. If you teach science and/or math to children in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade DO NOT MISS THIS. Start with ALL expenses paid, then imagine a wonderful venue (the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey), and some of the most amazing PD I’ve ever had an opportunity to experience along side some of the most energized, positive teachers I’ve ever worked with. Applications for the summer of 2013 are closed, but check out the website ( and get set to apply for 2014.

  3. Christine Royce
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Amy – it sounds like you had a great experience at the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. Is there any specific aspect of the experience you have actually implemented in your classroom this year?

  4. Hyacinth Schaeffer
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I will be teaching a pre-service course from January – March 2013 for elementary teachers who have identified their ‘specialization’ to be science. One of the topics we will be discussing is ongoing professional development and lifelong learning. I will be asking them to check out the NSTA site as a starting point for connecting with other science teachers and pursuing their own PD. What suggestions would you provide to this eager new group of teachers to help them along the way in their own learning?

  5. Mary B.
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for reinforcing the idea that PD is an ongoing process for teachers! The November 6 Ms Mentor blog listed some of the resources available via the NSTA website. I would also recommend the NSTA Science Objects, which are “two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach.”

  6. Amy Banks
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Hyacinth– THANK YOU for training new elementary science teachers!
    The NSTA web site is filled with great stuff, including web seminars, self-paced science content modules (SciPacks, SciGuides, Science Objects), and online science content courses. There is also a online community forum available through NSTA’s Learning Center. Here teachers can post questions and receive support and ideas from science teachers all over the world.
    I have also taken some online courses through PBS TeacherLine and found that, while they don’t have a huge selection of science courses, those that they do offer are worthwhile.
    I would also encourage your students to attend an NSTA conference. The schedule is on the NSTA website and there are regional conferences all over the country.
    NASA offers some online technology PD. I took two courses on podcasting and vodcasting this summer and was amazed at the resources for teachers on the NASA website. They also offer wonderful summer enrichment teacher PD “camps.” More info on what they offer can be found on the NASA website.
    Finally, I have lately been following a Twitter hashtag chat, #elemsci. They meet every other Thursday at 9pmEST. It’s another fun way to connect with other science teachers.
    Hooray for science!!

  7. Amy Banks
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I DID love my time at the MEMTA. Everyone there was so enthusiastic. The biggest lesson I took away and definitely have brought into my classroom is the idea that kids MUST have plenty of time for hands-on science. For example, when it is time for us to begin our unit on electricity, I hand each pair of students a AA battery, a piece of insulated electrical wire, and a 2.5 V light bulb. Their job is to make the bulb light. Usually in less than an hour everyone has managed to figure out that they must put things together in a certain way…THEY figure it out. MEMTA convinced me that science is often best taught by having students investigate and discover the ideas for themselves…I’m just there to keep them safe, give them the materials, and encourage them to try again! Once they’ve made their observations or completed their investigation, then I can help them share and refine their ideas and lead discussions about vocabulary and specifics.
    By the way, I would suggest MEMTA to all of Hyacinth’s students.

  8. Christine Royce
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Amy hit on the exact recommendations that I was going to suggest as well!!! Also since they will be elementary teachers – I would suggest having them look at the Outstanding Trade Books in Science list which recently came out.

  9. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    The NSTA conferences have sessions for PreK-Grade 2 teachers too. I found the Council for Elementary Science International sessions especially informative and fun. Don’t miss their Share-a-Thon’s and sessions.

  10. Cindy Cunningham
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m looking forward to the NSTA conference in San Antonio in April 2013. I have never attended and I’m slightly overwhelmed with what workshops, presentations, etc.. that I should participate in. I am a K-4 Science Literacy Coach(1st year in this position). Are there any suggestions on where to begin. It is my goal to take back any new knowledge and share it with my Professional Learning Community at school.

  11. Christine Royce
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    That is great that you will be attending the conference in San Antonio!!!! You will be amazed at the quality and quantity of resources you will find. If this is your first conference, my first recommendation is to attend the First Timers session which will be held on Thursday morning from 8-9 a.m. It will be listed in your conference program. It gives an overview and some tips for “newbie” conference attendees. In preparing ahead of time, you can also search the sessions using the browswer found at which will allow you to use key words to narrow down potential possible sessions. I’d also recommend having several sessions at the same time just in case you get to one and it’s not quite what you thought it might be – have a back up one to attend. I am sure others will share recommendations, but as the conference draws closer, feel free to post back here with other questions you have and I am sure we can get them answered.


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