A year ago last January, I did an internship at Nancie Atwell's school, The Center for Teaching and Learning, in Edgecomb, Maine. Despite a big nor'easter snow storm that canceled school on the first day, it was one of the top professional development experiences of my career (the other one was the Northern Virginia Writing Project summer institute). I've always been drawn to the workshop approach to teaching reading and writing, and I've always used some form of it in my 6th grade English class, so having the opportunity to spend a week at Atwell's school was inspirational.
I hoped to come away with a much more practical understanding of how to implement an Atwell-style workshop in my class, and I was not disappointed, but an unexpected benefit of the week was in how they structured the internship for us. A couple of months before going, we received a reading packet that gave us an overview of the philosophy and program of the school. Once on site at CTL, our role was to observe and take notes on Nancie and Glenn Powers, the grade 5-6 teacher, at work with their students. At the end of each day, we spent 45 minutes with them going over what we saw and heard and asking any questions we had.
By the second day, I realized what a powerful professional development model this was. Why don't more school systems do this? A master teacher provides a general explanation of and the research behind a particular teaching technique, unit, or activity; other teachers actually come into the classroom to see it implemented, making observations and taking notes, and then time is set aside at the end to debrief. Later on, there would be follow-up support for teachers as they implemented the ideas and strategies in their own classrooms.
Or, I guess we could just go with another powerpoint presentation.