Want to Leverage Teacher Expertise? Try PopUp PD.

I taught at Lincoln Heights Middle School in Morristown, Tennessee, for 10 years before becoming an assistant principal here – and it’s been amazing. The best part of my leadership role is that I get to continue collaborating around student learning with teachers, forging ahead on the path toward growth and high expectations for all students. 

Building a collaborative culture is a huge priority for our leadership team. We have about 60 educators on staff who work tirelessly to provide engaging on-grade level instruction for every kid every day – and they’re doing amazing things.

Three times a week, our leadership team holds collaborative conversations around data and notes areas of excellence we’ve seen in our recent classroom walkthroughs. Inevitably, one of our leaders will say something like, “Everyone on our staff needs to see what this teacher is doing.” And that’s how “Pop-Up PD” was born.

How Pop-Up PD Works

In short, we invite a teacher to lead a Pop-Up PD session on something effective they do with their students, then we set the date, make popcorn and learn from each other. 

These short PD sessions are held in the classroom of the presenting teacher, and each teacher decides how they want to lead their sessions. We’ve had teachers share handouts, walk through a few PowerPoint slides, pass out copies of student work and play videos showcasing strategies in action.

For example, a team of math teachers demonstrated how they respond to formative assessment results over multiple class sessions, leading small groups of students based on their level of understanding. Another teacher showed a tweak she made to a research protocol that resulted in more student-led inquiry. A team shared how they invite students to track their own data, set goals, self-reflect and offer peer feedback. 

Pop-Up PD has been incredibly popular, with more than half the staff regularly showing up for each session. Now, teachers often hear about a peer’s practice and say, “Oh, we need a Pop-Up PD around this.” It’s been really cool to see teachers embrace it and take ownership of it. 

We’re Building Our Own Library of Best Practices

We also film the Pop-Up PD sessions, so teachers who miss them can still join the learning.  We house the sessions in Google Classroom, and it’s become our own site-specific learning ground as professional educators. During coaching conversations with teachers, we school leaders often point toward Pop-Up PD video recordings as the go-to resource to support teachers’ growth goals, saying something like, “I’m going to send you a link to this teacher’s video, then we can discuss it.” 

Pop-Up PD Sends the Message That We Can ALL Learn From Each Other

Pop-UP PD sessions are led by teachers who have been in the profession for 15 years as well as by teachers who have been in the profession for two years. What seems to be working really effectively is the cultivation of a shared belief that we all have the same goals and that we all have something to learn from each other. 

I think there are two reasons this practice is so powerful. One, it’s quick. Teachers take something away that they can utilize the very next day. And two, it’s teacher-led. It empowers the right people to do the right work at the right time. They learn from each other, go back to their classrooms and grow.