Collider – An MVIFI XLR8r: Reimagining “Faculty Work Day” #MVCollider

Why do we manage and lead our professional learning days like we do? What if MVIFI (the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation) reimagined our October “faculty work day” and ran it as an in-house conference?

In this post from Team #MVIFI, you can find the following:

  1. A bit of background about how we decided on and designed the Collider workshop model. We offer this process section for other schools who might be wondering how to reimagine their own professional development days. And we’d love to learn more about how you’ve done similar work.
  2. A Storify archive of the Twitter traffic during Collider – at the hashtag #MVCollider.
  3. A sampling of the feedback being solicited and gathered so that we can iterate and improve for next time.

Background – Decisions and Designs

In Warren Berger’s book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, he wrote:

Just asking why without taking any action may be a source of stimulating thought or conversation, but it is not likely to produce change. (Basic formula: Q (questioning) + A (action) = I (innovation). On the other hand, Q – A = P (philosophy). In observing how questioners tackle problems, I noticed a pattern in many of the stories:

  • Person encounters a situation that is less than ideal; asks Why.
  • Person begins to come up with ideas for possible improvements/solutions–with such ideas usually surfacing in the form of What If possibilities.
  • Person takes one of those possibilities and tries to implement it or make it real; this mostly involves figuring out How. (pp. 31-32)

Months ago, our division leadership team – called “Terrain 2.0” – decided that our October professional learning day (what some schools term a “faculty work day”) should provide focus to future-making work that we want to pursue in the fields of humanities, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths), and other strategic initiatives that thread through our practices as a school – as detailed in our MV Continuum and our iPlan17. Back in May and June, we made that decision, and then we put it to the back burner for awhile.

In early September, the MVIFI nucleus team moved the item to a front burner on the stove and asked how we might reimagine our upcoming PL day at MVPS (Mount Vernon Presbyterian School). So we combined our questioning with action, and we collaborated with the Terrain 2.0 team to create a new innovation to this invaluable day together as a faculty and staff.

To make a long story short(er), the Terrain 2.0 team (division heads, heads of learning and innovation, Chief Integration Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Learning and Innovation Officer, and Head of School) capitalized on some earlier meetings to define our division-specific goals for the year – our strategic imperatives growing from our iPlan17. From these organizational, goal-setting meet-ups, we then brainstormed about 70-80 possible topics for sessions that would advance our collective vision while employing our design principles and practices of learning (see the “Design” segment of our MV Continuum).

Using this board of 70-80 brainstormed ideas, the MVIFI nucleus team reviewed some previous understandings about what we’ve heard and seen our faculty say about their desires for professional learning. Through those filters, we engaged our convergent thinking to cluster and narrow the potential session ideas. We had promised the Terrain 2.0 team that we would have a next-iteration prototype ready for the following Terrain 2.0 meeting, so we delivered a proposed structure for the day, a set of 17 sessions, proposed session facilitators, and some early ideas for session descriptions and session-format objectives.

After agreeing on our in-house conference structure and naming it Collider, the MVIFI team set ourselves to generating the Collider Eventbrite page that would facilitate faculty choosing their sessions and crafting the communications that would frame the faculty understanding of what we were constructing for our PL day. Embedded below is a Google doc that housed our mid-res prototype of the program schedule, and the session descriptions.

For the two weeks leading up to Collider, MVIFI utilized MailChimp to create communications about the event. We used MailChimp to give a more professional and polished design to our communications, and this is the same basis for why we used Eventbrite for registration. Attending a conference and receiving official conference registration and communication materials makes the experience feel a bit more special – not just like another day at work or school. So we took this “step above” tactic to add a little something more special for our faculty and staff.

If you’re interested in the Collider MailChimp messages, you can find them here:

#MVCollider Twitter Feed as Storify


Feedback – Early Indicators

Even before the day of Collider, we began receiving “feedforward.” About twenty email notes arrived from various faculty and staff thanking MVIFI for collaborating with MVPS to redesign the PL day. People seemed to really appreciate the choice factor (“Curiosity and passion drive learning”). Also, a number of people cited the session sizes – that they were excited to have close-knit conversations that would allow them to have voice and take action in the continued implementations of strategic initiatives at School (“Relationships are foundational for learning”). While we knew that Collider was debuting as a minimum viable product, in many ways, we appreciated the warm feedback that seemed to point that this was a move in a right direction.

For those who wanted to enjoy some BBQ and continued fellowship before the long weekend, MVIFI hosted a BBQ debrief. About thirty people attended, and folks exchanged stories at small tables as they recounted a session moment or something in particular that they had learned or wondered during the morning. Then, Trey and T.J., members of the MVIFI nucleus team, led the entire gathering through an exercise of “I like…, I wish…, I wonder… (or What if…).”

And, finally, we are gathering feedback via a Survey Monkey tool. Here’s a link to a PDF version, if you’re interested in how we structured our feedback tool.

It’s probably a bit too early to make firm conclusions, but here are a couple of glimpses into the responses we are receiving from faculty and staff:


And here’s a sampling of some of the early-responders’ narrative feedback, given in response to this question: “Imagine you are with friends and they say, ‘Hey, I heard Mount Vernon hosted a new kind of PL day called Collider. [It could happen!] What did you think? How was it?’ How do you respond? Tell us that brief story.”

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