Relevant, individualized and evidence-based professional development is an important goal for all school districts in British Columbia. When it comes to planning effective Professional Development activities to help staff who support students who use Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) the planning process can be even more challenging. Recently, Stacey Harpell, a SET-BC Tier 3 consultant, collaborated with the SD#5 team to facilitate a Tier 3 training opportunity for district and school team members who wanted to increase their capacity to support AAC solutions.
The SD#5 District Request for service this year included a request for Touch Chat training for their Speech Language Pathologists. However, during the Collaborative Action Plan (CAP) process in the fall of 2015, further discussions revealed the team’s interest in focusing on their future directions, current needs and limitations for the students who use AAC. As the Tier 3 training day drew nearer, the district team surveyed its attendees about their specific student issues and created a list of concerns. These were shared with Stacey beforehand allowing her to devise a facilitation strategy which would provide the district with a number of training activities and discussion options specifically suited to the attendees’ needs and concerns.
Stacey arrived on the day with the attendees’ issues categorized into 5 main topic areas. Each topic area was presented as an overview and the attendees then used anonymous voting to choose their first and second choice topic areas. This organizational strategy followed an adapted “unconference” format for professional learning events. When the votes were tabulated, attendees had chosen a topic around AAC training support for staff with limited SLP supports. The current research in that area was presented with the SLPs then developing individual scenarios and case studies which led to the creation of a goal based document to implement the various scenarios. A follow up day was planned for three months after this initial session so accountability and growth in AAC implementation could be measured.
By collaborating on the Tier 3 training plan for the day and keeping capacity building as a central goal, the individualized educational opportunity provided successfully met both the individual participants’ needs as well as the overall district support needs. We look forward to hearing how the training helped with AAC support in SD#5 but also hope other districts may be interested in this type of Tier 3 training support in the future.