Engaging Educators in PD: ASCD Master Class


Teachers know that a classroom with engaged students is an exciting environment in which learning flourishes. Yet engaging students in learning is one of the biggest challenges educators face today.

The same principle holds true when it comes to professional development. When educators are engaged in their professional development experience, they are learning new ways to support the success of each learner. It was this thinking that led to the creation of our new interview series, ASCD Master Class.

Available in the award-winning PD In Focus® online professional development tool, this new video series features some of the best minds in education engaging in a spirited and honest dialogue about the issues facing educators right now. PD In Focus is a cost-effective, web-based professional development tool from ASCD that provides hundreds of hours of highly effective videos, related resources, activities, and insight from some of the most important voices in education today.

ASCD Master Class aims to inspire reflection, spark discussion, and create debate around some of the biggest topics in education, such as instructional leadership and student achievement. For each episode, the criteria for a successful from this spirited discourse among the leading minds in education are, “Did the conversation make me think about something in a new way?” and “Was I drawn into what they were saying?”

The key, we knew, was finding the right host. We needed someone who could be the voice of the audience, who would ask the experts the sorts of questions you would ask. Finding someone with both a passion for education and the interviewing skills to keep the conversation fresh and lively was no small task, but after an extensive search, we found the right fit with Claudio Sanchez. One of the best educational journalists working today, Claudio is a former school teacher best known for his work on NPR’s All Things Considered. He knows just how to ask the questions that take the conversation one step deeper.

The driving principle behind ASCD Master Class is “authenticity.” We tape each episode live, with little to no edits after the filming (and even then, only for time, never for content). In other words, what is said during the taping is what you see in the episode, unfiltered. Further, our instructions to Claudio cover only the most basic of guidelines—a broad topic area to focus on, the name and general background of the guest, and the show’s time limit. From there, Claudio is empowered to do what he does best—investigate and ask. There are no pre-set talking points, no set destination to reach. Claudio and his guests, who so far have included James Stronge, Yvette Jackson, and Mike Schmoker, have free range to work through tough ideas. The joy of ASCD Master Class—what makes it entertaining—is watching the discussions unfold.

We’ve just finished taping the fifth episode of ASCD Master Class, which focused on leadership topics. The first four episodes can be streamed now through PD In Focus; a DVD version will be available later this spring. We’re already working on a second ASCD Master Class series focused on technology and education—the promises and perils. It’s a major topic ripe for serious discussion, so I am looking forward to some vigorous conversations.

Besides education technology, what topics would you like to engage in with ASCD Master Class? Do you have a particular issue you’d like to see covered?

David Hargis, ASCD Content Development David Hargis is the Director of Content Development at ASCD.