Media & Techniques

Why Professional Development Is Better When Done With Friends

Members of the AOE team at the NAEA 2015 Conference.

Have you ever considered tackling a professional development class with your entire PLN or even your entire art team?

Erin Meyers, a veteran High School Art Teacher in rural New Jersey, recently convinced her colleagues to do just that!

headshot of Erin

She and three colleagues enrolled in a brand new AOE class, Studio: Ceramics. While each teacher read, responded, and created assignments individually, they (brilliantly!) dedicated one afternoon a week to stay after school and work together, taking an online learning experience and giving it a true studio feel.

I asked Erin about the nuts and bolts of her team’s PD experience. As it turns out, she LOVED it! I can’t say I blame her. Who among us wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to create art alongside our friends and colleagues again? It makes me long for my college studio days…

Members of the AOE team at the NAEA 2015 Conference.
Members of the AOE team learning together at the NAEA 2015 Conference.


If you are interested in organizing a PD experience for your PLN or art department, be sure to read Erin’s detailed account included below.


A piece Erin made in the class.
A piece Erin created in the Studio: Ceramics class.


Q: How and why did all 3 of you decide to take this class together?

My colleagues and I ended up taking the courses together because I have been encouraging them to take online classes through AOE for over a year now. I took three AOE courses last year and found them to be both fun and applicable to my everyday job as an art teacher. I received my Master’s degree in Education, however, I found much of the content that I learned to be either geared toward  the elementary level or else not easily applicable to teaching art. The current trend in education seems to push for more creative, right-brain, STEM learning in the regular education classroom, but AOE classes raise the bar for teaching and learning in an environment where creative learning is the foundation.

My colleagues were not completely sold on AOE courses until I announced that studio classes were now being offered. That caught their attention. Where we live, one has to travel at least an hour away to take any studio art graduate courses. As any art teacher would, we all became super excited about the idea of earning graduate credits for the exploration of our own, original artwork!

Q: What were some of the benefits of taking a class with your colleagues?

Taking graduate courses with my colleagues was really beneficial in that we enjoyed staying after school one day a week to work together. In truth, we operated similarly to the way that toddlers engage in ‘parallel play,’ since we all had our own ideas and work in our own styles. But it was really fun and interesting to see the final result of each others’ work. We all ended up with very different solutions to the same problem. Of course, we respect each other as fellow teachers, but I felt that our respect for each other as fine artists grew as well.

Q: What did you enjoy about the class?

I really enjoyed the AOE studio classes, even more than the other AOE classes I have taken. I am psyched for the Drawing class, and whatever else comes down the pike. (I would love a painting class!) As a seasoned art teacher, I found much more value in reflecting on and discussing my personal artistic process with the new skills/techniques, and what I would have done differently for improved success. As art teachers, those dry runs with new methods or media are crucial, and that is the area where we work out all the kinks in preparation for our demos. It was good that the course allowed us to do that. The best thing about the class was getting to make art and feeling my personal need for creative work being fed and fulfilled. My inspiration flowed over to my students, and they loved seeing what I had to make every week!

If you are interesting in trying an AOE class with your team, make sure to give our Customer Happiness Guru a call or send her an email. She will make sure you and your colleagues are enrolled in the same section, working happily together, just like those cherished college days!

Have you ever attempted a professional development course with colleagues? How did it go? 

Does this idea appeal to you or do you prefer to work on your own?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Heather Crockett

Heather Crockett is AOEU’s Chief Academic Officer and a former AOEU Writer and art educator. She is an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment.

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