If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this: There is never enough time in the day to accomplish all that I hope to do, both personally and professionally. I always feel like I’m trying to beat the clock and I’ll often joke in a professional learning session that the clocks must be broken because they continually move too quickly.

As someone who truly loves designing professional learning, I tend to want to include too much into each of my sessions. It’s such a fine line between planning too much and overwhelming teachers and doing too little and boring them. So, how do you ensure that your sessions focus on what they NEED to know as well as what they WANT to know, but still fit it all in? The FAQ document.

As you likely know, FAQ standards for frequently asked questions and FAQ’s can come in many different forms: a printed handout, a section on a website, even a playlist of videos. These FAQ documents cover typical questions a user might have about a topic to ensure that all questions are answered right when users are asking them.

I started thinking about how a FAQ document could support professional learning, especially the challenge I have in fighting the clock, and I’ve started collaboratively creating FAQ documents in the professional development sessions I’m leading. Let me explain:

Before a session begins, I send out a shared document asking teachers to document their most pressing questions about the topic at hand. If I can, I send this document out well in advance of the session so I can use teachers’ responses to help design the session. But if not, I ask teachers to spend some time adding their questions as an opening move to the session instead. This gives teachers time to settle into the session, get their mind focused on the content of the session and even help set an intention for learning. Here’s a sample of a FAQ document I created for a session on virtual instructional coaching:

Next, I invite teachers to keep this FAQ document open on a tab of their device to refer to throughout our time together. Sometimes, teachers’ questions are answered during the session. In those cases, teachers jot down a quick response to their own question to acknowledge it was explored during our time together and add their own contributions to the other questions posted, too.

Other questions might not be answered in that particular session, which is where the beauty of the FAQ document shines through. Once the session is over, I return to the document to view the questions that remain and add in responses to ensure teachers’ questions are honored and answered, tagging the particular teacher who posted it. I might quickly write a text response right in the document, link teachers to an online blog, article or resource or even create an on-demand screencast exploring the question instead. Either way, returning to this FAQ document ensures teachers’ questions are heard and the session ultimately met their wishes and needs.

But here’s the thing: Not only is the FAQ document a pretty terrific way to ensure all teachers’ needs are met during a professional learning session (even if the clock is ticking by too quickly), it’s the perfect way to archive learning and provide on-demand resources for teachers to refer back to. Curate all of your FAQ documents over time on a special segment of your website for easy access.

Now, not every professional learning session needs to have a FAQ page, so you might reserve this coaching tool for sessions when you know you have a lot of content, but little time. Or, save it for sessions that launch a new topic of study so you can see what’s on teachers’ mind right from the start, cultivating the document over multiple sessions. As with any coaching tool, use the FAQ strategically so that it meets your needs and offers teachers a new idea for doing the same with their own students.

If you’ve tried co-creating FAQ documents with teachers, I’d love to hear how it went! Share your experience and any great FAQ templates you’ve tried!

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