Writing a class description for your professional development class seems like the least important part. Just whip something up and you’re good, right?
I would argue this is the most important part of developing your class. After all, this is the first interaction you, as a teacher, will have with your class. Most often, decisions about whether or not they will take your class are made based on what your class description says. This is why I tell instructors to make sure their description is a good one.
Of course, I am a marketer and it’s all about perspective. Barb Schumacher, our professional development coordinator, would say it is the syllabus. But… she’s not writing this article, so we’ll stick with the class description as the most important part of your class.
Let’s continue our discussion on why writing a captivating class description is really important.
Pick a Class
I made up a fictitious class titled Behavior Interventions and wrote descriptions for two classes.
There are two schools offering this class but you can only choose to take one of the classes. (Who has the time or money to take both?) All the information you obtain in these two classes will be exactly the same though, the instructor may present the information differently.
The information in the following two descriptions is all you know about the class. Based on these descriptions, pick the class you want to take.
This class is intended to teach you how to find resources and behavior management tools to help with difficult student behavior. The instructor will present information on bullying, excessive student tardiness, and other troublesome behaviors.
Learn ways to help your students manage their behavior in and out of the classroom. We will examine the root causes of bullying, excessive student tardiness, and other troublesome behaviors. You will take away tips, resources, and behavior management tools you can implement in your classroom right away!
Now take a moment to reflect on why you chose the class you did. I want you to have a really good idea of your reasons for choosing that class before we move on.
Did I Guess Right?
If I had to guess, you probably picked Class 2. Am I right?
Obviously, there is some margin for error and some of you probably picked Class 1 but here’s why most of you likely picked Class 2.
The description I wrote for Class 1 is passive. The general feeling of the post is dry and not very inviting. You know you will learn something, but it sounds a bit like the instructor will offer a plain, if not, boring lecture.
Upon reading the description again, I noticed it left me feeling as though I was going to be taught how to find my own resources but not actually taught anything tangible. It was not intentionally written this way, but is reflective of a lot of class descriptions I see. I assume, in most cases, this is not how instructors want potential participants to view their classes.
What makes Class 2 more appealing?
In the second example, I took nearly all the same information about the class and amped it up a bit. I made the description more active by describing what the participant can expect to take away from this class.
Describe what the participant can expect to take away from the class.
Starting the description with a verb like learn, is a more active sentence structure. Immediately, the reader’s brain is engaged in finding out what it is they will learn. And, don’t worry about adding “You will” to the first sentence. The “you” is implied.
In addition, the description is written in a problem-solving or solution-finding way which tends to be more positive. Readers may get the feeling that the instructor of this course is more engaging and more willing to help teachers find solutions to their teaching challenges.
As an instructor, you may have a lively and active class but using a description like Class 1 does not adequately describe your class. I encourage you to write more active and engaging descriptions like Class 2.
Your full class description can, and most likely will, be longer than the descriptions above, but consider this; most individuals don’t read more than 170 words and in some cases no more than 140 characters unless they are really interested in something. So, make sure your most important points are as succinct as possible, and lead with those points or statements. If you choose to write a longer class description, don’t forget to write a shortened version we can use for marketing.
The last point I would like to make is about enrollment. Over the years, I have noticed most of the classes with really good descriptions tend to have higher enrollment. If you are interested in getting more enrollment in a class you are currently offering, regardless of whether it is a school/district exclusive class or open to all teachers, I suggest reviewing your class description. You may just find there are small changes you can make that have a huge impact on your enrollment.
Classes with really good descriptions tend to have higher enrollment.
Do you have additional tips for writing an effective and engaging class description? If so, tell us in the comments below. Also, let us know what makes you most excited to take a class. Read more about what to think about when designing a K-12 professional development class.
About the Author
In more than 14 years at NDSU, Jadrny has learned a lot about the professional development needs of k-12 teachers.
In this series of posts, she intends to pass along bits of wisdom from the professional development industry.
Let’s learn together!