The Role of Self-Assessment in Professional Development

Self-assessment is a powerful tool that encourages learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Taking a moment to reflect on learned content and future application supports retention and promotes metacognition. I have used self-assessment with my students with great success. As I pondered what angle to approach ISTE Coaching Standard 4B this week (Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.), it struck me that I’d never been asked to assess myself following a professional development session. This realization led me to wonder what role self-assessment could play in effective professional development.

Self-assessment Process

Self-assessment is a three-part process. The first step requires reflection on the intended learning goals of a class, presentation, concept, etc. Juvenile learners may need to be prompted to reflect on a particular goal while adult learners should be able to pull out key points. Next, the learner should evaluate their own learning in conjunction with the goal: Was the goal met; how do you know? The final piece is reflecting on future learning: How will I apply this knowledge in the future? This is a simplified example, but I’ve found that most self-assessments follow this general structure.

Source: Dorothy Spiller Assessment Matters

Professional Development Applications

Despite research supporting the efficacy of self-assessment, few resources exist linking self-assessment explicitly to professional development. The research outlined below deals with two aspects of self-assessment: the type that happens immediately after a professional development session and a more extensive self-assessment that occurs later once teachers have had a chance to implement the knowledge. While a bit aged (1999), the rationale behind the study is solid and the results show that self-assessment can support teachers in implementing new content and strategies from workshops into their classroom practices.

The professional development at the focus of this study was entitled PEERS (Promoting Educational Excellence Regionally and Statewide) and was developed by the Nebraska Math and Science Initiative. The stated purpose of the PEERS 2-week long workshop was “to increase teacher understanding of mathematical and scientific processes, improve teaching methods in math and science, and create a supportive network for systemic change in the state.” (Wise et al., 1999) Teachers were placed into groups by grade-level and sessions were created and hosted by lead teachers who had undergone 5-week residential training institutes. Goals, activities, and lessons were tailored by grade-level. Participating teachers attended an additional follow-up session once the school year began.

As with many professional development workshops, teachers were asked at the end to evaluate the workshop’s effectiveness of meeting intended learning goals. While the immediate feedback was positive, the study’s authors recognized that this feedback “indicated that they were effective in delivering the intended content and experiences…this evaluation provided only indirect information regarding the extent to which teachers can use these new skills in their classrooms. It provided no information concerning whether the teachers had translated their workshop experiences into their classroom practices.” (Wise et al., 1999) This is such an important distinction to make!

To gather a complete picture of the effectiveness of the PEERS workshops, facilitators conducted a follow-up in the form of open-ended reflective questions. The questions were purposely designed to not copy the wording of the immediate assessment. Instead, evaluators coded the open-ended responses based on whether a workshop strategy was ‘explicitly stated or easily inferred.’ The following eight questions were used by teachers as a self-assessment:

  • 1. Please describe the new lesson/unit or teaching strategy you tried.
  • 2. How does this lesson/unit relate to the national standards or Nebraska frameworks?
  • 3. What were your objectives/goals in the lesson or strategy you used? (Why did you decide to use a new strategy or lesson?)
  • 4. Did students respond differently than in a typical lesson?
  • 5. What evidence did you see of differences in student learning or student attitudes? (Student comments? Student work? Assessments? Attach examples if desired.)
  • 6. Will you do this lesson again?
  • 7. What modifications will you make and why?
  • 8. What have you learned from this experience?

The following table shows the percentages of teachers across high school, middle school, and elementary who implemented aspects of the workshop goals into their classrooms:

Source: Vicki Wise et al “Using Teacher Reflective Practice…”

While many of the results were very encouraging, this study is also interesting in terms of the gaps that exist between immediate self-assessment at the end of a workshop and later implementation. For example, 84% of high school teachers reported at the end of the PEERS workshop that they were able to implement technology successfully into lessons. After the later reflection, only 48% of those teachers had actually made a change based on the workshop and included technology in a lesson.

Another benefit of this study is seeing a conclusive link between professional development and classroom practice. As stated by the authors, “This reflective practice approach to evaluation provides a clear link between a significant professional development activity and classroom practice.” (Wise et al., 1999)

Sources

Spiller, D. (2012, February). Assessment Matters: Self-Assessment and Peer
Assessment. Retrieved February 19, 2019, from University of Waikato
     website: https://kennslumidstod.hi.is/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/
     assessment-matters-self-assessment-and-peer-assessment.pdf

Wise, Vicki L.; Spiegel, Amy N.; and Bruning, Roger H., “Using Teacher Reflective Practice to Evaluate Professional Development in Mathematics and Science” (1999). Educational Psychology Papers and Publications. 184. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/edpsychpapers/184

What PD leaders and learners need to know about assessment reporting in high pressure accountability contexts

High-stakes accountability pressures can conflict with faculty implementation of best disciplinary and pedagogical practices (Meuwissen, 2017). In both public postsecondary and public K-12 education in the United States, the tension between, on the one hand, funding-  and policy-driven expectations at the state and institution levels and the high-stakes faculty evaluations based on those expectations, and, on the other, subject-specific learning and teaching, raises the question of who and what should define and control what happens in the classroom as well as the question of what should define student success.

Professional development (PD), when defined by a federally regulated institution rather than a teaching profession, runs the risk of over-emphasizing high-stakes assessments at the expense of developing students’ thinking and learning dispositions and capacities (Meuwissen, 2017).

When technology-related PD is implemented primarily at the institutional rather than disciplinary level, this risk may be amplified. Yet, the reality is that technological, pedagogical, and teaching content knowledge all constrain one another in ways that relate to disciplinarily and developmentally appropriate teaching (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

This post explores the origins of the mandated student and teacher assessment data that drive current state and institutional accountability, and hence that increasingly control faculty decisions about what happens in the classroom. I also consider how “research data” can be defined and used in ways that objectify and constrain, rather than support, teaching decisions and practices that may be truly “best” in terms of supporting students’ learning.

Tracing the history of legislative influence on K-12 teacher assessment

Ingersoll and Collins (2019) define professional work such as teaching as work that “involves highly complex sets of skills, intellectual functioning, and knowledge that are neither easily acquired nor widely held. For this reason, professions are often referred to as “knowledge-based” occupations. In the professional model, practitioners are, ideally, first provided with the training, resources, conditions, and autonomy to do the job, and then held accountable for doing the job well” (p. 176).

Before discussing the assumptions about, uses of, and cultural/ideological contexts surrounding student and teacher assessment data, it is important to understand some of the cultural and legislative history that has resulted in current models of instructional supervision and in the way the accountability movement is manifesting itself at both K-12 and postsecondary levels.

Although the U.S. Constitution makes no provision for federal control of education and the Tenth Amendment stipulates that powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the states, federal control entered the American educational system through the indirect means of requirements attached to funding (Lunenburg, 2019).

However, “the impetus for public education came from the federal government” through the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787, which designated a sixteenth of each township for public schools. A century later, The Hatch, Morrill, and Adams Acts established grants as a form of federal support for “land grant” colleges (Lunenburg, 2019). Federal intervention through funding requirements increased in the mid twentieth century, in particular through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson (Lunenburg, 2019). ESEA must be reauthorized every 5 or 6 years and includes sections such as Title I, which includes a formula for extra funding for schools in high poverty areas.

The 1988 reauthorization of ESEA called for adoption of measurable standards for student academic performance. A movement to establish standards in core subjects called America 2000 was enacted under President George W. Bush the following year (Lunenburg, 2019). The ESEA reauthorization in 1994 under President Bill Clinton called for the creation of assessments aligned with these standards; the establishment of benchmarks for “adequate yearly progress;” disaggregat[ion of] data by race, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, and limited English proficiency;” and corrective action after two years without improvement (Lunenburg, 2019).

Lunenburg (2019) identifies this as the point at which the focus shifted from minimum competency to proficiency and accountability became a primary focus. This shift continued in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which encompassed and amended ESEA in 2002 and added the requirement “that states administer tests to all public school students” and “narrow the test score gap between economically advantaged students” and every other subgroup as well as calling for sanctions for schools who did not meet state-developed proficiency levels for any subgroup (Lunenburg, 2019). States developed assessments of their content standards and defined achievement or “performance” standards to measure levels of proficiency students achieve.

Lunenburg (2019) notes two important NCLB stipulations: that teachers meet designated requirements as “highly qualified” and that programs be based on “scientific research.” Both are important for understanding the current culture of education and educational supervision: “The scientifically based research provision in the law [was] notable for its implications for instructional methods, curricular materials, and instructional supervision, areas of education that [had] been historically outside the realm of federal involvement” (Lunenburg, 2019). Arnold (2019), discussed below, stresses the cultural and ideological ways that “scientific research” can be used in policy making that can control what happens in the classroom.

In 2009, the administration of President Barack Obama used a competitive grant program, Race to the Top (RTTT or RT3), to incentivize development of teacher evaluation policies. Two years later, that administration authorized waivers for some provisions of NCLB for states that achieved 100% student proficiency (Lunenburg, 2019).

The final piece of legislation important for understanding current education, teacher evaluation, and professional development policies in American K-12 schools is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, which became law under the USDOE leadership of Arne Duncan. A key feature of ESSA is the continued focus of NCLB on high standards for all students (Lunenburg, 2019). The goal was to ensure equal opportunity for all students to succeed, regardless of their background or mailing address.

McMunn Dooley, Owens, and Conley (2019) note that the TPA (teacher performance assessment) systems currently in place were fully developed and implemented in an average of only 1.3 years from the time that the flexibility waivers were first made available in 2011, that their development was funded by the Gates and Wallace foundation, and that there are many critiques of their validity and reliability.

As studies of the validity, reliability, and effectiveness of TPAs (notably the Measures of Effective Teachers (MET) study itself carried out by the Gates Foundation) begin, McMunn Dooley, Owens and Conley carried out a large content analysis of all state teacher evaluation policies and protocols, finding that “TPAs rarely evaluated what resources were made available to teachers, what opportunities were afforded them, or whether teachers actually learn from professional development sessions that they attend” and that “professional development seems to be the outcome of evaluation, not the focus of evaluation itself” (p. 426).

A research-based case for shifting the dial toward teacher agency

Ingersoll and Collins (2019) synthesized current data with those from research projects conducted over 20 years; sources of data included the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), related Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), the largest data source available on K-12 teachers in the U.S., as well as data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and Teaching, Empowering Leading and Learning (TELL) survey. By synthesizing data on the levels of distribution and effects of accountability and control in American schools, Ingersoll and Collins (2019) showed that while public K-12 education in the U.S. is relatively less federally controlled compared to European countries, it is relatively more principal-controlled; that the imbalance between teacher responsibilities and teacher control is increasing; and that while the current accountability climate identifies important issues and problems in American schools, attempts to improve student achievement through professional development and evaluation based on a teacher deficit model that does not give adequate attention to “the character of the teaching occupation, and the character of the organizations in which teachers work,” including the distribution, mechanism and effects of control and power, is inadequate.

In a series of multiple regression analyses of TELL data, the authors showed that eight separate measures of teacher control were related to student achievement at a statistically significant level. The two areas that showed the strongest relationship with student achievement were discipline and improvement planning. Data also showed that lower performing schools with sanctions had less teacher turnover, and in fact had turnover comparable to high performing schools, when teachers were given more autonomy.

The authors recommend that improving teacher quality through accountability reforms offers only a one-sided perspective and that “solving the problem of teacher quality” involves also providing teachers with the autonomy and flexibility they need to do their jobs effectively, and assessing school management in light of a balanced approach to control and accountability.

While Ingersoll and Collins (2019) use extensive data sets and analyses to make the case that PD leaders and education managers should balance pragmatic emphasis on high-stakes accountability measures with restoring teacher agency, considering unique school contexts, and evaluating institutional factors, Arnold (2019) uses critical pedagogy to theorize about the reasons for the imbalance between the two emphases. I’ll return to her more theoretical case for shifting the dial toward teacher agency.

Data reporting at the postsecondary level

Most colleges and universities are also required to report data to the federal government in order to receive federal student financial aid funding. Rice and Russell (2012) outline the legislative history beginning with the Student Right-to-Know Act of 1990 (SRTK) that mandates graduation reporting for subgroups in order to participate in Title IV programs. Graduation rates, along with persistence and completion rates, are key institutional measures at the postsecondary level.

The USDOE’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) makes reported data available and tools for analyzing that data available to constituencies including the states, researchers and policymakers at the institutions themselves, and the general public, as well as using these data to guide or justify federal education policy through several centers, including the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (Fink & Muntz, 2012). NCES also collects data through a survey research system. The Postsecondary, Adult, and Career Education Division (PACE) collects information on postsecondary institutions. The main postsecondary dataset made available by NCES is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The three main tools that IPEDS provides to constituents are College Navigator , the Executive Peer Tool (ExPT), and the Data Center(Fink & Muntz, 2012).

While postsecondary faculty often have considerably more control than K-12 teachers “over the content of their teaching, over the hiring of new colleagues, over the evaluation and promotion of members through peer review, and, hence, over the ongoing content and character of their profession” (Ingersoll & Collins, 2019, p. 166), assessment measures, policies, and college curricula are increasingly influenced by both federal funding guidelines and by the network of grantmaking organizations such as the Gates and Lumina Foundations that have been influential in funding K-12 student and teacher assessment (Addison, 2015).

Rice and Russell (2012) call for ways to “expand and refocus” the conventional sue of graduation rate in postsecondary reporting:

Given the paucity of comparable, widely accepted outcome measures for postsecondary education, state and federal policy makers have latched on to student persistence and graduation measures as key accountability indicators. At the same time, critics have denounced simple graduation rates as inadequate and misleading metrics. Despite the many limitations of these measures, graduation rates have gained attention and influence in the media, in college ranking systems, and among consumers. As a result, many higher education administrators are concerned that this narrowly focused concept of student success does not adequately reflect all that they do, and that it deflects attention and resources from broader institutional concerns. (237)

While postsecondary reporting measures may be critiqued for imbalanced or narrow focus on reporting measures, the growing imbalance between teacher responsibility and teacher control at the K-12 level identified through the synthesized study of Ingersoll and Collins (2019) forms a “datafied” counterpart to Arnold’s (2019) theory-based suggestions for correcting such imbalance.

Theorizing a more balanced model of PD in a high-stakes accountability context

At the K-12 level, Arnold (2019) calls for a counter-balancing of the “cultural shifts that have institutionalized and ideologized education” (p. 583). She argues that NCLB and the Common Core State Standards, and the supervisory models grounded in the standards based accountability movement, emphasize homogeneity over the unique context of each school and student population. Thus the measures that were meant to result in opportunity for all are in reality reducing opportunity, as learning models emphasize efficiency over depth of learning, for example through competency-based “badging” (p. 578). Arnold argues that accountability has rendered not only teaching but leadership less creative, and that “if adults are uncreative and constricted in their thinking, then children will be as well” (p. 587).

Arnold makes a case that assessment reporting can become a matter of “datafication”, as “teachers and leaders…feel pressured to produce the ‘right’ data” and as “self-professed evidence-based policy making is premised on the idea that research results can justify political, economic, and social decision making” which becomes a problem if research is “flawed in design, analytics, or reporting” (pp. 578-79).

In response to this diagnosis, Arnold calls for leadership development based in critical pedagogy in order to help leaders such as principals focus on both pragmatics and “contextual diversity.” Critical pedagogy is the interpretive stance that questions the assumptions that lead to inequalities. The practical shifts she calls for include “wise feedback” in teacher evaluation and professional development; “wise feedback,” separate from formal feedback, is similar to the formative feedback teachers provide to students that includes the assurance they will be successful. Arnold also calls on school leaders to model “good” use of research, by which she means refraining from sending the “underlying message…that university research has more significance than the experiences of those who contribute directly to the school day” and engaging teachers in identifying problems of practice and speaking of “evidence-informed policy rather than evidence-based policy” (pp. 584-585). Her strengths-based, context-based, collaborative suggestions encourage a more humanistic approach to teacher evaluation/professional development and thus to building the teaching and learning culture of an institution.

While professionals–teachers and administrators alike—should understand the role that standards and standardization play in creating quality and equality in education, institutional cultures are cultures of people that by definition cannot be based on abstract and standardized values alone. When it comes to professional development, the studies cited by Meuwissen (2017) demonstrate how “high stakes assessment climates complicate PD efforts to shift teachers’ practices toward in-depth inquiry and analysis” while also steering “PD toward covering curriculum and measuring and management of student achievement outcomes instead of strengthening in-depth subject matter learning and instruction” (p. 251). Balanced leadership should support teachers in achieving mandates while also building their professional agency.

References:

Addison, J. (2015). Shifting the locus of control: Why the common core state standards and emerging standardized tests may reshape college writing classrooms. The Journal of Writing Assessment, 8(1). Retrieved from: http://journalofwritingassessment.org/article.php?article=82

Adler-Kassner, L. (2012). The companies we keep or the companies we would like to try to keep: Strategies and tactics in challenging times. Writing Program Administrator, 36(1), 119-140.

Arnold, N. (2019). Supervisory identity: Cultural shift, critical pedagogy, and the crisis of supervision. In Zepeda, S.J. & Ponticell J.A. (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of educational supervision (575-600). (Wiley handbooks in education). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781119128304

Fink, G.M., & Muntz, G. (2012). Federal higher education reporting databases and tools. In Howard, R.D., McLaughlin, G.W., & Knight, E.D. (Eds.), The handbook of institutional research (354-370). (The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ingersoll, R.M., & Collins, G.J. Accountability, control, and teachers’ work in American schools. In Zepeda, S.J. & Ponticell J.A. (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of educational supervision (159-182). (Wiley handbooks in education). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781119128304

Jensen, B., Sonnemann, J., Roberts-Hull, K., & Hunter, A. (2016). Beyond PD: Teacher professional learning in high-performing systems. Washington, D.C.: National Center on Education and the Economy. Retrieved from http://www.necc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/BeyondPDWeb.pdf

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 9(1), pp. 60-70. Retrieved from: http://www.citejournal.org/volume-9/issue-1-09/general/what-is-technological-pedagogicalcontent-knowledge/

Lunenburg, F.C. National policy/standards: Changes in instructional supervision since the implementation of recent federal legislation. In Zepeda, S.J. & Ponticell J.A. (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of educational supervision (381-406). (Wiley handbooks in education). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781119128304

McMunn Dooley, C., Owens, S.J., & Conley, M. (2019). Teacher performance assessments mandated during the Duncan era. In Zepeda, S.J. & Ponticell J.A. (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of educational supervision (407-432.). (Wiley handbooks in education). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.spu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781119128304

Meuwissen, K.W. “Happy professional development at an unhappy time”: Learning to teach for historical thinking in a high-pressure accountability context. Theory & research in social education, 45(2), 248-285. doi:10.1080/00933104.2016.1232208

Rice, G.A., & Russell, A.B. Refocusing student success: Toward a comprehensive model.In Howard, R.D., McLaughlin, G.W., & Knight, E.D. (Eds.), The handbook of institutional research (237-255). (The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Honoring Adult Learners: Could a Facilitator Model Improve Professional Development Outcomes?

In my last post, I discussed at length the characteristics of effective professional development (PD) which should include “…interaction, relevancy, purposefulness, and focused on the learner,” (Vlad-Ortiz, 2019). Since learning requires effort, professional development models that include a social context and an active component tend to be the most successful models, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2019). Keeping in mind the ISTE standard for professional development addressed in the last post, one model known as the “facilitator model” caught my attention as having potential to meet the above criteria. According to Dr. Frances Gipson, to “facilitate” means to make easier, (Gipson, 2012).  The assumption is that a facilitator acts as a guide and manages a group towards a shared goal or purpose. Dr. Gipson warns that the word “facilitator” is often misinterpreted as a passive role, however, a good facilitator acts more like a leader ensuring that the group makes good use of resources, decision-making power, and problem-solving skills, (Gipson, 2012). Because facilitation requires active participation from all participants, could this model help improve professional development learning outcomes? 

Adult learning. 

In order to begin addressing this question, one must first understand how adults learn. According to researchers, the specifics of how adults learn are largely unknown and more research is required to complete that understanding, (Borko, 2004). However, what is currently understood is that learning is a dynamic activity that takes time to develop, while learning opportunities can occur anywhere such as a brief conversation in a hallway, for example, (Borko, 2004).  Learning can be facilitated with a few considerations from the adult learning model, or “andragogy,” summarized in figure 1.1. below. 

 

infographic summarizing the adult learning model
Figure 1.1 Dr. Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Model.

Under Dr. Knowles’ assumptions, good professional development should be goal orientated, relevant, practical, respect the learner’s time and expertise, and bring the learner into an active role rather than passive, (Office of Head Start, n.d.). This is not unlike the criteria my colleagues and I created in my previous blog post.  As adult learners, we want professional development to address our needs rather than tell us about our needs. 

Facilitation as a professional development model. 

Dr. Hilda Borko conducted a study on various professional development models to begin understanding the complex relationships that exist between teachers, students, and learning. It is through this work that she began to understand that more research is needed to explain how adult learning works, (Borko, 2004). Through this study, she explored a few case studies that utilized facilitation models as a form of professional development and concluded that facilitation can be successful if the professional development is well-defined, (Borko, 2004). In particular, the most successful programs, where the learners adapted strategies more readily and rapidly, had clear descriptions of the facilitator’s role, specific learner/participant outcome measures, and well-developed activities and materials that were transportable across a variety of contexts, (Borko, 2004). One caveat of this success meant that facilitators led small groups of teachers that had common goals.  Scaling up towards larger groups may present challenges as the activities and materials may no longer apply towards everyone’s needs or context, (Borko, 2004). 

Dr. Borko’s fears of scaling up may not be warranted as the facilitation model has been used in many contexts.  In Turin, Italy, researchers followed the progress of a teaching community that implemented a “Teacher-Facilitator” model in place of traditional professional development. Educators were followed over a period of 10 years to evaluate any teaching profile changes, particularly in the field of “cooperative learning”, (Ellerani & Gentile, 2013).  Using the “teacher-facilitator” model, teachers were placed into groups with an “expert” teacher whose role was to facilitate professional development, emphasizing job-embedded skills and collaborative learning.  The teacher-facilitators ultimately helped establish professional learning cohorts (PLCS) which later expanded into interdisciplinary networks that included administrators and other schools in the district, (Ellerarni & Gentile, 2013). The researchers remark that the success of this program lies in three factors, 1) the facilitation skills of the teacher-facilitators, 2) increased focus on importance of collaborative learning among teachers, and 3) increased job-related support by the district, (Ellerani & Gentile, 2013). 

Qualities of a good facilitator. 

Regardless of the scale in which the learning context takes place, the key element to effective learning in this model means imposing a good facilitator. Dr. Gipson summarizes her definition of a good facilitator through a concept known as the Five “C’s” described in figure 1.2 below. 

infographic describing the qualities of a good facilitator.
Figure 1.2 Five Qualities of a Good Facilitator.

Good facilitators understand how to establish a community that values inquiry and the opinions of others as a way to invite participation from all members. To do this, facilitators must be both firm and flexible with curriculum while communicating these intentions well to the group, (Borko, 2004). These facilitation skills can be developed over time with the appropriate preparation and resources, (Borko, 2004). 

Conclusion 

Through this investigation, it can be concluded that facilitation as a professional development model does support adult learning when implemented correctly.  The skills of the facilitator is crucial to the success of converting learning into implementation while appropriate resources fuel that success.  Facilitation may not be useful or appropriate in larger groups, used in the short term, or as one-time development as noted by Dr. Borko.  However, special considerations can be made to scale such development as demonstrated in the Ellerani and Gentile research.  Ellerani and Gentile noted that, “there is a strong correlation between the development activities of teachers and their actual development as teachers,” (Ellerani & Gentile, 2013). Facilitation respects the adult learner by putting adults in control of their learning, this in turn helps change their attitudes about learning, and ultimately helps put into action what they’ve learned. 

Resources 

Borko, H. (2004). Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8). Available from: http://www.aera.net/uploadedFiles/Journals_and_Publications/Journals/Educational_Researcher/ Volume_33_No_8/02_ERv33n8_Borko.pdf 

Ellerani, P., Gentile, M. (2013). The role of teachers as facilitators to develop empowering leadership & school communities supported by the method of cooperative learning. Procedia. 93(21): 12-17. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042813032473 

Gipson, F. (2012). Facilitation skills for teacher leaders [pdf]. Available from: http://www.nesacenter.org/uploaded/conferences/wti/2013/handouts/gipsonhandout.pdf 

Office of Head Start. (n.d.) Adult Learning Principles [pdf]. Available from: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/adult-learning-principles.pdf 

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2019). Professional development for mixed audiences. Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/professional-development-for-mixed-audiences/

Workshop Model for Professional Development: Factors for Success

For today’s post, I’d like to take an in-depth look at a perennial favorite of those hosting professional development for teachers: the workshop model. When you think of a workshop outside of the education world, you probably picture a full day, hands-on session learning how to lay laminate flooring or perhaps weekly evening classes on water coloring. Whatever comes to mind, I’d venture to say it is prolonged and requires active learning. I doubt anyone would attend a workshop that featured someone lecturing at you for an hour while you try your best to stay awake! Unfortunately, workshops in the world of education often look like the latter example. As educators, we need to make sure workshops are places of active learning where teachers have multiple exposures to content.

Despite the popularity of workshop-based professional development (one study showed over 90% participation nationwide), research does not show a link between the traditional, once and done workshop model and student achievement. In an extensive report completed by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest for the Institute of Education Services, researchers combed through over 1,300 studies on teacher professional development to find links between teacher development and student achievement. Ultimately, the studies which had the lowest number of hours of professional development using the workshop model (5-14 total) showed no statistical impact on student achievement. Conversely, in studies where teachers received an average of 49 hours of professional development using the workshop model, students’ performance was boosted by 21 percentile points. (Yoon et al, 2007)

Case Study: University of Toledo

While researching ways in which the workshop model can support ISTE coaching standard 4B (“Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model[s] principles of adult learning and promote[s] digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment”), I came across a detailed case study that outlined the evolution of one college’s program from the traditional workshop model to one that was more robust and responsive to teacher needs.

This study, published in 2005, examined the evolution and subsequent effectiveness of the workshop model for technology-related professional development. The test subjects were university professors interested in incorporating more technology into their courses. The project, ‘Teachers Info-Port to Technology,’ began with a traditional professional development workshop model in year 1 and then incorporated new strategies and follow-up support in year 2. Additional ideas were implemented for year 3 and beyond.

In the first year, professors participating in the program self-divided into two groups based on platform preference (Mac vs PC). They then attended eleven sessions, some targeted to a specific area such as digital portfolios. The sessions were intentionally designed following the workshop model where part of the class was spent on content and the remainder on application. Interestingly (and in line with the findings of Yoon et al), the session with the most lecture time and least hands-on application time was ranked least helpful by attendees.

The effectiveness of the year 1 program was measured by participant surveys, course syllabi comparison (to see if additional technology had been implemented), and faculty discussions. Based on the three data sets, seven areas of improvement were identified:

  • Depth: more time spent on fewer technologies
  • Hands-on Practice: at least 50% of workshop spent on practice/creation
  • Project-based Approach: focus on practical products, follow from start to finish
  • Modeling: demonstrate classroom applications
  • Examples: use specific content areas, resources and templates
  • Ongoing Assessment: short modules, frequent assessments
  • Timesavers: access to templates and copyright-free visuals, review sheets

A second group of professors participated in the modified workshops held in year 2. These workshops incorporated feedback from the first group and resulted in even higher rates of self-reported ability to utilize new technology. Additionally, participants viewed the sessions more favorably than the first group with some even wishing the workshops were longer. Based on the data from this second group, two more areas of improvement were added to the program:

  • Differentiation: additional one-on-one assistance, additional smaller workshops tailored to a specific need
  • Expanded opportunities: observe colleagues, mentorship opportunities, cohort groups for collaboration

In addition to the nine factors identified in the study, there are other implications for the workshop model that we can derive from the study:

Effective professional development is ongoing

The professional development occurred over a long period of time. Each test group met eleven times over the course of the school year, requiring a great investment of time and resources on the part of both administrators and participating professors. This prolonged exposure contributed to the success of the project. Research shows that the critical stage of professional development is not the initial concept attainment, but rather the ongoing implementation: “mastery comes only as a result of continuous practice despite awkward performance and frustration in the early stages.” (Gulamhussein, 2013) Later in the study, even more support was added in the form of one-on-one assistance and mentorships.

Effective professional development is responsive to teacher needs

Another important element of success was the responsive nature of the professional development. Changes were made based on participant feedback in order to provide a better experience for participants. In addition to giving teachers what they need content-wise, this practice also communicates respect for participants which boosts morale and investment in future sessions.

Effective professional development includes plenty of time for hands-on application

Teachers responded best when given adequate time to try out the new concept or tool presented at each training. Sessions where teachers were asked to bring existing content for modification using the new tool worked best. In response to feedback, the study implemented a standard of dedicating at least half of future sessions to application.

Effective professional development rewards teachers for their time

A final factor was the extrinsic support participants received. Professors willing to participate were granted either a stipend or release of course assignment in exchange for their time. We often assume adult learners should be motivated solely by intrinsic means, but this case study shows that compensation for participants’ sacrifice of time can be equally important.

Sources:

Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teachers: Effective professional development. Retrieved February 5, 2019, from Center for Public Education website: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/research/teaching-teachers-effective-professional-development

Teclehaimanot, B., & Lamb, A. (2005). Technology-rich faculty development for teacher educators: The evolution of a program. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 5(3/4). Retrieved from https://www.citejournal.org/volume-5/issue-3-05/current-practice/technology-rich-faculty-development-for-teacher-educators-the-evolution-of-a-program

Yoon, K. S., Duncan, T., Lee, S. W.-Y., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. (2007). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007–No. 033). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs

Professional Development for Mixed Audiences

In its intention, professional development offers an opportunity for individuals to learn about new advancements in their respective field, including industry best practices.  However, professional development (PD) is criticized for its inability to offer either content, format, or context that is relevant. In the DEL program, we were asked for our opinions on what makes for good professional development (PD).  I reflected upon my experiences and noted that good professional development should be actionable, timely, and applicable.  PD should focus less on the “what” and more on the “how”.  My colleagues commented on the fact that good PD is characterized by interaction, relevancy, purposefulness, and focused on the learner. On the other hand, bad PD can be characterized as singular, stoic, and passive.  Looking back on my own experiences, I remember one PD training I took that was a five-hour long video of a therapist droning on about the physiology of stress. While the topic was interesting (for about half an hour) without any engagement or application, the training suddenly felt like an endless lecture.  More so, what makes it bad is that the PD worked on the premises that bombardment of facts equates into deep knowledge, however, “having knowledge in and of itself is not sufficient to constitute as expertise,” (Gess-Newsome, et. al., n.d.). 

Criteria for Good Professional Development. 

Because my colleagues and I all work in education and have experienced our fair share of PD, both good and bad, we were able to use our personal experience to determine the above criteria.  Research on how we (humans) learn demonstrates that my classmates and I were not wrong.  The goal of any professional development should impact student learning by augmenting knowledge in pedagogical content knowledge, (Gess-Newsome, n.d.).  In other words, the main idea behind PD is to help individuals become experts.  According to Gess-Newsome, et. al, expert knowledge is deep, developed over time, contextually bound, organized, and connected to big ideas, (Gess-Newsome et. al., n.d).  This is interesting considering that most PD is offered in one timeframe at about an hour, hardly enough to begin the application and reflection necessary for that content to become “expert knowledge.”   

What most PD, including my example of bad PD, is lacking is the opportunity to apply and reflect.  Research on how we learn notes that learning needs two elements, 1) a social context which helps us to maintain high levels of motivation (because learning takes incredible amounts of effort) and, 2) an active component that allows the learner to engage with ideas that can either create new experiences, build opportunities to acquire knowledge, or directly challenge what we already know, (Gess-Newsome, et. al., n.d.). Engaging the learner also takes into consideration that learners will come into the session with their own conceptions and preconceived notions based on their current learning needs.  To include all of these factors, the researchers from Northern Arizona University, strongly recommend the five principles of effective professional development summarized in figure 1.1 below. 

Infographic on principles of effective professional development
Figure 1.1 Principles of Effective Professional Development

The ISTE Standard 4b explores the properties of good professional development by defining the coach’s role as, “design[ing], develop[ing], and implement[ing] technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.” (ISTE, 2017).  The standard highlights all of the principles of effective PD.  Coaches should be able deliver PD that meets the needs of the learner within the context that is relevant to the learner.   

While understanding the theory behind effective PD is important, on a personal level, applying these theories will prove crucial in the upcoming months as I was asked to facilitate a professional development session at a conference.  My audience will be mixed group of registered dietitians with various levels of expertise in both nutrition education and technology.  Understanding the need to develop effective PD, I realized it will be important to also understand which professional development model works best for audiences of mixed technology skill for me to meet learners’ needs. 

After some investigation and feedback, it appears the best approach to address this inquiry will be in two parts, 1) understanding models for technology-infused PD, and 2) understanding the principles of learning differentiation. 

Technology-Infused Professional Development. 

Falling in line with the education best practices as noted by the ISTE standard above and the need for evidence-based practice required for all dietetic professional development, the PD should use technology in a way that allows for modelling adult learning and expose learners to using technology well in a professional setting.  Northern Arizona University researchers offers four PD models that utilize technology in different ways as summarized in figure 1.2 below. 

 

Figure 1.2 Technology-Infused PD Models

While reflecting upon these four models, professional development does not have to be limited to just one. All could be used as part of an on-going development process.  However, the one that struck me as most useful for the PD session I am planning would be the face-to-face with technology support.  I like the idea that the face-to-face portion isn’t a means to an end but rather the beginning of a longer term conversation. The researchers stressed that the audience engagement shapes the direction of the PD through the development of shared learning goals, (Gess-Newsome, et. al., n.d.).  This was a unique way to view the face-to-face model that has been traditionally maintained as PD.   

Learning Differentiation.  

Differentiated learning implies that educators take into consideration individual learning styles and level of readiness prior to designing the lesson plan, (Weselby, 2014). According to Concordia University, there are four ways to incorporate differentiated learning: 

1) Content–  Though the role of any educator is to ensure that learning outcomes are met, differentiating content implies what learners are able to do with that content by applying Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking skills.  Depending on the level of the learner, one learner might be content with simply defining a particular concept while another will strive to create a solution with that same content.  Allowing learners to select their level of readiness through content differentiation allows for smoother introduction of the material. 

2) Process- In process differentiation, the learners are engaging with the same content but are allowed a choice in the way in which they learn it.  Not all learners require the same level of instructor assistance, or require the same materials.  Process differentiation also assumes that some learners prefer to learn in groups while other may prefer to learn alone.  

3) Product– In this model, the learning outcome is the same but the final product is different. 

Learners have the ability to choose how they demonstrate mastery in a particular area through product differentiation.   

4) Learning Environment– The learning environment that accommodates different learning needs can be crucial to optimal learning.  Flexibility is key for this type of differentiation as learner may want various physical or emotional learning arrangements, (Weselby, 2014). 

One of my colleagues suggested that I consider differentiated instruction as a strategy to approach the various technology skill levels of my target audience.  I must admit that at first, I wasn’t sure how this could be applied to a conference setting.  However, considering the face-to-face technology-infused PD model above, differentiated instruction suddenly became not only plausible but also the more effective method. Differentiated learning aligns with the principles of effective PD by allowing the session to be as learner-centered as possible.  Because the learners take more responsibility for their own learning, they become better engaged in the process. 

In searching for professional development models that incorporate technology for mixed audiences, I learned that understanding the pillars of good professional development is just as important as applying technology in a relevant mode for everyone to understand.  Taking the two factors above into consideration, effective PD for my conference will need both a technology-infused model and the opportunity for differentiated learning. 

Resources 

Gess-Newsome, J., Blocher, M.J., Clark, J., Menasco, J., Willis, E.M. (n.d.) Technology infused professional development: A framework for development and analysis. Available from: https://www.citejournal.org/volume-3/issue-3-03/general/technology-infused-professional-development-a-framework-for-development-and-analysis/ 

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches 

Weselby, C. (2014). What is differentiated instruction? Examples on how to differentiate instruction in the classroom. Available from: https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/examples-of-differentiated-instruction/ 

Strategies for More Interactive Professional Development

For this module we took a deeper look at ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B – Design, develop, and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment. With the help of our guiding questions of What is an example of professional development that has worked for you? What is an example of professional development that has not worked for you? What does research say about designing professional learning? I wanted to know what strategies can be used to allow Professional Development to be more interactive for teachers and staff?

My Own Professional Development Experience

When looking for information to help answer the question I wanted to reflect back on my own experiences with professional development. As a teacher, we are put through many professional developments throughout the school year and some are better than others. I wanted to focus on the positives. In my own experience, I have found that PD for educational technology lead by teachers in my building have been the most useful for me. These training’s have been geared towards new technology that is being used with our staff.

What made these training’s work?

  • The Focus was on Teacher Needs
  • Lead by Teachers
  • Teacher Choice
  • Exploration Time

Each training was comprised of information or skills needed to properly implement our new educational technology. A highlight of these trainings is the workshop feel where staff members can pick different skills they would like to work on from a menu. Each workshop had an “expert” to help teach our staff how to use different features. These type of professional development also always had time for teachers to do their own explorations and then ask personalized questions when needed. This style of PD seemed to be 100% teacher driven and had every staff member highly engaged.

Professional Development Strategies

Ways that Professional Development can fall short

  • Too many (and sometimes conflicting) goals and priorities competing for teachers’ time, energy, and attention.
  • Unrealistic expectations of how much time it will take schools and teachers to adopt and implement goals.
  • Professional development training events that are inappropriate in size, scope, or structure to support learning new ideas or skills. Gathering 100 teachers into one room for a training event will never give them the time they need to reflect on the material, ask questions, listen to their peers, or go through activities to enhance their comprehension.
  • Lack of support for teachers’ implementation of new instructional practices. Research shows there’s an implementation gap in teachers’ professional development. They may learn, understand, and agree with a new idea or technique presented in a workshop, but it’s hard for them to implement that idea without ongoing support.
  • Failure to provide teachers with feedback about how implementing new skills impacts student learning.

5 Strategies for Better PD

According to an article on teachthought states that school districts can improve the effectiveness of their professional development for teachers by following these basic guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple. Each year, identify and focus on one or two instructional prioritieseffective instructional practices that the district wants teachers to learn, refine, or improve. Ideally, districts should select the priorities with input from the teachers themselves. They should clearly communicate these priorities and expectations throughout all levels of the organization.
  2. Organize all available district support to help teachers implement these instructional priorities. Our organization believes that introducing teachers to a new way of teaching reading or writing without the proper follow-up support only confuses and frustrates the teacher.
  3. School districts should make a deliberate effort to support teacher implementation of instructional priorities through training events, coaching, principal observation, staff and grade-level meetings, and evaluation systems. But ultimately, the best professional development comes from teachers teaching one another. If schools can establish a collaborative, intellectually stimulating environment for teachers, that’s a place where children will learn.
  4. Create a feedback loop to help teachers monitor implementation. Once districts define the outcomes they want to achieve, they should use teacher observations and student data to provide teachers with information about whether changes are having an effect on student achievement. Teachers may need help learning how to conduct related assessments, analyze and interpret the data, and adapt their instruction in response to the data.
  5. Realize that change takes time. Too often, districts work on something for a year, then revamp their priorities and launch a whole new set of goals for the next year. Administrators must realize that teachers will still need support when implementing changes in the second year.

These five strategies I believe will help shape professional development for teachers. Looking at what works in our own experiences and what experts have to say about the topic can help guide coaches, admininatraion, and even teachers to present high quaility profressional development that is interactive, engaging, and vaulable to teachers.

Strategies for More Interactive Professional Development

For this module we took a deeper look at ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation Performance Indicator B – Design, develop, and implement technology-rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment. With the help of our guiding questions of What is an example of professional development that has worked for you? What is an example of professional development that has not worked for you? What does research say about designing professional learning? I wanted to know what strategies can be used to allow Professional Development to be more interactive for teachers and staff?

My Own Professional Development Experience

When looking for information to help answer the question I wanted to reflect back on my own experiences with professional development. As a teacher, we are put through many professional developments throughout the school year and some are better than others. I wanted to focus on the positives. In my own experience, I have found that PD for educational technology lead by teachers in my building have been the most useful for me. These training’s have been geared towards new technology that is being used with our staff.

What made these training’s work?

  • The Focus was on Teacher Needs
  • Lead by Teachers
  • Teacher Choice
  • Exploration Time

Each training was comprised of information or skills needed to properly implement our new educational technology. A highlight of these trainings is the workshop feel where staff members can pick different skills they would like to work on from a menu. Each workshop had an “expert” to help teach our staff how to use different features. These type of professional development also always had time for teachers to do their own explorations and then ask personalized questions when needed. This style of PD seemed to be 100% teacher driven and had every staff member highly engaged.

Professional Development Strategies

Ways that Professional Development can fall short

  • Too many (and sometimes conflicting) goals and priorities competing for teachers’ time, energy, and attention.
  • Unrealistic expectations of how much time it will take schools and teachers to adopt and implement goals.
  • Professional development training events that are inappropriate in size, scope, or structure to support learning new ideas or skills. Gathering 100 teachers into one room for a training event will never give them the time they need to reflect on the material, ask questions, listen to their peers, or go through activities to enhance their comprehension.
  • Lack of support for teachers’ implementation of new instructional practices. Research shows there’s an implementation gap in teachers’ professional development. They may learn, understand, and agree with a new idea or technique presented in a workshop, but it’s hard for them to implement that idea without ongoing support.
  • Failure to provide teachers with feedback about how implementing new skills impacts student learning.

5 Strategies for Better PD

According to an article on teachthought states that school districts can improve the effectiveness of their professional development for teachers by following these basic guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple. Each year, identify and focus on one or two instructional prioritieseffective instructional practices that the district wants teachers to learn, refine, or improve. Ideally, districts should select the priorities with input from the teachers themselves. They should clearly communicate these priorities and expectations throughout all levels of the organization.
  2. Organize all available district support to help teachers implement these instructional priorities. Our organization believes that introducing teachers to a new way of teaching reading or writing without the proper follow-up support only confuses and frustrates the teacher.
  3. School districts should make a deliberate effort to support teacher implementation of instructional priorities through training events, coaching, principal observation, staff and grade-level meetings, and evaluation systems. But ultimately, the best professional development comes from teachers teaching one another. If schools can establish a collaborative, intellectually stimulating environment for teachers, that’s a place where children will learn.
  4. Create a feedback loop to help teachers monitor implementation. Once districts define the outcomes they want to achieve, they should use teacher observations and student data to provide teachers with information about whether changes are having an effect on student achievement. Teachers may need help learning how to conduct related assessments, analyze and interpret the data, and adapt their instruction in response to the data.
  5. Realize that change takes time. Too often, districts work on something for a year, then revamp their priorities and launch a whole new set of goals for the next year. Administrators must realize that teachers will still need support when implementing changes in the second year.

These five strategies I believe will help shape professional development for teachers. Looking at what works in our own experiences and what experts have to say about the topic can help guide coaches, admininatraion, and even teachers to present high quaility profressional development that is interactive, engaging, and vaulable to teachers.

Teacher-Led Professional Development

Professional Development (or PD as it is often called) is a term thrown around loosely in educational institutions.  It is a very broad term that typically describes a meeting/training/conference/class where teachers are developing themselves professionally or learning something new to help them be a better teacher in the classroom. Even after a 15 year career in education I still wonder: What does PD really mean? How is it being delivered? What is the goal of PD? And is it effective? If so, what makes PD effective?  In my graduate coursework this quarter we are looking closely at professional development, especially through the lens of incorporating technology into the classroom and are focusing on the following ISTE Standard for Coaches:

Professional Development and Program Evaluation

Performance Indicator B: Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment (ISTE, 2017).

For this module in my program I am guided by this question: How should we design professional development that utilizes educational technology? In response to this triggering question, I wanted to look more closely at how we can utilize teacher expertise and experience when planning and delivering professional development. So often, we recruit the “experts” to teach the teachers or bring in the newest curriculum or learning tool. While I believe it is important that an institution’s professional development vision and program is well-rounded and includes different types of learning experiences, I do believe that most schools do not fully utilize and capture the expertise and knowledge that their own teachers possess (and are usually willing to share if given the opportunity).  

I found a great resource, “Teacher-Led Learning: A Key Part of a Balanced PD Diet” by Jeffrey Carpenter and Tim Green, on the ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) website that really captured what I was thinking and helped me understand this issue more clearly. This article summarized an issue of many current PD practices well: “Bring up the topic of professional development (PD) around teachers, and you may well encounter a few sighs, eye rolls, or other expressions of frustration. Busy teachers, who themselves are responsible for structuring effective learning environments, understandably have little patience for ineffective PD (Carpenter & Green, 2018).” The authors go on to give some really valid points on how teacher-led professional development has the potential to be very valuable and empowering. I really appreciated that the article also listed some challenges of Teacher-Led PD.

Below are the benefits that teacher-led learning can bring to professional development as discussed in the article by Carpenter and Green (2018) and my thoughts on these benefits.

Relevant– Teachers who are currently in the classroom understand exactly what teachers want and need to learn. Education curriculum and standards shift so quickly and schools are unique, so sometimes in order to receive the most current and applicable learning teachers need to be helping with the planning and delivery.

Situated- Teachers know exactly what is happening in their school and what the needs for professional development are in their particular classrooms. When teachers lead professional learning can be differentiated and more teachers are able to receive what they need to be successful in meeting student needs.

Empowering-When teachers feel that their voice matters (to not just kids in their classroom) and that they are experts, they feel more confident and are able to model and encourage that confidence in their classrooms. Also, when teachers see another teacher leading and being successful in that role they are more likely to volunteer to lead themselves. Empowerment is a domino effect in this situation and everyone benefits.

In addition to these benefits above, when reflecting on this topic I came up with three additional benefits of teacher-led learning for professional development.

Differentiated- Often professional development has a high price tag so it is difficult to provide differentiated options for teachers. But when teachers lead the cost for the district is less and more learning options can be provided.  One of the best PD experiences I have ever had was when my district had a day called “Tech Fest”. It was for the whole district and at least 10-15 different teachers were presenting sessions. There were 3 sessions and during each session there were at least 5 options of classes to attend. This PD was several years ago and I still use something I learned from each of those sessions in my teaching because I was able to choose precisely what I needed for my own professional growth.

Builds Community-When teachers are involved in professional learning there is a sense of sharing and collaborating. Often after a PD training there is no follow-up, but when teachers lead there can be both formal and informal follow-up because the teachers who are leading the learning and the same people working alongside those who desire follow-up. Community is strengthened when teachers spend more time engaging with teachers both in their school and in other schools in the district.

Less Expensive- Districts have very limited budgets and when money is spent on one thing, there is something else likely equally important that cannot be purchased. When teachers help lead PD the cost for the district is less expensive freeing up funds to be used in other ways.

I think the the title of the article (Teacher-Led Learning: A Key Part of a Balanced PD Diet, Carpenter and Brown, 2018)) that I have referenced says it all. Just like a well-balanced diet is important for people, a healthy balance when it comes to PD is key. And having teachers plan and lead professional development should be a solid component of the PD planning and curriculum. Because when teachers lead, the benefits are numerous. Teachers are empowered, districts save money, and teachers gain knowledge and skills that will improve student success in their classrooms.

Resources:

Carpenter, J & Green, T. (2018). “Teacher-Led Learning: A Key Part of a Balanced PD Diet”. (Retrieved on 2018, January 12) on ascd.org at:

http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol14/num07/teacher-led-learning-a-key-part-of-a-balanced-pd-diet.aspx


ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2019, January 12) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Research, realism, and relationship: Empowering PD partnership between teachers and institutions

The shift to Common Core State Standards in 2010 not only changed teaching and learning by greatly increasing and standardizing emphasis on student knowledge construction and problem-solving, but were accompanied by an associated accountability movement that ties high-stakes testing of student outcomes to teacher evaluation. Similar shifts are now taking place in public higher education, where federal and private funding and policy advocacy are also increasingly aligned with accountability structures that are external to academic departments (Addison, 2015).

As a teacher and former writing center coordinator who is eager to pilot and adapt new theories, pedagogies and technologies and who has partnered with administrators to design and implement PD at the program level, I’ve worked hard to support faculty-driven, research-based, and discipline-rooted innovation by, on the one hand, advocating with administrators for the professional development time, resources and opportunities needed by teachers, and, on the other, by suggesting to faculty that they see their roles as including collaborative leadership in defining and achieving the larger institutional values and goals (such as teaching 21st century skills and improving student outcomes) that administrators also contribute specialized expertise toward achieving.

In close to two decades in both postsecondary and K-12 settings, I’ve observed that the term “professional development” (PD) usually has some dimension of negative connotation for educators. Faculty and teachers were hired for their ability to apply epistemological, content, pedagogical, curricular, and technological knowledge (Koehler & Mishra, 2009; Bachy, 2014). Many associate “PD” with training sessions framed by fiscally- or trend-driven institutional goals and with bureaucratic rather than educational paradigms.

Yet institutions do bear responsibility for cultivating environments in which continuous improvement of teaching and learning is supported by PD. New paradigms of teaching and learning and the continuous development of new technologies, often within academic disciplines, call for effective PD.

However, when PD is viewed by teachers and institutions as primarily an institutional responsibility, PD practices may variously default into workshops on new initiatives or into piecemeal attempts to impact the teacher learning and improvement that is in fact both a highly individual process and one necessarily embedded in the immediate cultural context of a department or grade level team actively engaged in serving a student population.

Soine and Lumpe (2014) found that “not all professional development is effective in improving teacher quality,” nor is there universal agreement on the key factors that make PD effective (pp. 304-305).

One of the challenges faced by educators and administrators alike is that colleges and districts may not have robust professional development programs or full-fledged educational technology support that would ideally help them develop curriculum and instruction by integrating technology with ongoing content, pedagogical, and curricular knowledge development (Soine & Lumpe 2014; Schulman 1986). Yet teachers who are expected to shift to more learner-centered teaching styles must experience professional development that is itself reflective of a learner-centered teaching model rather than a deficit model (Daley, 2003; Lawler & King, 2000).

Last year I designed a faculty-led PD workshop series (LINK) based on the essential components of data-based assessment, differentiation, collaboration, coaching, communities of practice, and the technologies associated with those learning communities. As I reviewed literature for that project, I found that many researchers have concluded what was aptly summed up in a quote from an article shared with me this week by an SPU cohort member (Center for Public Education, 2013): “Recent education reforms have urged teachers to foster collaboration, debate and reflection among students, in order to develop cognitive processes like those called for in the new standards. Ironically, districts rarely apply these same learning techniques to developing teachers.”

Similarly, Zepeda (2015) notes that professional development that results in professional learning should involve: 1. active knowledge construction; 2. collaborative learning; 3. application in context, over time, with follow-up feedback that can be incorporated into continual learning; and 4. differentiation (Zepeda, 2015).

The principles of andragogy further re-inforce these well-established cognitivist and constructivist learning principles (Lawler, 2003). Professional adult learners are self-directed and need to apply new knowledge immediately; as members of local and disciplinary professional learning communities, they need to collaborate in ways that allow each faculty member to co-learn, co-teach, contribute knowledge and benefit from collective knowledge; as those who are learning skills that were often not part of their graduate programs and may be determined by policymakers rather than by disciplinary best practices, thy need access to coaching, technical support, and follow-up as part of professional development projects and infrastructure; and they need access to differentiated learning that engages their particular disciplinary, technological, and pedagogical proficiencies and teaching assignments (Zepeda, 2015). Soine & Lumpe (2014) summarize effective PD as creating “opportunities for teachers to take control of their own learning, deepen their subject knowledge, construct knowledge from previous knowledge and experiences, become comfortable with their role as a learner, and develop intellectual camaraderie with colleagues” (pp. 303-304).

In my current role, I have the opportunity once again to personally experience what K-12 teachers live out. Teachers manage a heavy load of expectations and activities regarding professional evaluations, standardized assessment results, standards-based curricular coverage, and a plethora of technology options. There is never enough time to teach all that is prescribed to be taught. As a leader teacher, it is my desire to continue to grow professionally, but also to see my colleagues, school, and district be all that we can be.

In such a circumstance, what is a realistic approach to providing or improving educational technology professional development for teachers that might be put forward by teacher leaders and other leaders?

Reflecting on the needs of teachers while experiencing their reality, upon the words and actions of administrators and teachers who have inspired me as leaders, and upon my experiences in both teaching and coaching have brought me to focus on the importance not only of research, but of realism and relationships.

While I am looking forward to following Soine and Lumpe’s (2014) example of describing empirical links between professional development characteristics to outcomes, I’m also compelled by the need for realistic solutions for improved teaching and learning through technology-related PD and for the power of authentic relationships between teachers, teacher leaders, and those with coaching or administrative roles.

Addison, J. (2015). Shifting the locus of control: Why the common core state standards and

emerging standardized tests may reshape college writing classrooms. The Journal of Writing Assessment, 8(1). Retrieved from: http://journalofwritingassessment.org/article.php?article=82

Bachy, S. (2014). TPDK, A new definition of the TPACK model for a university setting.

European journal of open, distance, and e-learning, 17(2), 15-39. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2014/Bachy.pdf

Center for Public Education. (2013). Teaching the teachers: Effective professional development

in an era of high stakes accountability. Retrieved from

http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/research/teaching-teachers-effective-professional-development

Daley, B.J (Summer 2003). A case for learner-centered teaching and learning. New

directions for adult and continuing education, 98.

Fetters, M.L., & Duby, T.G. (February 2011). Faculty Development: A stage model matched to

blended learning maturation. Journal of asynchronous learning networks, 15(1), 77-86. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ918221.pdf

Jaipal-Jamani, K., & Figg, C. (2015) A Framework for TPACK-in-Practice: Designing

Technology Professional Learning Contexts to Develop Teacher Technology Knowledge (TPACK). In Valanides, N. & C. Angeli (Eds.), Exploring, developing, and assessing TPCK(pps. 137-164). New York: Springer Publications.

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