Category Archives: Professional Development and Program Evaluation

How To Ask Your Administrator For The Professional Development You Need

When it comes to professional development opportunities or technology needed for your classroom, you know best what you need and what will best serve your students. However, it can be difficult to ask for it.  Budgets are tight, you don’t want to seem greedy, you don’t want other teachers to think you are trying to “take” the limited funds, and, likely more than anything, you are just too busy and overwhelmed with the daily tasks of teaching to make time to ask. However, high-quality professional development and useful technology advancements can really transform your classroom. And sometimes you just need to ask. And know how to ask.

For my coursework in my Educational Technology Leadership class we are looking at ISTE Standards for Coaching 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation. More specifically, performance indicator B which reads “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).” We are guided by questions about what role administration plays in in designing professional development and how to advocate for professional learning opportunities when administrators pursue new educational technology initiatives. While considering these questions, I wanted to focus on how best to communicate teachers needs/wants with administrators as they pertain to professional learning around technology initiatives.  

There are many types of administrators. I have had at least 10 in my 14-year teaching career, so I have seen many different personalities and styles.  But, I think it is important for teachers to keep in mind that administrators have the same goals as teachers…we all want the students in our classrooms to be as successful (academically, socially, and emotionally) as they possible can.  In this age of teacher evaluations it can seem like there is this greater divide between the goals and focuses of teachers and administrators, but I don’t feel that is the case. At least it hasn’t been in my experience. The key is communication, as is the key to most all our relationships in life.  Your administrator is not going to know what you need unless you tell them.

Here are some recommendations for communicating your professional needs to an administrator:

  1. Make a list.

Get organized. Make a list of what you are requesting and why.

  1. Schedule a Meeting

Don’t make your request via email or over a casual conversation in the hallway. Also, don’t have this discussion during a meeting that is scheduled for another purpose. Make your request be the purpose for the meeting.

  1. Ask

Be direct and clear. Ask for what you need. Be specific and get to the point. Caralee Adams wrote a piece I found on the Scholastic website that speaks to this. “Often teachers don’t think through how to ask for what they want, or they’re too busy to even try. That attitude can result in missed opportunities. And grumbling in the faculty lounge, rather than raising the issue with your boss, won’t get you results (Adams).”

  1. Explain what you are doing and how it’s going

Administrators have a lot on their plate and a lot of teachers/grades/subjects to keep track of. Make sure your administrator knows what you are doing in your classroom and how it’s working with the training and tools you currently have access to.

  1. Explain how you will use the PD you are requesting.

Tell your administrator what you will do with the training or tools you are requesting. How will having these help your students more successful?

  1. Have a plan.

Make sure you have done your homework. How much will this training or tech tool cost? How will the administrator go about looking how to obtain your request? The more research you do, the less they might have to do. This might increase the likelihood on it getting approved.

  1. Thank them.

Sure, it’s part of their job. But everyone likes to be thanked and appreciated. Thank your administrator for their time and for listening to your request.

  1. Follow up.

If your request is granted, follow up and tell your administrator what you learned and how you are using the training or tool in your classroom. If your request was denied, follow up and ask if there is anything you can do to help facilitate your request being granted.

So now, start reflecting and researching. What do you need? What will help your students grow and succeed as 21st century learners?  Make a list, have a plan, schedule a meeting, and ask!  

Resources:

Adams, C. (publication date unknown) Scholastic website. Retrieved on 2019, February 24 from: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/how-ask-your-principal-anything/

Gonzales, Jennifer (2017). Cult of Pedagogy Website (Retrieved on February24, 2019) from: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/letter-to-administrators/

ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2019, February 23) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Differentiating Teacher PD

When planning curriculum and gathering instructional materials teachers are always looking for ways to differentiate for the diverse learners in their classrooms. As teachers we do this on a daily basis and we do it so often that most of the time we hardly realize we are doing it. It’s just a strategy we use in order to provide all our students the best opportunities for success. But what about when it’s the teachers who are the learners? Is the learning being differentiated for us? Teachers are just as diverse as our students when it comes to what we require as learners if the learning is to be beneficial and effective.

As I look most closely at ISTE Coaching Standard 4 (Professional Development and Program Evaluation), specifically 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.) I wanted to look more closely at how our knowledge of adult learning might impact our planning on professional learning experiences.

5 Ways to Differentiate Professional Learning

for Teachers

Differentiation by grade level

What works in a 4th or 5th grade class isn’t going to necessarily apply to a Kindergarten class. I have been in some very successful professional learning sessions where information is presented whole group and then teachers are divided up by grade levels (or grade level bands…K/1, 2/3, 4/5). This type of differentiation is most applicable to elementary schools.

Differentiation by subject area

This type of differentiation would apply more to middle and high school teachers. The professional learning experience could either be something that applies to most all teachers, for example: a training on Google Classroom, and there is a whole group session at the beginning and then subject area teams split off to discuss further how this particular learning could best apply to their subject area. Another way this type of differentiation could work is just by having teachers of different subject areas be focusing on completely different types of learning experiences based on the needs of their department.

Differentiation by experience

Technology professional development is an example of an area where different learners have different experiences with the tools and programs and also have different comfort levels. Some many want help learning how to print or add bookmarks and others may be ready to create screencasts or help students create blogs.

Differentiation by interest

Teachers are unique individuals and each bring a a part of themselves into their classrooms.  Soe might have interest in incorporating yoga into their classrooms, some might add music to the curriculum, and others might enjoy cooking.  And many teachers get ideas for how to enrich their curriculum from other teachers sharing their strategies and providing training.

Plan for Differentiation Before, During, and After

I found a blog post by Jen Cirillo on the ASCD website about differentiating instruction in professional learning and she mentions some steps to take before, during, and after the learning experience. Here are some of her suggestions:

Before the Experience:

  • Know your audience
  • Plan with flexibility
  • Think about what they need to know as practitioners (Cirillo, 2015)

During the Experience:

  • Model different ways of teaching
  • Remember that how you learn best isn’t always the way everyone else learns
  • Transparent facilitation anc check-ins
  • Consider the whole learner
  • Formative assessments (Cirillo, 2015)

After the Experience:

  • Ongoing learning and differentiation through: coaching/mentoring in the classroom, online learning, access to resources, or reflection logs (Cirillo, 2015).

Resources:

Cirillo, J. (2015). ASCD website. Retrieved 2019, April 1 from: http://inservice.ascd.org/differentiating-instruction-in-professional-learning/

ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2019, March 1) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Asynchronous Online Teacher PD: Broadening the Options and Networks

This quarter my cohort for my Digital Education Leadership program is being asked to look closely at ISTE Standards for Coaches #4 which relates to Professional Learning and Program Evaluation. Within that standard performance indicator B looks at technology rich professional learning: “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).”  I wanted to explore the topic of asynchronous online teacher professional learning because I think the options and opportunities that are available in our digital world can have a tremendous impacts on teaching and student learning.

What’s a PLN?

A PLN is a Professional Learning Network.  Different from traditional in-person one-size-fits-all professional learning experiences, a professional learning network (PLN) allows teachers to personalize their learning based on their experience, needs, and interests. A PLN allows teachers to take advantage of the tremendous network on teachers online who are willing to share, learn, and build community through a digital platform.

Jeff Knutson has a article on the Common Sense Media website called, “ From PLN to Practice: Tips from 5 Educators on Personalizing your Professional Learning” (Knutson, 2017).  I found this interview and the suggestions and different perspectives these educators provided very helpful. When asked to define a PLN one educator (Lisa Dabbs) answered, “In traditional PD it’s often the case that an educator has no choice over the topic or the type of content shared. A PLN is more like a modern, 21st-century teacher’s lounge. A place where ideas can be shared, exchanged, talked about, and transformed. Ideally, a safe place where questions can be presented without judgment. A PLN is a place where an educator at any level can direct and guide their own learning. They can be their own seeker of knowledge.” (Knutson, 2017). This response really resonated with me and I like how she mentioned the lack of judgement and the power of choice in a PLN. Creating a safe learning environment and providing choice in learning activities are two of my goals for my own classroom, so it makes sense that those factors are key in adult learning.  Another interview question that was asked was how to get started with a PLN. Some suggestions were “start small”, find a PLN mentor, and “take it at your own speed”. And the final, and I believe most important, question that Knutson asked his panel was how to put what is being learning through a PLN into practice. Because the best professional learning isn’t going to have a lot of value to you unless it is put into practice. My favorite quote here is “take a chance”. It can be scary to try new things in our classroom because, like many of our students, we are afraid to fail. And failing as a teacher can often be a public fail. But what a great way for us to model to our students our own learning and risk-taking.

Classroom Technology Usage Pilot

In my continued exploration of professional development and evaluation, I partnered with the Educational Technology and Media department from my university to conduct a pilot survey on what types, and how faculty use current classroom technologies. The results of this pilot will inform necessary modifications to the data collection tool prior to faculty-wide administration at a later date. This is a summary of the project outcomes.

Purpose and Objectives

The aim of this pilot study was to assess current classroom technology usage at a private university in Seattle, Washington. A secondary purpose was to test the data collection tool

Five study objectives, including two related to data collection, were created:

  1. Assess current level and type of technology usage by faculty.
  2. Assess readiness for online teaching (through analysis of objective 1).
  3. Determine if current technology offered to faculty meets the needs of the faculty.
  4. Collect feedback from pilot participants on survey questions for improvement.
  5. Determine if pilot survey collects intended data.

Methodology

A survey was distributed to a convenience sample of 20 participants with the ability to recruit others. The participants were asked questions regarding areas of teaching where technology is incorporated, types of classroom technology use, student use of classroom technology, and self-identification of rate of technology adoption. Descriptive analysis was run to determine characteristic technology use of the sample along with correlation tests to beginning understanding use profiles.

Results

The results of this pilot study indicate that of the eleven (11) participants that completed the survey, most professors are fast to average technology adaptors indicating that they are open to technologies in the classroom and use technology in at least one area of their teaching/student learning. 

Bar graph describing self-identified rate of technology adoption"
Figure 1.1 “Self-identified rate of technology adoption”

Professors feel mostly comfortable with supported classroom technologies unless they do not have access to them.  If they do not feel comfortable with a technology, students will also not be exposed to these technologies which may include those that all professors have access to but are not part of every classroom such as mics and webcams. Professors also tended to rely more heavily on supported technologies as opposed to social media, which is true even when factoring into technology adoption identification. Professors used on average five (5) of the supported technologies where Canvas was the most commonly used. In comparison, professors only used one (1) social media platform on average, YouTube was the most preferred.

bar graph describing faculty use of supported classroom technology
Figure 1.2 Faculty Use of Supported Classroom Technology

V.S.

The faculty in this study were supportive of student use of technology in the classroom, allowing students to use all types of technologies only discriminating when in the classroom period technology may be used.

Recommendations

These findings cannot be generalized to the entire faculty demographic.  Recommendations to clarify survey items for better responses include definitions of major technology terminology and changes to the Likert scales for inclusion.

Full Report

An Administrator’s Role in Professional Development Implementation.

Good professional development just doesn’t happen on its own.  Along with timely execution by a knowledgeable instructor that respects adult learning, to meet the ISTE coaching standard 4, professional development also needs support by administrators. While it is clear to me that administrators inform policies and procedures that govern culture in an institution, I must admit that I do not have a lot of background knowledge nor intimate understanding of the process administrators use to determine professional development. For this post, I’d like to investigate that process a little more closely.  In particular, I would like to take a closer look in to understanding what role administrators play in the successful implementation of professional development.

Through my investigation, I gathered insight into what administrators face on a daily basis. Much like the changing landscape for teachers in implementing strategies and methods needed for 21st century skills, administrators are faced with the same predicament in engaging students and teachers with these skills. What is unique to the administrator’s challenge is that they have the added responsibility of initiation. Change starts with them so their attitudes and behaviors mirror the rate of success in improvement. Administrators who value technology and the development of 21st century skills are then viewed as technology leaders who must demonstrate willingness to learn, be flexible, and accept on-going change for technology adoption and implementation to occur, (Grady, 2011).  An administrator’s role as a technology leader begins by setting a clear vision and understanding the standards that govern that vision, (Grady, 2011). Grady’s view on the administrator’s qualities mirrors that of the ISTE standard in the fact that not only are vision and goals to be communicated to faculty but good administrators model good technology use in various modes, provide engaging professional development, and engage in continuous professional development themselves as a lifelong learner, (Grady, 2011). Grady also shares that administrators that are good technology leaders also recognize faculty at the cornerstone of implementation, (Grady, 2011).  Therefore, while professional development may create awareness about specific policies, it is understood true implementation requires more action and evaluation.

Former teacher turned administrator, Lyn Hilt, shares her investigation and thoughts on the administrator’s role in implementing successful professional development. After reflecting upon her experiences undergoing professional development as a teacher and having no recollection of anything that she implemented from those experiences, she concludes that rather than engaging in “development”, institutions should adopt the idea of “professional learning.”  One key facet that Hilt wishes the reader to consider is that “teachers are not vehicles through which schools deliver programs and policies,” (Hilt, 2011).  Instead Hilt offers the idea that teachers are individuals with passions and interests, so an administrator’s true role is to foster a desire to learn, (Hilt, 2011). Hilt buys in to the notion that teachers are adult learners and therefore effective “development” should take this into consideration.  When teachers elicit true excitement about learning, that learning becomes implemented into their teaching, (Hilt, 2011).

Both Grady and Hilt agree that building community and shared experiences are key to successful professional development.  Grady offers the “teacher-to-teacher” model where technology modeling takes center stage.  In this model, teachers demonstrate learning activities to other teachers (their audience) while allowing their audience an opportunity to explore and implement these activities, (Grady, 2011).  While it may seem that the role of the administrator in this model is minimal, successful implementation is dependent on allowing teachers opportunities for repeated activities as this model does not work well in isolation.  In addition, administrative support is crucial by providing key resources and time to practice the skills learned in each “teacher-to-teacher” session, (Grady, 2011). While Grady’s model fosters community through localized support, Hilt emphasizes community and collaborations supported through professional learning communities (PLCs) that represents a broad network of professionals learning from each other in addition to the local resources. In the PLC model, teachers are viewed as experts and therefore are afforded active participation and choice in professional development. Hilt offers several characteristics of teachers as experts as summarized in figure 1.1 below.

qualities of teacher experts in shaping professional development.
Figure 1.1 Abilities of Teachers as Experts in Professional Development

In both of these models described above, the teachers are in control of the learning itself while administrators support that learning. As established, successful implementation of professional development, or learning, relies on the administrators’ ability to establish a clear vision, communicating that vision while modeling good technology practices, and finally providing resources.  When teachers are allowed an active role in an environment that supports on-going learning and fosters community, learning that shapes teaching occurs. 

Resources

Grady, M. (2011). Principle’s roles as technology leader. Available from: https://www.seenmagazine.us/Articles/Article-Detail/articleid/1800/the-principal-8217-s-role-as-technology-leader

Hilt, L. (2011). Out with professional development, in with profession learning. Available from: https://plpnetwork.com/2011/08/18/out-with-professional-development-in-with-professional-learning/

Applying Formative Assessment in Professional Development

In these past few weeks, I have been exploring professional development (PD) models that optimize adult learning. The primary focus of these posts has been on the characteristics of adult learning and various professional development formats that honor these characteristics.  While understanding these models is important so that participants gain the most out of their professional development, in this post I’d like to focus on applying these concepts to incorporate content, exploring educational technology best practices described in the ISTE coaching standard 4b:  “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).

In investigating digital age best practices, formative assessment appeared as a reoccurring theme. Formative assessment as part of a feedback loops empowers learners to engage in the trial and error of learning safely and with minimal risk. Applying formative assessment to professional development could offer similar results. In applying this idea to the ISTE standard, I began wondering what digital tools could be implemented to teach teachers about the importance of formative feedback?

What is “Formative Assessment” and why is it a best practice?

Feedback loops are often used as a teaching best practice in aiding students build 21st century skills. As described in other posts in this blog, of the four different types of assessment, traditional, or summative, assessment measures learning after an assignment has been turned in.  Summative evaluation assumes that a student has “learned” after an intervention (such as teaching) and the educator evaluates the extent of that learning, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). While summative assessment is useful for formal evaluation, it may not be timely nor help students improve if only offered as one-time feedback, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Where summative assessment is formal and final, formative assessment is more casual and on-going as the evaluation occurs during the learning, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Formative assessment therefore provides a checkpoint for student understanding, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.)

I explore the benefits of feedback loops for students in this post, I’d like to expand the investigation to including formative feedback as a tool in adult learning.  The Office of Educational Technology found that formative feedback when coupled with technology tools may be more complete than traditional assessment and may “reduce time, resources, and disruption” to conduct the assessment, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.) These benefits help educators as formative assessment may provide an avenue for capturing teaching qualities that open opportunities for “self-reflection, peer reflection, feedback, and supervisor evaluation,” (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.). Extending these concepts further, formative assessment can be used in professional development as a means to inform instructional practice where participants track their own learning, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.). This means that meaningful evaluation can occur more rapidly and frequently, offer more insight, and help guide professional development needs.

Tech tools that can be used for formative assessment.

There are several educational technology tools that can be used for formative assessment. Common Sense Education created a list of the top 27 tools for formative assessment available here.  These formative feedback tools include the following features: student progress tracking, interactive and collaborative activities, student-paced learning, and instant feedback to both students and teacher. Formative feedback is given by utilizing interactive slideshow presentations, video responses, multi-multimedia platforms, content-mapping, quizzes (including clickers and polling), and backchannel chats. In creating the list, Common Sense Education agrees with the Office of Educational Technology stating that the best formative assessment tools help students (and participants in this case) self-reflect and assess so that they understand their current level of learning and self-identify areas of improvement, (Common Sense Education, n.d.).

Integrating formative assessment into professional development.

Incorporating formative assessment in adult learning must assume that participants are learners who are joining the professional development for a variety of different motives that are relevant to their work situations. Though are quite a few professional development resources available on the internet on formative feedback tools, I’d like to use this professional development video I found through YouTube entitled, “10Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology: Meaningful, Sustainable, & Scalable” as an example. In the video Dr. Monica Burns walks participants through her tips by highlighting main features and how to use some formative feedback tools.  A summary of her tips is provided in figure 1.1 below.

infographic on tips for incoporating technology tools with formative assessment.
Figure 1.1. Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology

Though the video is purely informational as Dr. Burns lectures for about 30 minutes on her ten tips, this could be a useful resource for participants that are highly motivated. The professional development model used assumes that the participants already have an awareness of formative assessment and simply need guidance or ideas on how to implement this in their teaching practice.

According to the ISTE standard, best practices for the effective PD includes modeling, (ISTE, 2017). While the workshop above may model ways to use each tool through verbal and visual description, it fails to include participant buy-in and interaction. Formative feedback could have been included into the professional development itself, allowing participants an opportunity to experience instant feedback through the lens of a learner. For example, demonstrating how to gauge comprehension to better understand the audience’s needs could have been accomplished by using a backchannel chat or using the polling/quizzes apps described in the video.  This tangible and experiential approach could help increase self-efficacy of technology tools for mixed audiences where the presenter modifies their role to facilitation at certain periods of the professional development.  When presenters start thinking about their participants as learners, professional development becomes stronger, more impactful which can yield better improvements in teaching and learning.

References

Common Sense Education, (n.d.) Top tech tools for formative assessment. Available from: https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/top-tech-tools-for-formative-assessment

Office of Educational Technology, (n.d.) Section 4: Measuring for Learning. Available from: https://tech.ed.gov/netp/assessment/

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Incorporating feedback loops to develop an empowered student [blog]. Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/incorporating-feedback-loops-to-develop-an-empowered-student/

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Instructional coaching: Using rubrics to quantify qualitative data for improved teaching outcomes.
Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/instructional-coaching-using-rubrics-to-quantify-qualitative-data-for-improved-teaching-outcomes/

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/

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/ 

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

Professional Development-Improving Digital Literacy through Peer Modeling

It shouldn’t be a surprise that experts support the idea of incorporating technology into new and existing learning models to facilitate deeper and different skill sets than those taught by conventional methods today.  The biggest push for more technology adoption in education is to move the educational system away from antiquated models developed during the industrial revolution to a system that reflects today’s society and workplace. I particularly enjoy Sir Ken Robinson’s argument for changing the education system because we are living an an era where we are trying to meet the needs of the future with old methods designed for a different society than the one we live in now, (RSA, 2010).  Robinson stresses that we need to adopt new models that redefine the idea of “academic” versus “non-academic” and accept differences in thinking in regards to what it means to be “educated”. Part of the reason for this push is that today’s children are exposed to information stimuli which capture attention and change learning needs, (RSA, 2010).  

Incorporating 21st century skills requires introduction, implementation, and use of technology at all levels of education. Considering the importance of developing these skills, it is also important to understand the reasons behind creating a paradigm shift, particularly as we prepare students for the real-world in higher education. The New Media Consortium (NMC) published a report looking into the key trends that would promote and accelerate technology adoption in higher education. NMC identified and classified these trends in terms of length of time needed for implementation as well as difficulty, (NMC, 2017). Figure 1.1 summarizes the six key trends for technology adoption.

Infographic summarizing the key trends for accelerating technology adoption from NMC
Figure 1.1 NMC’s Key Trends for Accelerating Technology Adoption

What’s interesting to note about the trends above is that they not only focus on types of technology, or ways that technology is used in the classroom, but also on important skill sets and new ways of thinking that elevate technology use to a different, more meaningful level.  

Because the primary responsibility of a higher education institution should be to prepare students for the real-world, understanding the technology implications behind each of these trends call us, the professors, to reevaluate our technology use in the classroom. Despite these conversations on the need for technology adoption in higher education, several challenges continue to slow the rate of adoption.  NMC summarized six key challenges that significantly impede the process of the aforementioned trends. The challenges were classified from “solvable”, meaning the problem is well understood and solutions exist, to “wicked” where the challenges involve societal change,or,  dramatic restructuring of thinking or existing models, where solutions can’t be identified in the near future, (NMC, 2017). Figure 1.2 describes these challenges in more depth.

Infographic on the six challenges to technology adoption by NMC
Figure 1.2 Summary of the Six Challenges to Technology Adoption.

While experts look into the challenges that require more investigation and assessment of impact, I’d like to focus on one of the solvable challenges: digital literacy. Digital literacy has a broad definition which include a set of skills that “… fit the individual for living, learning, and working in a digital society,” (JISC, 2014). While mostly thought of as the ability to use different types of technology, the definition expands to include a deeper understanding of the digital environment, (NMC, 2017). Successful components of digital literacy include accessing, managing, evaluating, integrating, creating, and communicating information in all aspects of life, (UNESCO, 2011).  The UNESCO Institute for Information Technology in Education argues that digital literacy is basic skill that is equally as important as learning to read, write, and do math, (UNESCO, 2011). Interesting, when students are taught digital literacy and are allowed to use technology in learning, they grasp math and science more readily and easily than students without this skill, (UNESCO, 2011).

While it is clear that digital literacy is an important skill, during a departmental assessment conducted for another class, digital literacy was one of the biggest impediments to adopting technology. Faculty were only adopting technology only in response to industry need.  Many professors were eager to learn but not sure how to start using new technology, while others simply did not see a value in spending time and energy in implement new learning methods. Among the biggest barriers explored were time, knowledge deficit, and lack of professional development on digital literacy. Therefore, improving digital literacy will prove to be crucial to promote more tech adoption in the classroom. Professional development would need to include a conversation on what literacy looks like for each discipline and should not only include online etiquette, digital rights and responsibilities, curriculum design built around student-facing services, but also on the incorporation for the right technology for each context, (NMC, 2017).  

The ISTE standard for educators (2c) states that modelling is the, “identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning” that can be used in professional development, (ISTE, 2017). So the what are effective methods for modeling and facilitating good digital literacy as part of faculty (formal or informal) development?

Peer modeling has been suggested as an alternative to traditional professional development or inservice. Among the reasons for peer modeling success is the fact that peer modeling is personalizable and actionable.  Faculty can choose the various digital literacy topics they are personally interested in, receive one-on-one training related to their knowledge gap and needs while receiving hands-on application, (Samek, et. al, 2016).  George Fox University piloted a peer modeling project after reviewing key data related to a digital fluency mentorship program that utilized tech solutions and the pedagogy to support tech use). The program was initially developed to address faculty desire for one-on-one training.  From faculty feedback survey, the program developers learned that faculty are more likely to adopt a tech solution if they see it in action (actionable examples) and are given evidence of positive student learning outcomes. Due to the success of the program, the university has expanded its efforts to other collaborative development, (Samek, et. al. 2016).

Learning from George Fox’s example, universities could build resources to offer similar professional development on digital literacy to improve technology adoption. What I particularly like about this idea is that it is a different way to look a professional development where the mentor can be the expert but it could also later transition into a co-learning model to increase ownership and interest in technology adoption. This model goes beyond professional development to focus on the real-time needs of each faculty member and work on existing classroom components. Above all, peer modeling improves digital literacy to increase technology adoption to further develop the 21st century skills of students and teachers alike.

References

JISC, (2014, Dec. 16). Developing digital literacy. [website]. Available from: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies.

New Media Consortium, (2017). Horizon report: 2017 Higher Education. [pdf].  Available from: http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf

RSA, (2010, Oct 14).  Changing educational paradigms [Youtube Video]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U.

Samek, L., Ashford, R.M., Doherty, G., Espinor, D., Barardi, A.A., (2016). A peer training model to promote digital fluency among university faculty: Program component and initial efficacy data. Faculty Publications, School of Education. Paper 144.  Available from: http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1143&context=soe_faculty

UNESCO Institute for Information Technology in Education, (2011, May). Policy brief. [pdf]. Available from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002144/214485e.pdf