Category Archives: Professional Development

Edcamp Unconference: A Professional Development Model

While taking Seattle Pacific University’s EDTC 6103 Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 2 class, we are asked to investigate the following ISTE Educator Standards:

Learner: Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.

Leader: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.

While researching these standards I saw an opportunity to connect what I am learning within my MEd program to a struggle I have been experiencing within my school. In our school we are actively searching for ways to enhance and develop engaging professional development opportunities for both new and experienced teachers. I have attended a few professional development conferences and workshops before, but one that I always felt I learned the most from was an Edcamp Unconference I attended with a few of my cohort members. This blog post will serve as way for me to introduce the Edcamp Model to my school as well as address the following standard indicators within my program:

  • 1b. Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.
  • 2a. Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.

What is an Edcamp?

For those of you who have never heard of an Edcamp Unconference before, you are not alone. Before joining my Med program I also had no experience with this type of professional development model. In one article on professional development I found the word “Unconference” defined as ” Voluntary, informal learning experiences that reject traditional conference structures such as a predetermined slate of speakers and sessions.” (Carpenter, 2016)

This definition fit well with my experience for when you first enter the unconference there are no pre-planned sessions or speakers rather there is a place for you and others to write about what you want to take away from this experience and learn from one another. Once everyone wrote down their ideas we worked as a group to determine which concepts could be merged into one session, and the order the sessions would take place. In my experience there were 3 different time slots with 3 different sessions happening at the same time. As a participant you would then select which sessions you would like to attend and the best part was if you chose one session, but then felt the conversation wasn’t what you expected, they allowed you to simply walk out and join another session! The experience itself felt catered on what you wanted to learn and what was going to help you grow as a leader within your school.

A photo of sessions being built during an Edcamp Unconference.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/education/learning/edcamps-teacher-professional-development.html

In a New York Times article written by Katherine Schulten, she defines the Edcamp Model as a place where “Teachers teach themselves”.(Schulten, 2018) In every session during an Edcamp you see educators working together to share resources, advice, and personal experiences with one another. The collaboration is unlike any other and till this day I use the resources that were shared in each session. What I also liked was that you also had access to sessions you did not attend and the leader of that session would write about what was discussed, the topics covered, and any resources shared within that session. At the end of the session we grouped back up and each shared something we learned or took away from the experience. It shocked me that this Model involves no fees and is solely based on the participants interests. The experience as a whole is unlike any other; you gain knowledge on a variety of concepts and only need to bring a laptop to access the information shared!

Edcamp founder Kristen Swanson explains, “Since Edcamps are free by design, they draw people together for face-to-face interactions. These types of interactions help teachers to build relationships with colleagues facing similar challenges in similar systems. This makes the learning opportunity uniquely different from traditional ‘sit and get’ workshops or widely dispersed online professional development programs.” (Getting Smart, 2012)

Impact on Student Learning

Kriten Swanson states that, ““Edcamps strive to provide space for teachers to learn from each other. They give everyone a voice and a forum to explore new ideas and strategies”. (Getting Smart, 2012) The impact on teacher learning is clear, but how does this type of professional development impact student learning?

In a book written by the Edcamp Foundation, the authors describe the success of an Edcamp as having influenced a “change in teacher practice and classroom learning.” (Edcamp Model, 2014) They then pose this question to anyone who has attended an Edcamp Unconference before: “Has an Edcamp session significantly impacted your practice?” (Edcamp Model, 2014) Here are a couple of real responses from Educators on how Edcamps impacted their classroom and their students learning:

  • Craig Yen: During his Edcamp experience Craig learned about global collaboration and resources such as Mystery Skype and Global Read Aloud. He began implementing these resources into his 5th grade classroom. He explains that these resources allowed his students to think more about “geographical terms “in order to successfully answer questions they were given through Mystery Skype, such as ” Are you Landlocked?” (Edcamp Model, 2014)
  • Sean Wheeler– Before attending Edcamp Sean was planning a “deign-centered unit” for his high school students. One of the sessions that was agreed upon during his Edcamp was “Human-Centered Design”. Through that session Sean gathered information and resources to help plan a beneficial unit for his learners. (Edcamp Model, 2014)

Through these examples it is clear to see the correlation between what teachers learn from Edcamp Unconferences to how this knowledge is then presented into their classroom and ultimately impacting the students learning.

Edcamp Resources

Offical Edcamp Website: https://www.edcamp.org/

Edcamp Puget Sound: http://www.edcampseattle.org/

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/EdcampUSA

References

Carpenter, Jeffrey. (2014, August 18). Unconference professional development: Edcamp participant perceptions and motivations for attendance. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19415257.2015.1036303?needAccess=true

The Edcamp Foundation. (2014). The Edcamp Model, Powering Up Professional Learning. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=IXhZDwAAQBAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PT4

George Lucas Educational Foundation. (2016, April 12). Resources for Organizing an Edcamp. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/edcamp-organizer-resources

Getting Smart Staff. (2012, January 23). Edcamp: Innovation In Professional Development. Retrieved from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2012/01/edcamp-innovation-in-professional-development/

ISTE. (2019). ISTE Standards for Educators. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Schultan, Katherine. (2018, June 5). Edcamps: The ‘Unconferences,’ Where Teachers Teach Themselves. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/education/learning/edcamps-teacher-professional-development.html

Selak, Bill. [Bill Selak]. (2012, December 18). EdCamp. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=68&v=gr7teMAk-hA

Swanson, Kristen [Tedx Talks]. (2011, July 27). TEDxPhiladelphiaED – Kristen Swanson – EdCamp. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVDUIoMavLM&feature=youtu.be

ISTE 1&2 Learner and Leader

Learner : Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators:

1a. Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.

1b. Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.

1c. Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.

Leader: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning. Educators:

2a. Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.

2b. Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.

2c. Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.

Teacher as a creative profession, need to seek lifelong learning to catch up with the current trend of education. Emerging digital technology brings educational transformation which indicates the significant changes in teaching and learning. Facing the changes, teachers need to be inspired to take the risk to have a deep dive in seeking new ways suitable for the 21st century’s needs to prepare our students for the digital era. In my last blog, I discussed social media as a powerful tool can build a broad network (PLN) connecting worldwide educators to enhance collaboration and inspiration among them. Educators can create their PLN or join PLNs to learn from and learn with others to make the network stronger and more influential. Teachers will always act actively and feel satisfaction when they get empowered in PD relevant to their interests and specific classroom context. Social media and PLNs also provide an alternative platform that provokes them to take the lead in the digital world to contribute their experiences and expertise. Also, enable teachers to spend majority time in informal sustained PD to gain growth and flame their passion on the profession but still have some challenges that need to be focused on.

Challenges
The Obstacle of Starting out
We always talked about the power of social media and PLNs. However, it always being the pain for some teachers who might ask the questions “What is the next step I can do after creating a twitter account? ”, “How can I find like-minded educators in the PLNs?”. For some reason, these teachers are too nervous about using technologies and will get overwhelmed soon if they cannot gain positive energy from other technology enthusiasts. The percentage of this group of teachers should be high. They need more help and direction to reduce the daunting of technologies before they integrate any technology tools into their classes effectively to benefit student learning.

Being Mindful of the Reliability Online
Because of the few gatekeepers and the low costs of participation of social media, anyone can share experiences regardless of qualification or motive. When the educators join a PLN to seek help and collaboration, they will not know the reliability of the members and the resources which needs to be mindful. Some who are holding extreme partisan attitude on educational technologies may or may not have real experiences in teaching practice.

Edcamp is Like the Soil Nourished Teacher-Powered PD to be Stronger and Healthier
Edcamp is recognized as one model of effective PDs which subverts traditional top-down form, supports teachers openly exchange ideas and provides opportunities for collaboration and leadership. It is a grass-roots approach gathering educators together who are holding enthusiasm on teaching and learning in the digital world to pursue new instruction methods to foster student’s skills suitable for the 21st century and the ability to deal with the potential ambiguities and varieties for the future. It has a teacher-driven, inquiry-based structure with which teachers get totally empowered, their ideas are matter, and their voices are heard. In the Edcamp, every teacher will be considered as an equal collaborator to learn from and learn with other educators who have rich experiences or have similar interests and needs. Because of the voluntary nature and face-to-face unconference form of Edcamp, every participant is welcoming and willing to help which shapes a healthy and reliable platform for global educators to interact and inspire each other. Edcamp provides a seedbed for the effective and invigorated PLNs created and shone on teacher’s professional growth. Social media can be used to highlight and continue the work to extend the influence of Edcamp among teachers.

Policymaker’s Support
As the Edcamps can provide a reliable and healthy platform for teacher’s growth, policymakers should consider how to encourage and harness teacher-powered learning instead of setting constrainers on the shapes of PD. If the policymakers can embrace teacher-driven and self-identified PD, teachers will be more active and seek more opportunities for leadership to lead development and revolution in education.

As we always talk about the new requirements for students for the 21st century, who need to foster abilities to leverage technology to support their autonomous learning, facilitate the issues of technology, and select and use digital tools to plan and manage meaningful learning. As educators in the digital era, we always are the learners while getting professional growth. While we are paving the way for cultivating abilities for our students, the abilities also are necessary for us, the life-long learners.

References:

Wake, D., & Mills, M. (2018). Edcamp: Listening to the Voices of Teachers. Issues in Teacher Education, 27(3), 90–106. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ1193769&site=ehost-live

Carpenter, J. P. (2016). Teachers at the Wheel. Educational Leadership, 73(8), 30–35. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ1100630&site=ehost-live

The EdCamp Experience: Guest Post. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.edcamptampabay.com/blog/the-edcamp-experience-guest-post

Buteau, C. (2019). My Experience at Edcamp – ESL Blogs. Retrieved from http://blogdev.learnquebec.ca/eslcommunity/archives/687

Carpenter, J. P., & Linton, J. N. (2016). Edcamp unconferences: Educators perspectives on an untraditional professional learning experience. Teaching and Teacher Education,57, 97-108. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2016.03.004

ISTE 4 – Collaborator – for Educators

Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators:

4a. Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology

4b. Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.

4c.  Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams, and students, locally and globally.

4d.  Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents, and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.

Teachers as the most important factor determine students’ success in learning. As digital technology getting involved in education, teachers are facing significant changes in learning and teaching. They need to equip themselves with the latest knowledge and skills to get ongoing professional growth to adapt to the digital world. Since the traditional PD has many drawbacks which cannot satisfy every individual teacher’s needs and interests, seek more collaboration with colleagues is the key to provoke growth of the whole teachers’ needs. Digital tools make collaboration easier and wider which can provide more opportunities to create tight connections among educators to pave a creative path for students to gain the competencies for the 21st century. Moreover, at the same time, teachers can sustain their professional growth on cognition and emotion by supporting, influencing, and inspiring each other to leave the comfort zone to get ready for the future educational journey.

Integrate Social Media to get more collaboration- provoke informal PD andsave the traditional PD from the Death Valley

A failed PD experience

Our school started PD on technology integration one year ago. As the Ed tech person and the teacher for the iPad class, I was asked to lead a workshop to introduce some good iPad Apps which have potential benefits to improve students’ innovative learning. In the two hours of the workshop, I tried to give more time to teachers to pilot these Apps and ask questions. I shared some creative artifacts using these Apps which can inspire teachers to have a brainstorm on their instruction. I can see their enthusiasm and positive attitude on the transformation from technology. I thought this was a successful PD as I extended the time of discussion and brainstorm. However, after the PD, I got feedback from teachers about the obstacles and issues that occurred when they piloted these Apps with students from many different facets. Because of the limitation of time, no continually in-time support, lack of expert’s support, isolated by classrooms, they finally gave up.

The isolation is the key factor caused the failure which brings the traditional PD into a death valley: teachers cannot get ongoing support to meet individual’s needs; they cannot get in-time inspiration when they had a tough journey; they cannot get valuable advice and feedback from who has rich knowledge on different facets. We need collaboration to water the death valley to bring the PD back to the flourishing life. The effective PD is crucial to teachers’ professional growth which needs to be an integral, ongoing part of teachers lives and meet diverse interests and needs in various domains. The digital tools are powerful to make collaboration meaningful and more comprehensive that enable teachers to get worldwide perspectives and support sustainably; Teachers will not be isolated by classrooms, towns, and countries anymore. They are connected to build a robust ecosystem with a positive attitude, professional passion, and inspiration.

PLNs-Make global collaboration possible and provoke informal PD

Teaching is a creative profession which should not be set many constrainers to limit its development. PLNs are transforming PD and teachers’ mindset of PD. With PLNs, PD will change to informal learning driven by teachers without constrainer of time and location. Teachers will get empowered to hold the ownership of their PD to seek helpful resources and collaboration met individual needs and interests related to teaching and learning rather than being a passive receiver. PLNs help to flatten walls among nations to build the connection to thousands of educators from every corner of the world sharing perspectives, discussing and solving problems together. Teachers collaborating with others with the same profession and same needs through PLNs will influence each other on affective, social and cognitive aspects to gain the holistic growth of teachers’ needs. PLNs create a flexible platform through which educators can dedicate time to collaborate with others by real-time interaction or asynchronous discussions to improve teaching practice and share resources and ideas.

Edmodo-the widely used PLN with special features to provide more collaboration

Collaboration among a certain group of teachers

Extend one-shot PD by creating a collaborative group

Although the traditional PD has many drawbacks, we cannot ignore the power it brings to teachers’ professional growth. It can strength teachers’ sense of presence and be taken care of. Edmodo can help to compensate for the shortcomings of traditional PD and sustain ongoing discussion and sharing among teachers. With the Group feature, teachers can build collaboration with a certain group of teachers after the PD for exchanging perspectives, sharing obstacles and transferring energy when they attempt to implement new skills into their teaching practices without the constrainer of time. Teachers can create their digital portfolio for sharing helpful resources, implementing process and experiences in the library to contribute to help others. Through the posting notes and comments, teachers can seek or provide quick or in-time support. With creating collaborative groups, teachers will extend their communication and collaboration without limited by the form of one-shot PD. They are building PLNs while using Edmodo and strengthen connections with the group members to gain more confidence to take risks on changes and also create an active climate for a school or a district to encourage teachers to leave their comfort zone to take challenges which will potentially benefit students’ future learning for the 21st century. While these dynamic groups are getting stronger, the valuable experiences will contribute to the growth of the global healthy educational ecosystem which can light the spark of other educators’ similar journey.

Collaboration between students and teachers

In the Edmodo teachers are allowed to invite students into different classes. These classes can be divided by different topics or projects, as a space for students and teachers to work collaboratively to share ideas and resources to solve authentic problems which can motivate students’ engagement and enhance the skill of communication. With collaboration, teachers will get professional growth from learning with students through discovering and using digital resources and getting through difficulties.

Get global collaboration based on interests and needs

Edmodo provides many topics allowed teachers to follow. Teachers can choose different topics based on interests and needs to join the global collaboration and conversation to seek instant supports or light a spark of ideas from veterans. From the posts, teachers can get more relevant resources, and latest news contributed by other educators from the world. Since teachers get the freedom to choose the topic they are interested in, they will hold much enthusiasm to be immersed in further collaboration to get a bigger leap on professional growth. Everyone’s experiences and artifacts will scaffold the worldwide PLN getting stronger and broader to lead a healthy climate for every educator’s growth.

In the digital world, one teacher’s pace can never catch up the speeding of emerging technologies. So teachers need to break up isolation to build connection and collaboration with the scaffold of digital tools and strategies. For the 21st century’s educators, need to dedicate time to collaborate with colleagues to benefit the whole teachers’ needs ; learn with students collaboratively to get growth together; and build a powerful system strength teachers confidence and the sense of responsibility to take risks to explore new forms of instruction meet the needs of 21st century.

References:

Alberth, Mursalim, Siam, Suardika, I. K., & Ino, L. (2018). Social Media as a Conduit for Teacher Professional Development in the Digital Era: Myths, Promises or Realities? TEFLIN Journal: A Publication on the Teaching and Learning of English, 29(2), 293–306. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ1186053&site=ehost-live

Trust, T. (2012). Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(4), 133–138. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=eric&AN=EJ972454&site=ehost-live

Requard, A. (2018, February 12). #ObserveMe: Improving Our Practice as Professionals. Retrieved from https://appsolutelyapril.com/2018/02/12/observeme-improving-our-practice-as-professionals/

Office of Educational Technology. Future Ready: Establishing a Professional Learning Ecosystem. (2016, April 05). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TMbeqn7NlyI

Trust, T., Krutka, D., & Carpenter, J. (2016). “Together we are better”: Professional learning networks for teachers. Computers & Education, 102, 15-34. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2016.06.007

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/

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