Involving Many Stakeholders
Like some of my colleagues in the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. Program at Seattle Pacific University, this quarter has led me to think more broadly about professional development for teachers and specifically professional development through technology. Much of the learning this quarter has been new and valuable to me as a first year instructional technology coach. I’m understanding more about the limitations on professional learning. At the same time I am becoming more and more involved with school and district leadership teams through my position, which exposes me to district and building PD models. Also, I have had the chance to read about some really great professional development initiatives that are happening and have thought, what would it take to make that happen here in WA or in my region, or in my district? By no means have I figured out how to do that, but I still have a desire to work toward better, more engaging professional development that reflects best practices and teacher needs. Although my lens has been fairly focused on building level learning up until now, for this post I’m going to try to zoom out a bit and think about region wide PD. As the final post this quarter, I am still considering how technology coaches implement technology rich learning environments which is ISTE-C 4b. However, as instructional technology coaches work in concert with district and building administrators, I’m going to talk about how I think they might aid in that development once again. A quote from the Office of Educational Technology continues to guide my thinking about professional learning, “technology should not be separate from content area learning but used to transform and expand pre- and in-service learning as an integral part of teacher learning” (National Education Technology Plan 2017). As I frame my thinking about professional learning, I’m always considering that technology is an integral part of that plan.
The question I was asked to investigate this week originally was, what does the ideal technology rich professional learning program look like? I could have investigated that question alone because I’m still unsure of what the “ideal” program looks like even after reading about many great programs. Instead I chose to look at professional learning as a partnership. This quarter I’ve come across so many great partnerships, like those discussed in WA-TPL for example, and that makes me think that the ideal professional learning program would have to be developed in partnership with organizations that reach beyond one school, or school district. State partnerships certainly can help, but I’ve decided instead to focus on regional learning. The same need is explained this way in the National Education Technology Plan, “broad, coordinated strategic planning requires a commitment from all parties involved to collaborate consistently across organizational boundaries.” Another resource that I found helps to explain how partnership with state, district and regional organizations might work to support professional learning. The authors of the study found that state policies and systems are important for the implementation of effective professional development. “But to ensure the quality of that professional development, it is equally critical to couple state efforts with professional associations and intermediary organizations that help extend the reach of state agencies, offer learning supports of many kinds, and provide a voice for local stakeholders and outside experts” (Chung Wei, Darling-Hammond, Jaquith, & Mindich 2010). Clearly there is a need for ESDs to be a part of professional learning.
Not Recreating the Wheel
In education we are usually great borrowing the work of others. Teachers are resourceful, they will find a way to get material especially lesson plans in the most efficient way. As designers of professional development couldn’t we be doing the same thing? In reading some of the national documents like the NETP or even WA-TPL it is clear that great learning is happening and needs of regions, states or other areas across the country may be similar. Often it seems that lack of resources prevents school districts from really developing a wide spectrum of professional learning that supports all staff. Educational service districts could play a role in alleviating the lack of variety and depth. I think that administrators could support teachers in seeking out additional professional learning and could even allocate time for that if they were familiar with resources that were available. I’ll expand more on these ideas in later paragraphs.
As a teacher, I’m not sure that my needs were considered for building level learning. I know that I didn’t feel district learning was always relevant to me and I often didn’t hear about professional learning that the ESD was offering. I often hear this complaint from teachers, whether it is voiced in such a direct way or not. Teachers feel like learning isn’t relevant to their needs. Perhaps we can prevent this from happening! As school districts are adopting a professional development plan for a curriculum, a standard, or technology, they could share that with their local ESD. I have a vision that the ESD becomes a virtual library of professional learning, which would allow it to pair districts together, and maybe even provide training to support the needs of more teachers, or extend that learning. Even a medium sized district like mine can’t possibly meet the needs of all of its teachers, a close ESD partnership makes sense. Systems should also be developed to gather a list of requests from teachers. Districts should encourage feedback – authentic feedback – from professional development. District level and building level feedback to let the district look for additional resources if needed. Those requests could shape building level learning, district level learning or regional learning. I may be advocating for something Vermont has been doing for nearly ten years, “the state is attempting to coordinate statewide professional development and allow districts to pool resources and share knowledge through state-supported Educational Services Agencies and intermediary organizations” (Chung Wei et al. 2010). If it has been working in Vermont, I wonder what might be keeping it from happening here?
Many ideas from my previous few posts definitely build to this one, and I would be remiss not to at least mention those themes. Some I mentioned previously are:
- Administrators becoming instructional leaders
- Educators turning to local and global PLCs
- Staff input for professional learning
In addition to these ideas, administrators could be the missing link to provide relevant resources for their teachers. If administrators were really excited about professional learning, because of the impact it can have on their staff and students, connecting staff with additional professional learning opportunities and removing barriers to help get them there would make a lot of sense. I know when my administrator did that by allowing me to attend PD I was appreciative and it impacted my teaching. Maybe administrators would think about becoming experts on professional learning offered in their area if an ESD served as an organizational repository for that learning.
Administrator and Advocate
I don’t mean to say that administrators should know all there is to know about professional learning in their area. Instead, I hope that if they are able to partner with local institutions like ESDs, Universities, in addition to district leadership so that teacher learning could improve. If this were to happen states would prove to be a stronger network of educators because of the common learning and collaboration that would be happening. “A continuum of services should be considered and utilized, from site-based teacher leaders to ESD and state-level experts that can offer further support as needed” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrickson & Crane 2016). Let’s follow the recommendation from WA-TPL to fully support professional learning in our schools.
Building on Established Groups
Professional groups definitely are serving a need educators have to get connected and to learn about best practices of technology integration. I have written before about how Twitter chats turn into a PLN because of the shared learning. Many local professional organizations are serving a similar role, like the Tech TOSA groups that meet in the Puget Sound area. In addition to these opportunities I think administrators and district leaders could partner with ESDs to provide even more focused professional learning for teachers. Maybe they could bring trainers into individual schools, maybe increased utilization of ESD resources would lead to more online trainings. A regional partnership seems like a great next step for school districts to collaborate and extend the learning for their staff since supporting it alone isn’t working. In addition WA-TPL advocates for continued bolstering of state-wide PD saying, “support systems should be scaled up statewide in order to build high quality professional learning” (Bishop et al. 2016). Hopefully this state level work is happening, while it is, I would advocate for strengthening regional systems to better support teachers all across the state.
Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf
Chung Wei, R., Darling-Hammond, L., Jaquith, A., & Mindich, D. (2010). Teacher Professional Learning in the United States: Case Studies of State Policies and Strategies (Summary Report). Stanford University. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/2010phase3report.pdf
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, Washington, D.C., 2017. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/