Continuous Evaluation of Professional Learning

Well, winter quarter is wrapping up and all quarter I have been learning more and more about ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator. I have spent my last few blog posts sharing about professional learning in general and how … Continue reading

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How to Approach Iterating Ed. Tech Professional Learning

Introduction  How do we begin to evaluate professional learning?  What are the most desirable aspects?  When, how, and why do we utilize technology?  What makes certain pedagogical approaches “high-impact” from both the teaching side of things as well as the learning end?  How do we ensure that “student learning” remains first and foremost?  In the …

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PBL for the Teachers?

When it comes to classroom management and instruction, actively engaging learners in the learning process is important.  Now, what do you envision when you think about the students in this case?  Are they adults?  If not then maybe they should be because teacher professional development and learning opportunities need to continue moving away from “do …

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Using Adult Learning Theories to Plan for Professional Development

As I get deeper into this quarter, we are taking a deeper look at ISTE Coaching Standard 5:   ISTE Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator 5a. Design professional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, social-emotional and learning needs.  My last study focus was on important aspects of designing professional developments. This module, I am looking at adult learning frameworks to specificially design professional development for adult learners. This leads into the question of which frameworks we should be using, along with how to implement them to achieve a positive learning experience in the professional development we plan.  Let’s jump right in with my current research question:  How can professional learning facilitators utilize adult learning framework to ensure positive learning experiences during professional development?  To start this off, we need to take a look at adult learning in general.   Helen Colman does a great job in her article by stating “adult learning theories are based on the premise that adults learn differently than children”. When I was first hearing about adult learning theories my opinions were split. One part of me felt that a brain is a brain and if there is one way to learn that is beneficial for children that it will be perhaps not as beneficial for adults, but it will still get the job done. But as I continued to learn about these theories I came to understand that yes, while some ways children learn can be similar to the ways adults learn, that we have to take into consideration that adults have a base of knowledge and experience that is vastly different than a child. Consider the beginning of an effective lesson with a child… we know that activating prior knowledge can be one of the best ways to have children connect with a lesson. This can be similar for adults, however, the way in which you do this, and which pieces of prior knowledge you are pulling from will be different.   This leads us right into what the different adult learning theories are. There are many different great resources that list a number of different theories and go into detail on each. Some include 10-12 theories, and some focus on a smaller number and combine a few. The resources that I am pulling from mention 6 main theories: andragogy, transformational learning, experiential learning, self-directed learning, project based learning, and action learning.   Here is a fantastic chart that Helen Colman created that gives brief descriptions of the 6 theories, along with the characteristics that are best suited for each theory. Keep in mind, her information is written with the goal to inform the general public of adult learning theories and how a specific platform can achieve the different theories. While not geared specifically for education, it is still quite insightful as an overview.  These 6 theories are also not in separate boxes from one another. A learner does not have to fit into just one. This brings me to a list of tips on how to enhance adult learning, also highlighted by Colman. She really did a great job framing the adult learning theories and helping readers to understand how to incorporate them into professional development!  1. Build a blended learning solution   Some adults are more in-sync with learning when they are attending face-to-face workshops. Some are enable to engage in a higher level when they are at a conference, and some still can dive into information in an online course more successfully than when others are present. Building a blended learning solution allows for more people to be successful  2. Link learning to expected results   With students, success criteria can help to hone in on expected learning. For adults, linking the learning to the result we expect of them can also help to encourage the path towards success.   3. Formalize your informal learning  While the setting of a professional development may not seem formal in nature, by adding a piece of formality to it, it can help increase the experience. Providing a means to document or reflect on professional development or learning can formalize an experience and create purpose.  4. Build communities for practice  Allowing adults to have an opportunity to collaborate while learning can help to target training opportunities. While large scale trainings and learning opportunities are sometimes beneficial, a targeted approach for smaller groups or communities to learn strategies or content that is specific to their position can have a longer lasting result.  5. Chunk your content  By breaking your content into smaller chunks, learners are able to take pieces of learning at their own speed. This also enables learners to have time to reflect on each topic before starting a new one.   6. Incorporate microlearning  Different than breaking learning into smaller chunks, microlearning enables an adult learner to specifically target 1 strategy or skill that is completable in a matter of minutes.   7. Enable personal learning paths  Encourage self-directed learning! While this is not always an option, allowing adult learners to have voice and choice will absolutely lead to more positive experiences. If a full self-directed learning opportunity is not available, allowing for a chosen learning path can be a great way to still enable choice in learning experiences.   8. Align learning to needs, not wants   Similar to planning lessons for students, you define the end result and the need that is present. From there, you can include the wants… or choices of staff. This will prioritize the need for learning, while also allowing for the voice within the learning experience.   To wrap it all up, each adult learner is unique and has different learning styles. By incorporating some of the adult learning theories into professional development plans and learning opportunities, you can help to ensure positive experiences. Here is one last graphic that helps to sum up some great tips to keep in mind while planning a professional development experience.   Which tip resonates with you? How do you encourage positive learning experiences with staff?  Resources:  Colman, H. (2020, April 29). 6 Adult Learning Theories and How to Put Them into Practice. 6 Adult Learning Theories and How to Put Them Into Practice. https://www.ispringsolutions.com/blog/adult-learning-theories  Davis, V. (2015, April 15). 8 Top Tips for Highly Effective PD. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/top-tips-highly-effective-pd-vicki-davis  ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). ISTE. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches  Kearsley, G. (2010). Andragogy (M.Knowles). The theory Into practice database. Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org  Knowles, M. (1975). Self-Directed Learning. Chicago: Follet.  Kosturko, L. (2015, October 14). Professional Development: Technology’s Key to Success. Getting Smart. https://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/10/professional-development-technologys-key-to-success/  Pappas, C. (2020, April 15). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles. ELearning Industry. https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles 

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Puzzling Over Protocols

Who, When, Where, Why, What, How?  Who, when, and where we teach are often set by extenuating circumstances.  Whereas why we teach is both deeply personal and different for every educator.  What we teach can be set by state level standards, curriculum guides, and a number of other external factors.  Sometimes we have some level …

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Rethinking the Design of Professional Learning

Design professional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, social-emotional and learning needs. My last blog post centered around impactful professional development and how to evaluate the effectiveness of professional development. For … Continue reading

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Developing into a Professional Learning Facilitator

The new year rang in a new focus of study in my graduate program. We are beginning to learn about needs assessments and program evaluations related to our current positions. As a fifth-grade general education teacher, I have found myself considering the different possibilities to focus my attention on. To start this phased approach of reflection upon a current need or program, we are diving into professional development and taking on the role of a professional learning facilitator. Our current essential standard of study is ISTE Standard 5.  5: Professional Learning Facilitator A. Design professional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, social-emotional and learning needs B. Build the capacity of educators, leaders and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback C. Evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet the schoolwide visions for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning  The first step towards becoming an effective professional learning facilitator is to focus on effective professional learning. What are the best practices in educational technology professional development?   This led me to thinking back on some of my personal experiences and opportunities with professional development. When racking my past opportunities, one specific conference and session stuck out to me as the most inspirational and impactful learning experience; a Minecraft for Education session at NCCE (Northwest Counsil for Computer Education) Conference 2018. I sat, in awe, at two primary teachers who travel with their students around the United States to teach educators about the powerful learning that can take place with Minecraft for Education. While I thoroughly enjoyed every single session I attended during the 3 day conference, this one has stuck with me and I continually find myself dreaming of having the chance to implement Minecraft for Education with my students. Don’t get me wrong, the content was superb… but there were more aspects to this professional development that helped It remain impactful. The entire time I was fully engaged; we collaborated with peers, had the opportunity to talk to the students about their experiences, and had prompts to help us with questioning to have a deeper understanding of the program. The presenters also made the content feel immediately accessible by showing multiple ways to adapt and implement for different subjects, grade levels, and levels of knowledge of the program. I left motivated, informed, and ready to start the learning with my students (if that were to be possible… our technology was not compatible at that time). This session was focused, kept me engaged through collaboration and activities, offered expert support and adaptability, and gave us time to reflect and brainstorm lesson ideas of our own.   It was quite easy for me to think of a great professional development, but I came to realize that I could not think of the worst or least impactful professional development I have attended… which through more reflection makes sense. I can’t remember poor examples because I did not retain the information! However, I can think of a few general feelings I have had during professional developments that did not work for me. Having learning that is not adaptable for my position or my students, not having time to collaborate and work through my new knowledge with peers, and not having the opportunity to plan based on the content I just learned.  While these are instances of my own experiences, I wanted to find what research says about planning effective and impactful professional development surrounding educational technology.  What are the main components of planning impactful professional development that utilizes educational technology?  I began my research with an report published by the Learning Policy Institute titled, “Effective Teacher Professional Development”. Authors Darling-Hammond, Hyler and Gardner highlight the main components of effective professional development after completing a review of 35 studies. They begin by stating “we define effective professional development as structured professional learning that results in changes in teacher practices and improvements in student learning outcomes”.   The 7 key elements consisted of:    specific content focus  incorporation of active learning  supportive of collaboration  use of models of effective practice  provides coaching and expert support  offers feedback and reflection  is of a sustained duration  After finding this first source, I saved the info (read their full report here) and continued searching. This brought me to an article written by Vicki Davis, “8 Top Tips for Professional Development”. Davis hits the nail on the head when she states “It’s not enough to teach the right things to your teachers – you have to teach your teachers in the right way.” This could not be more true! Find her full article here.  Davis states her tips for effective PD in these 8 statements:  Use what you are teaching  Develop something that you’ll use right away  Use the lesson and receive feedback  Improve and level up with another lesson  Local responsibility and buy-in  Long-term focus  Good timing  Empower peer collaboration  We can see some of the parallels between Hammond, Hyler and Gardner’s key components with Davis’ tips in one more take on planning impactful professional development:  Janelle Cox took a different approach to the important factors that go into a professional learning experience. Instead of looking at the pieces of the learning experience, she speaks to the skills that a teacher needs to have to be a modern and successful teacher.   Her 15 professional development skills for modern teachers include: adaptability, confidence, communication, being a team player, continuous learning, imagination, leadership, organization, innovation, commitment, ability to manage online reputation, ability to engage, understanding of technology, knowing when to unplug, and having the ability to empower. Read more in depth in her article here.  While this may feel off-topic, it is related to professional learning in a different manner than learning a program, or curriculum. It is the way in which teachers should strive to learn and grow. If our professional development can incorporate the components of effective PD from our first authors, while drawing on the tips derived from Davis, and holding ourselves to developing the skills from Cox, I believe you will have the tools necessary to plan and implement an impactful professional learning experience.   What are other tips, tricks or elements of effective and lasting PD that you have found to help you? What have you tried that was successful during a learning experience you facilitated? Comment below!  References:  Cox, J. (2020, May 14). 15 Professional Development Skills for Modern Teachers. TeachHUB. https://www.teachhub.com/professional-development/2019/11/15-professional-development-skills-for-modern-teachers/  Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., Gardner, M. (2017). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.  Davis, V. (2015, April 15). 8 Top Tips for Highly Effective PD. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/top-tips-highly-effective-pd-vicki-davis 

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Professional Learning Can Be ‘Squirrelly’ Business

Guiding Questions Recently, I was asked to ponder the following questions: What is an example of professional development that has worked for you?  What is an example of professional development that has not worked for you? What does research say about planning professional learning? The first two questions are relatively easy to answer as they …

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Evaluating the Impact of Professional Development

Well it is winter quarter in my master’s program at Seattle Pacific University and we are focusing on ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional learning Facilitator Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders to … Continue reading

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