A Strong Hex Foundation to Professional Learning

What are key ideas to designing professional learning that includes a process of ongoing evaluation that emphasizes improvements for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning? Based on ISTE Coaching Standard 5C #1 Consistent purpose …

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Incorporating Active Learning into Professional Learning Experiences

I have always been a fan of any professional learning experiences in which I return with something practical that enabled me to immediately implement something to improve student learning and achievement in my classroom. On the flip side, my least favorite professional learning experiences have been ones that were not relatable and left me wondering… “now what”. So here we go, let’s talk about active learning and end off with some extras that can be used directly in a professional learning experience! (or classroom if you so please).   But first, the WHY:  This quarter I have been focusing on learning more about ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator. This module we were asked to specifically focus on performance indicator “B”. Here it is:  This indicator is focusing on two key components of successful PD… active learning and meaningful feedback. While I believe both are incredibly vital to the success of PD, I felt that active learning was the horse before the cart. Hopefully, if we get staff to be engaged in an experience through active learning, we can then focus on the aftermath with meaningful feedback. This brought me to my question for the week:  “What are some active learning activities professional learning facilitators can implement in professional learning experiences?”  What is active learning?  While some may have not heard the term “active learning” before, educators have been putting this method into practice for ages. Essentially, active learning is getting students (or in our case, educators) actively engaged in their learning through not only thinking about what they are learning, but also why they are learning it.   Active learning in the classroom  For a long time educators have known that if we do not have student engagement in class, that we are not going to have our students retain as much of the information we are teaching them. Active learning is a wonderful way to get those kiddos engaged, and help to increase in lesson success. There are many different approaches to active learning in the classroom, however, the one I am going to focus on here is broken into three primary cognitive processes.   Mayer suggests that these three processes are:  1. Selecting relevant materials to attend to 2. Mentally organizing attended material into meaningful representations 3. Integrating these representations with prior knowledge  Some student based activities that incorporate these primary cognitive processes include:   Active learning using body movement HERE  Active learning activities with technology HERE  (this also is an awesome read on active learning if you have some extra time! Keep in mind it is written by a company selling a program that helps aid educators in increasing active learning in their classroom)  Active learning with adults  “Active learning methods ask students to fully participate in their learning by thinking, discussing, investigating, and creating.”  Cornell University has a short read on active learning that can be found here. They give a great list of research proven pros of active learning in a classroom setting. But active learning is not only applicable with children in a classroom! Adults can also participate in active learning and reap its benefits. Here are some of the most relatable pros to adult learning and professional learning experiences that I found:   “Creates personal connections to the material for students, which increases their motivation to learn” While many professional learning experiences are mandatory, there are still ways to make educators motivated to use the strategies and information that they gain from them. By creating a connection from the concepts to the educators, we can increase the likelihood that they retain, and implement their newfound knowledge.   “Build self-esteem through conversations with other students” There have definitely been times that I have been unwilling or nervous to implement a new strategy or standard in my classroom if I wasn’t confident in my ability to work with students on it. By working together with colleagues on new strategies, we can increase self-esteem and assure educators that they can try new things with their students!  “Creates a sense of community in the classroom through increased student-student and instructor-student interaction” This may seem only applicable to a classroom setting, but let’s broaden our thinking here. I have been to multiple professional development sessions that during the experience, I was able to interact actively with the facilitators along with my peers. This helped me to not only understand what I was supposed to be learning about, but it also gave me the community feeling that we were all in it together. There are still facilitators that I feel comfortable reaching out to in order to ask questions and deepen my knowledge on the content they presented. Wouldn’t it be great to feel you were always in a community with experts on what you were trying to implement?   Why does it matter?  Edgar Dale coined the idea of the “Cone of Learning” in the 1960s. He spoke to the process of knowledge retention and the different ways in which knowledge can be taught. Take a peek at the graphic below to see his thoughts represented visually.  On the left, we see percentages of knowledge retained based on the type of learning (on the right). The learning activity is placed in the triangle that correlates to the type of learning. We can see that the least effective learning activity is verbal receiving: reading and hearing words. The next category is visual receiving: watching a movie, looking at an exhibit, watching a demonstration, seeing it done on location. Next, we jump to 70% retention with receiving/participating: participating in a discussion, and giving a talk. And finally, the most effective strategy is doing: doing a dramatic presentation, simulating the real experience, and doing the real thing. We can see through this graphic that we must be moving away from the more traditional teaching methods of hearing and seeing, and focus on having students talking and doing.   Active learning focuses on the receiving/participating and doing “nature of involvements”. But let’s get into the “doing” ourselves, and see some examples!   Extras  Ready for some ideas for your next professional learning experience?   Here are two variations on a similar activity that you may already be familiar with:  Think/Pair/Share – An oldie but a goodie! Participants are given a topic and they think to themselves any information related to the topic. They can write this down, or keep the info in their heads. They then pair up and compare thinking.  Tell/Help/Check – Participants are in partners and are given a question or topic. The first participant gives all information that they have knowledge on surrounding that topic. The second participant then adds any information that they think is related, but not shared by the first participant. Finally, the participants share to a large group and continue the pattern of only sharing new information.  Here is an amazing graphic with short “brain blasts” that encourage active learning independently. (Okay, there are a few that peers can participate in)  And if you still haven’t found any that you are interested in trying, here is another resource that is geared towards increasing active learning with adults! Some fun ones include; The One-Minute Paper, Chain Notes, Mystery Quotations, Idea Speedating, Quescussion, and Empathy Mapping. Check it out!  What other activities have you done that were crowd-pleasers? Comment below!  Resources  Active Learning. (n.d.). Center for Teaching Innovation. Retrieved February 10, 2021, from https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources/engaging-students/active-learning  Active Learning. (2020, October 14). Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning. https://stearnscenter.gmu.edu/knowledge-center/student-engagement-classroom-managment/active-learning/  Dunnick Karge, B., Phillips, K. M., Jessee, T., & McCabe, M. (2011). Effective Strategies For Engaging Adult Learners. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 8(12), 53–56. https://doi.org/10.19030/tlc.v8i12.6621  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/  Lynch, J. (2017, June 22). What does research say about active learning? Pearson. https://www.pearsoned.com/research-active-learning-students/  Mayer, Richard E. Applying the Science of Learning. Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2011.  What is Active Learning? (n.d.). Smart Sparrow. Retrieved February 10, 2021, from https://www.smartsparrow.com/what-is-active-learning/  Whenham, T. (2020, April 2). 15 active learning activities to energize your next college class. Nureva. https://www.nureva.com/blog/education/15-active-learning-activities-to-energize-your-next-college-class 

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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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Teachers are Learners Too!

How understanding adult learning frameworks leads to effective professional learning I’ve become really interested in the idea of a culture…

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Exploring the how and why adult brains learn

(…and what that means for professional development) While the neuroscience and study of brain development, aging, and learning continues to expand, here are a few insights I found particularly insightful to explain how adult brains …

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Use social platforms to encourage students to create solutions for real-world issues

Stepping into the post-digital age of the 21st century, the generation born and growing in this century will never be unfamiliar with all digital technologies and related media. Technology, mobile communications, and social media have become an indispensable part of their lives. Even in the rural areas of some remote countries, it is not difficult […]

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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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Personalized and Job-embedded Professional Learning

It is the beginning of a new year and the second semester of school. At the beginning of January I…

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