Professional Development & Technology in Higher Education: What’s Working?

As a former classroom teacher, I am deeply aware of the potential professional development (PD) activities have to positively improve teaching practice; it’s the same potential that PD has to overwhelm instructors and use up valuable time, energy, and resources that might have been used elsewhere in jam-packed school schedules. When it comes to effective …

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Supporting Students in Building Mathematical Confidence

As I wrap up my time in the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) Master’s program at Seattle Pacific University, I decided to focus my culminating project on the Tier II math intervention courses in my district. As a former math teacher this is an area that has a special place in my heart and a subject […]

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Using Canvas Analytics to Support Student Success

Though online teaching/learning are hardly new concepts in education, the pandemic has necessitated a massive shift to online learning such that educators worldwide–at all levels–have had to engage with online learning in new, immersive ways.  Online learning can take many forms (synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid, hyflex, etc.), but regardless of the form, educators with access to …

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Resilient pedagogy: The professional development opportunity educators need now more than ever

Resilient pedagogy is an emerging instructional philosophy with extremely timely implications for this current moment in education and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Though facets of resilient pedagogy have long been practiced by educators in the form of classroom differentiation, and though other frameworks like Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Transparency in …

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Leveraging Digital Tools for Instruction Outside the Classroom: Community Engagement Project, EDTC 6102

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to invest time and energy into a project which ultimately helps me do my job better.  Though I am not currently a classroom teacher and do not have typical instructional responsibilities in my day to day work, I do constantly convey important information about the WA State teacher certification process …

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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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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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Exemplars of Computational Thinking in Higher Education Classrooms

Though the concepts and theory behind computational thinking (CT) have been around for decades in the realms of computer science and engineering, it is widely acknowledged that Jeanette Wing’s 2006 publication on computational thinking laid the groundwork for CT’s popularity and integration in 21st century education theory.  Wing (2006) suggested that CT might be considered …

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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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