Reflection on Professional Development

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The winter quarter for the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University has begun with the course, Program Evaluation and Professional Development. This online class taught by Dr. David Wicks and Suzanna Calvery, focuses on the ISTE coaching standards. This particular course examines standards 4 a,b, and c.

It is the midpoint of the course and this post reflects my learning on professional development and evaluation. In addition to the weekly readings, a program evaluation project has been included which provides an opportunity for me to “understand and implement a program evaluation of professional development” (Calvery & Wicks, 2016).

To better understand program evaluation and professional development, I explored the following three areas:

  • The value of evaluating school programs to improve on professional learning.
  • Aligning professional learning around the needs of students.
  • Differentiating professional development to meet the needs of teachers.

Evaluating School Programs

First, I delved further into the definition of program evaluation and how it relates to professional development. Supplementary readings led to further researching rationales for using systems to evaluate technology professional learning. Guskey (2002) suggests using evaluations to improve professional development programs by collecting and analyzing information for five evaluation levels. All of these levels are contingent upon the other, meaning that “success at one level is usually necessary for success at higher levels” (para. 6). Below is a summary of the five levels of professional development evaluation that Guskey recognized for program evaluation ( 2002).

  1. Level 1 gathers information on the participants’ reactions. Usually this information is gathered at the end of a session in the form of simple questionnaire. It measures participants overall view of the session.
  2. Level 2 addresses the participants’ learning. For this level, participants provide more input on the ‘knowledge and skills learned’ during the session. Were specific learning goals obtained?
  3. Level 3 level examines organization support and change. At this level, the focus is on the organization support and policies that occur after the professional development.
  4. Level 4 focuses on the participants’ use of new knowledge and skills. Evaluation at this level examines the impact of using the new knowledge and practices. Did the skills acquired at the session make a difference in the classroom?
  5. Level 5 examines student learning outcomes which can affect the overall impact of a program.

Also Guskey mentioned that evidence needs to be collected, “collect good evidence about whether a professional development program has contributed to specific gains in student learning” (2002). By collecting evidence or information, schools can determine the effectiveness of a program. It provides insight on whether the school’s needs and goals are being met for students and teachers.

The last feature that Guskey conveyed for planning professional development is to improve student learning by reversing the order of these levels. Work backwards. By keeping the end goal in mind, students’ outcome and planning for professional learning becomes more efficient and easier to evaluate (2002).

While researching information on program evaluation and professional development in general, I found several interesting articles that related to the need for evaluating professional development in educational technology.

Evaluate Professional Development in Technology

For the most part, technology professional development focuses on developing the educator’s knowledge and skills in using hardware or software programs. Researchers, Borthwick & Pierson (2008) noted that professional learning is “improving technology teaching and learning rather than the technology use” (p.1). This suggests that schools need to first evaluate the needs of their teachers to determine the type of professional learning that would impact student learning. Although Borthwick & Pierson go on to say that, “the major challenge that remains is measuring the effectiveness of educational technology professional development on teaching and student learning” (p.20).

Measuring Effective Technology Professional Development

In another study by Pierson & Borthwick (2010), professional development presenters collect data by providing surveys that are meaningful and can be used for future planning. Researchers, Lawless & Pellegrino noted that assessments should look beyond whether participants were satisfied with the presenter. But rather, the focus should be on the “impact the professional development activity had on pedagogical change or student learning” (as cited by Pierson & Borthwick, p. 126). Successful evaluating models should include “three theoretical constructs” or TPACK (p.127). TPACK is a model used to describe the three types of knowledge needed by educators to integrate technology practices into teaching and learning. The three knowledge areas intersect: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technology knowledge. This framework is a guide for teachers to consider when implementing technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Aligning Professional Development Around the Needs of Students

The next area I explored was on designing professional development that expands educators’ knowledge and skills and the need to use the best practices that impact student learning. Again, I reviewed Guskey’s (2002) model of evaluation planning and he suggests to focus on student learning by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • What improvements in student learning do we want to attain?
  • What evidence best reflects those improvements?
  • What new policies or practices must be implemented to gain that impact? (Guskey, p. 46, 48).

School reform advocate, Hayes Mizell (2010), insists there is a strong link between student achievement and school improvement strategies, which includes professional development. To ensure quality professional development, Mizell (2010) suggests educators form ‘learning teams’. Teams “analyze student achievement data to identify learning problems common to students in a particular grade.” Then educators work collaboratively two or three times a week to address the learning goals and determine the needs to “help students overcome learning challenges”(p. 11). As teachers become more skillful, “they reduce or eliminate variations in performance and begin to take collective responsibility for the success of all students, rather than just their own”(p. 11). Therefore by analyzing student data and state standards, schools can determine appropriate professional learning for their teachers.

Planning for Educational Technology

Part of this course work centers, not only on professional development for knowledge and skills in subject areas, but on technology planning. The National Education Technology Plan Teaching selection focused on several important factors for planning educational technology, one section addressed the need for appropriate technology teacher training. School districts must provide professional learning that ensures “ all educators are capable of selecting, evaluating, and using appropriate technologies and resources to create experiences that advance student engagement and learning” (para. 3). Therefore, including the technology standards for teachers and students is crucial when developing a district’s technology professional learning plan.

Differentiating Professional Development

Districts develop various PD opportunities for teachers throughout the school year, but steps need to be in place before planning any professional learning. Johnson (2015) suggests presenters or school leaders use “pre-needs” assessment tools to craft their workshop sessions. She recommends sending out surveys, using tools such as Google forms, Padlet and Nearpod, to participants to gain better understanding of the audience’s knowledge on the topic. Then Johnson provides “ a tiered resource that supports the differentiated needs of the group” (para. 5).

In another article regarding differentiating professional development for educators, Zdonek (2015) agrees with Johnson, that surveying teachers before workshop sessions is crucial. As a result, this allows presenters to “tailor the PD session to meet teacher needs, designing small group sessions with flexible grouping to instruct teachers at their varying readiness levels” (para. 7). She encourages districts to ask teachers their area of interests when planning for PD sessions. Teachers seem more engaged when their interests are considered. Zdonek notes the importance of schools encouraging teacher leaders to facilitate small group sessions. That “sometimes teachers are more open to listening to someone in a similar position to themselves than they are in taking directives from an administrator” (2015, para. 10).

The most important part of differentiating professional development for educators is to provide “opportunities for continual assessment”.  Teachers need time to discuss and “reflect on how they are incorporating the given area of development into their classroom practice” (2015, para. 11). In addition, teachers need opportunities not only to set goals but also to assess their progress towards these goals (2015, para. 12). Although most importantly, teachers need to become more involved in their own personal learning.

Teachers Owning Their Professional Learning

As teachers, we complain there is not enough time spent collaborating with colleagues or that professional learning may not meet our needs. Vaughn and McLaughlin (2011) in a case study examined the question, “What types of professional development promotes change in teachers’ practices?” They came to three conclusions:

  1. Outside stakeholders such as administrators need to address teacher involvement in the professional development.
  2. One-size-fits-all professional development does not always meet the needs of all teachers. Just as teachers differentiate instruction for their students, professional development needs to be differentiated for the needs of teachers.
  3. “A higher level of change occurred when teacher had ownership over their learning and a role in decision making” (p. 54).

Vaughn and McLaughlin (2011) concluded that teachers need to set their own growth goals and intentionally seek out professional development that meets their goals and the needs of their students. Teachers are central to their professional development and therefore need to be involved, promote, and advocate for better learning opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Over the past few weeks, I explored the best practices used in successful professional development systems. I found that it is important to look at student data when planning for professional development. And finally, districts need to consider differentiating their professional development in educational technology to effectively meet the needs of their teachers. In the coming weeks, I will delve into the role of administrators and the infrastructure changes that need to occur when supporting technology within our schools.

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References

Borthwick, A. & Pierson, M. (2008). Transforming classroom practice: Professional development strategies in educational technology. In A. Borthwick & M. Pierson (Eds.), Transforming classroom practice: Professional development strategies in educational technology. (pp. 1-21). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/images/excerpts/prodev-excerpt.pdf

Calvery, S. & Wicks, D. (2016). Professional Development and Program Evaluation. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington.

Guskey, T. J. (2002, March). Does it make a difference? Evaluating professional development. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 45-51.

International Society for Technology in Education (2016). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards

Mizell, H. (2010). Why professional development matters. Learning Forward. Oxford, Ohio. (pp. 1-24). Retrieved from http://learningforward.org/docs/pdf/why_pd_matters_web.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Pierson, M. & Borthwick, A. (2010). Framing the assessment of educational technology: Professional development in a culture of learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 26(4), 126-131. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ893870.pdf

Vaughan, M. & McLaughlin, J. (2011). What can motivate teachers to learn? Ask them. Learning Forward 32 (5). Retrieved from http://learningforward.org/docs/october-2011/vaughan325.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Walker, T. (2016, winter). Finding a tablet strategy that makes sense. NEA Today, 34(3), 44-47.

Zepeda, S.J. (2008). Professional Development: What Works, Evaluating and assessing professional development (pp. 31-49). Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education.

Zdonek. Pauline. (2016, January 15). Why don’t we differentiate professional development? [Web log post]. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-dont-we-differentiate-pd-pauline-zdonek

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