Developing Human Capacity in Teacher Leaders

My question this week was about how we can develop human capacity in teachers to become technology leaders? How do we get them to step up and share what they know and teach others?

Selfishly, I took this tack at it because it gives me an opportunity to share a project I’ve been working on for the last couple of years, the Future Ready Teacher Cohort. Two years ago our district still had no mobile devices available for students and our technology PD consisted of random, district wide classes on a variety of topics. Neither the access or the training was really changing anything significantly, even with three Instructional Technology TOSAs thrown into the mix. So I did some research.

First, we had heard over and over again over the course of the first few months in our position that there was never enough time to figure out how to take what you learned in a training and really implement it in class before other demands and priorities got in the way. We also heard that they didn’t see the relevance for themselves in what they were learning. Upon more conversation it came down to an issue of confidence. Because they didn’t feel confident in being able to use the tools they couldn’t really see how it fit into their instruction. They needed ongoing support. It wasn’t enough for us to just say “call us if you need us” after a training. We needed to check back.

I started looking at professional development models and ways for teachers to self evaluate their own learning and came across the Future Ready Schools website. At the time, there was a link to a MOOC about Future Ready Schools that my colleagues and I took. We were able to take a look at some examples from other schools and do some reading and research on issues around technology and professional development that began to change our thinking.

What we developed from that was an opportunity to create teacher leaders with the capacity to teach others. We offered a cart of mobile devices as an incentive and in turn we asked the teachers for 2 full days in the summer and 6 three hour evening meetings over the course of 7 months. Each meeting had a combination of skill instruction, a new tool or website to try out, pedagogical instruction around SAMR, blended learning, etc., and collaborative work time. Our goal was to transform learning relationships in our school district. We asked the teachers to do IGNITE (20 slides and 5 minutes to tell your story) sessions at the end of the year to reflect on their learning. It was amazing to see how much they had grown over the course of a year. They were confident with trying things out and many were already offering training of their own in their buildings.

We have just completed our 2nd year which was equally promising and are getting applications ready for the upcoming school year. Some members of our first year group are going to be teaching the 2nd year group this next year so I can focus on the new group. This new group is not going to be made up of our technology pioneers however. We are now reaching the late adopter group.

I’m interested to see how I will need to shift the instruction for this group in order to get them to the same level of confidence as the first year group. I was taking a look at an interesting article by Laurie Blondy (2007) that was analyzing, and in come cases refuting, Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory. The basics of adult learning theory are these five principles:

  1. Adult learners are self directed.
  2. Adults bring experience with them to the learning environment.
  3. Adults are ready to learn to perform their role in society.
  4. Adults are problem oriented, and they seek immediate application of their new knowledge.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn by internal factors.

After years of working with adults I’ve questioned some of those principals and Blondy’s article brings up many of the same issues I have.

  1. Not all adult learners are self directed. Some are there because they have to, because they are complying with something or need to earn clock hours and, as adults, this learning time is competing with family, work and personal time and is only one of many irons teachers have in the fire. Although they don’t want to be lectured to, they also aren’t necessarily ready to create their own course of study and set their own goals. There has to be a balance between some skill based training that is offered based on their needs and some choice in where they take those skills from there. Blondy suggests that online facilitators “must encourage learners to be as self-directed as possible, allowing them to be creative with assignments and projects, encouraging their input and suggestions, while remaining available for consultation to provide guidance when needed.”
  2. Adults do bring experiences to the learning environment and that can be a huge asset if you can find ways to connect their learning to their background knowledge and they can be invaluable resources to each other. And, they can also bring a certain fixed mindset to their learning that can be hard to overcome.
  3. Adults do know their role and are generally ready to learn if you can keep it relevant to them. This is a great reason to make sure, as an instructor, that I give them time to clarify why they are there and what they are hoping to get out of the learning experience. That being said, it’s easy not to put the “hard stuff” on your list of personal learning goals. I think it has to be a balance of professional competencies that we expect teachers to know, because they need to use certain tools and teach certain standards to their students, and choices to pursue certain tools or skills in more depth. It’s the folks who reach a certain mastery that we can count on to begin teaching what they know to others.
  4. Adults are problem oriented and seek immediate application but aren’t always able to analyze what the problem is very clearly. Learning and implementing a keyboarding software with 3rd graders without addressing good writing instruction is not going to make their SBA test scores any higher. We have to be able to help them sift down to the area the students are struggling with and address the wider instructional needs which technology may or may not be able to help address.
  5. So far, my cohort members have been motivated mostly by internal interest in learning what’s best for their students, a cart of mobile devices to use in their classroom, and free dinner, but I’ve already gotten feedback that they would also like to get paid for their time. There is a certain amount of “have to attend” that is tied to training but not everyone is in it for the professional development.

The trick for me is to keep it practical, relevant, mix it up so their are some choices and to give them lots of time to talk to their peers and collaborate together. We’ll see where it takes us next year.


Blondy, L. C. (2007). Evaluation and Application of Andragogical Assumptions to the Adult Online Learning Environment. Journal of interactive Online Learning, 6(2), 116-130. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from

Tracey, R. (2011, August 26). Adult learning shminciples. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from


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