Choice in Professional Development

Professional Development for Teachers and My Question

This post marks the start of the winter quarter in my M.Ed. program in Digital Education Leadership. This quarter our class is Professional Development and Program Evaluation. It seems like it will be very timely for me to focus on professional development again as some of our district PD offerings are ramping up for the Spring and will continue again at the start of the next school year. This class is asking us to consider the ISTE Coaching Standard #4 indicator b – which asks coaches to design, develop and implement technology rich learning programs that promote adult learning and model digital age best practice (ISTE, 2011). For our first module in EDTC 6106 we were asked to consider the question:

How should we design professional development that utilizes educational technology?

10 Things Teachers Want for Professional Development - via Sylvia Duckworth
10 Things Teachers Want in PD – image credit Sylvia Duckworth

I was initially interested in investigating what participants say about the integration of technology into successful professional development offerings. However, upon further reading, investigation of materials and reflection my inquiry ended up taking a slightly different path. As I read about successful teaching practice in the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) from the Office of Educational Technology, I was reminded about how much exposure we give our students to concepts before we ask them to master those concepts. As a former 4th grade teacher I’ll use multi-digit multiplication as an example. In the CCSS 4th grade students are exposed to the concept of multiplying a multi-digit numbers using various methods, they see it modeled by the teacher repeatedly and practice for months before they are asked as 5th graders to master the standard algorithm of multi-digit multiplication. Also students are first exposed to multi-digit multiplication in 3rd grade when they begin multiplying one digit whole numbers by tens up to 90. In the 4th grade year, multiplication is certainly one of the most important or emphasized math standards in my experience, but notice that it isn’t found there in isolation.

I started to wonder why then do we say to teachers, come to this PD and learn about this tool or technology and now go use it in your classroom. There is no way we would expect that of our students especially in a foundational and transformational concept like multiplication! Well, educational technology is transformational, but I wonder, why is it that so many teachers fail to find it transformational in their teaching? I guess this is where my inquiry led me in this module. Professional development might not be the only answer, but I think it is part of the equation. I’m wondering:

How can professional development integrate technology in a way that is transformational to teaching and learning?

Based on our readings this module and past readings technology integration in the classroom should be purposeful and lead to positive outcomes for students. I think the same should be true of teacher professional development, it should prepare teachers to change their teaching. That might sound simple, but it seems without a radical and a continual change to the traditional methods for planning and getting professional development the status quo will continue. Luckily there are pockets of change happening. I came across a few different examples in the resource I found and the resources my colleagues in this program shared. Together they show change happening.

How Professional Development is Changing

In my resource from EdSurge, I found a great example of how buildings can begin to change their professional development offerings to bring about change. The high school I read about designed their back to school PD around a need they noticed through observation, personalized learning. Then the leadership team for the school decided to create a back to school professional development event that included personalized learning to show teachers how powerful it is, and to teach them how to integrate it into the classroom by trying it out, (Campbell & McDonough, 2017). The building redesigned their traditional back to school PD session, which amazingly went for 2 weeks, and included a tic-tac-toe board game of new events that gave choice. Throughout the week they allowed teachers to be leaders. Much like an unconference there was room to guide sessions as participants wanted. This school decided to integrate some technology tools into their trainings, like using Remind to send out PD updates, or Google docs to change agendas, but in this case, it wasn’t the main focus of most sessions. One brilliant choice they made that stood out to me was, to collect data at the end of the PD from teachers and then they used that data to drive the learning sessions throughout the year. They even asked teachers to continue their learning and published the slide deck, The Learn Project, (Campbell & McDonough, 2017).  In doing those things they gave the teachers choice and a voice in their learning and it seems to have paid off.

Other resources talked similarly about what how necessary choice was to the learning of teachers. Pernille Ripp shared how at her district, “our two days consisted of many different things, all meant to fulfill the needs we not only have as a community, but also as individual learners,” (2015). Additionally, Rich Czyz (2015), advocates for breaking the mold of traditional PD in his post. Much of his methods are short quick classes that happen in the span of 15 minutes. Nearly all of these articles also mentions something outside of the physical professional development class. Many reference Twitter or some other web hosted forum that enables staff members to participate in PD from anywhere at any time. Online professional development was also mentioned in many of the articles I read.

My Lingering Thoughts

Investigating effective PD leaves me with unanswered questions. However, working in a department that plans PD is helping me to begin to better grapple with some answers. I am finding that change takes time, however, it is nice to see elements of this change already happening. Online PD can meet the needs of many learners especially those who may not feel comfortable with a particular technology tool or district web resource but ideally choice would inform in person PD sessions as well. Even if a tool like online PD exists to differentiate based on the needs of learners, word needs to somehow spread. Initiatives like the report Transforming Learning in Washingtion State, WA-TPL, seem necessary to continue to make change in traditional PD sessions and in order to link districts to allow all to provide a space for online PD.

A quote from the report leaves me hopeful:

The original purpose of the WA-TPL project was not simply to transform the professional learning in participating districts, but to impact the larger system across the state by providing insight into the processes that support the development and sustaining impact of effective professional learning. (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane, 2016)

Now it is up to those of us designing professional development in districts or in buildings to be the continual voice for change.

Resources:

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf 

Campbell, D., & McDonough, M. (2017, May 30). Tic-Tac-Toe Your Way to Teacher Choice: A New Model for PD – EdSurge News. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-05-30-tic-tac-toe-your-way-to-teacher-choice-a-new-model-for-pd

Czyz, R. (2015, October 27). Creating Innovative Professional Development Models In Your District – ISTE Community. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://connect.iste.org/blogs/rich-czyz/2015/10/27/creating-innovative-professional-development-models-in-your-district

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

National Education Technology Plan. (2017). Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/

Ripp, P. (2015, November 3). How to Do PD Right – Yes, It’s Possible. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://pernillesripp.com/2015/11/02/how-to-do-pd-right-yes-its-possible/

 

3 thoughts on “Choice in Professional Development”

  1. James, your post has great energy and brings attention to the need to allow teachers to be more actively involved in planning and facilitating PD based on their collaborative needs. I wonder with the increase of self-guided online PD, how are teachers held accountable regarding time spent and how do districts gauge student success as a result of elective PD sessions if PLCs do not all participate in the same session.

    1. That is a great question. In my current district online PD is tracked through an LMS and clockhours can be awarded. However, I’m not sure how student success is gauged. However, I wonder how student success is gauged in traditional PD? In the past I’ve found that often there is no follow-up which likely means practice doesn’t change. Engaging an entire PLC is another good idea. I think if that were to happen systemic change may even happen more quickly whether that was supporting a particular tool or curriculum or simply redesigning PD.

  2. Your EdSurge resource: That’s great that they integrated the tools into the PD itself. I think learning to use a new tool can be a socialization process as much as it is a technical process. The experience of using the tool in action is incredibly valuable!

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