Still Re-Thinking Professional Development

Re-Thinking Technology Professional Development

During this module in our class focusing on professional development and program evaluation we were asked to consider the role that adult learning principles play in the planning of educational technology professional development. I found that to be a fascinating question not only because I had never heard of the adult learning principles, but also because I had no idea what took place in the planning of educational technology professional development beyond defining the need based on a new computer adoption, a new digital curriculum adoption or an [insert technology implementation here] and planning professional development backward from there. Previously, as a teacher I participated in train the trainer type events during which I wasn’t given any guidelines around adult learning principles as I went to instruct my staff full of adult learners.

Questions, Questions, Questions

Naturally based on my role as an instructional coach in multiple buildings I wanted to know about the process for planning school based PD that was deemed effective and important by teachers. Here are the three related questions that I asked. What is an example of effective technology professional development that is school based? What adult learning principles are present in PD that participants find effective? How does a school district vision for PD tie into school based technology professional development? All of these questions and ideas fit into the learning standard we are investigating which is ISTE standard 4 for coaches, indicator B, this indicator calls on coaches to:

  • Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

In my short experience as a coach this indicator assumes a lot of the coaches role in the wider system represented in a school district. However, in this post I will do my best to share some resources that I hope support the conclusions I’ve come to about how coaches and any stakeholder who is providing PD for teachers can do so in a way that is beneficial to all involved.

A Gradual Change

As I read sources looking for information on how participants respond when adult learning principles are integrated into PD, I couldn’t find the voice of teachers. I was however able to find some who talked about how they modified the traditional style of professional development in order to incorporate the adult learning principles and to design better PD. So my investigation shifted again to a something I feel I’ve been investigating since last quarter or maybe since the summer, what is good PD and how do instructional technology coaches bring that to schools? It seems like in most places part of the puzzle is in place, either starting at the district level like WA-TPL describes it or from a individual school level. Progress is being made, but slowly, “we are looking at data to inform professional learning at the district level, but having that be a system that is in all of our buildings and culture is a work in progress,” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane, 2016). Similarly, in changing PD and the focus of PD with instructional technology the change seems to be happening in pockets and slowly. I still wonder what a school looks like that is taking on this change. Maybe it is similar to the high school I described last week that organized their own two week PD combining blended learning, the unconference and traditional PD into their back to school training.

Gamification, Digital Badges and Blended Learning in PD

My first resource in my search is from a company that is using gamification, digital badges and blended learning to make some of those changes to professional development. To them adult learning principles are part of the reason why those approaches make sense. My resource focuses specifically on personalizing PD and shares how to go about doing that. One way to accomplish a shift in PD is to get a variety of stakeholders on the same page, including teachers, administrators, TOSAs, and the technology department, (Schnurr, 2017). Another shift that is happening in PD is the changing role of facilitators. According to Schnurr, 2017, facilitators hold less of the knowledge and act more as a teacher would in the gradual release of responsibility model where learning is scaffolded at first and eventually turned over to participants. As the role of the facilitator changes, I think that participants might find those sessions to be especially successful, but I haven’t found that stated explicitly in my resources. The author states that using a blended learning model changes the role of a facilitator naturally since facilitators first teach teachers how to use tools and then teachers engage with content through those tools.

Going 1:1

Many districts are moving to a 1:1 model with devices. It is seen as the essential way to integrate technology into instruction. However, providing devices isn’t enough according to Salisbury Township School District. To transform a district there has to be a shift in mindset and daily practices of school leaders, teachers and students, (Ziegenfuss & Fuini-Hetten, 2015). According to the authors a few key ideas helped them maximize the PD they implemented district wide:

  • Align PD goals with 1:1 program goals
  • Rethink human resources, and positions within schools
  • Personalize PD through differentiation and choice
  • Evaluate PD efforts to meet developing needs

The theme or personalization is present again along with some restructuring at high levels within the organization. I often think there is some disconnect or maybe a nebulous vision for professional development with technology instead of a clear singular focus connected to student learning.

Image credit: flickr

Changing Professional Development Locally and Distributed Leadership

It’s great to read a study that is happening in the state I live in just to know that some of the same changes are happening close to home. In reading the report about Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State the idea of distributed leadership caught my attention. I want to share a few ideas related to PD and school success I thought were key to this section of the report. “In order for district leaders to provide a coherent professional learning plan that is data driven, meets the needs and circumstances of all educators and is focused on improving student learning, a distributive leadership model is necessary,” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane, 2016). Much like it sounds, distributed leadership allows the expertise to drive innovation rather than role or years of experience, (Harris, 2014). It seems like a great way to approach professional development as well as the integration of technology into PD and instruction. If we were truly using this model I think planning of professional development at all levels would be more inclusive.

As an instructional technology coach one of my roles right now is simply asking how teachers and other members of a staff can provide input into their own learning. I think that in doing that I’m striving to get all stakeholders on the same page but now it seems like a long journey. It is important for adult learners to feel that they are able to provide input in designing practical professional learning that will serve them in their roles. Again personalizing the learning of a staff seems like the most efficient way to do that. As an instructional technology coach, I could also be modling how technology allows us to do that. As I sit in on designing professional development sessions for summer learning I will continue to bring in teacher input and attempt to shift the learning based on new learning. I’m really hoping for some input from teachers though and feedback on an effective model for school based professional development so that I can learn how I might provide that for my schools.

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

Harris, A. (2014). Distributed leadership. Australian Council for Educational Research – ACER. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/distributed-leadership

Schnurr, S. (2017, February 15). Personalized PD & Adult Learning: Facilitation & Support. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from https://www.alludolearning.com/blog/2017/02/personalized-pd-adult-learning-facilitation-support

 Ziegenfuss, R., & Fuini-Hetten, L. (2015, December 8). A PD Story: Bringing 1:1 Technology to Our District. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pd-1to1-technology-to-district-randy-ziegenfuss-lynn-fuini-hetten

One thought on “Still Re-Thinking Professional Development”

  1. You raise a good point when you mention that sometimes the connection between PD and student learning goals gets lost or overlooked. I also think that sometimes we forget that not all tech tools need to be used by all students. When presenting new tech integration, I wonder how often teachers are asked to stop and reflect on a subset of students that come to mind and how to apply new knowledge to help that subset rather than the whole class.

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