Today, I found myself pondering over my approach to professional development. As our department prepared to lead sessions, we were asked to consider what we could do with our sessions to make them more engaging, learner centered and aligned with the ISTE standards. In other words, we needed to look at our instructional plan for teachers from a similar lens that teachers would look for students…which makes perfect sense.
I’ve always considered myself a pretty “non-standard” trainer, making sure to incorporate active learning experiences into my sessions. However, today I had to take a hard look at my own practice and decide if my “active” was in fact truly “active”. In other words, is it enough that teachers create and develop during PD or should they be doing more?
According to the ISTE Standards for coaching, one of the goals of the technology professional developer should be to…
Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using differentiation, including adjusting content, process, product, and learning environment based upon student readiness levels, learning styles, interests, and personal goals
We must model effective use of technology while also modeling how we make adjustments to meet the needs of learners through tech enhanced experiences and differentiation. The more that we model best practices, the easier that it becomes for teachers to garner a better understanding of how technology can work to enhance learning in their classrooms.
What does this mean?
For starters, the idea of “choice” is often one that is thrown around conversations as if it is simple to understand. Choice goes well beyond a question of, “should I do the work” or “shouldn’t I”. Choice speaks greatly to the idea of “how”.
For example, instead of teaching an “active” session in which I lead and guide the entire class from beginning to end, I should be constructing learner driven units where the entry and exit of learning is guided by the learner. Think of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that you may have read in school and it all makes sense.
We have to take into account what teachers already know. It’s a waste of their time sitting through “intro” that they do not need when they could be evaluating their knowledge levels, considering the application in their classrooms and making decisions about what they want and need to get out of a session. I like to refer back to the ISTE Standards for Coaching on this one…
Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences emphasizing creativity, higher-order thinking skills and processes, and mental habits of mind, (e.g., critical thinking, meta-cognition, and self-regulation)
Now, before going back to our standard…”teachers do not know what they do not know”, let’s consider how we can make this happen.
- Start the session with your minimal expectations.
- If learning a platform, briefly share the greatness of what it can help learners do and then have teachers develop their own criteria for understanding.
- Tasks cards are awesome and structuring the self-evaluation part in the form of tasks are a great gauge of learning for teachers. In other words, it’s not just a matter of can I use it, but can I apply it. (critical)
- Determine a series of “starts” based on teacher application of #3…but make these a teacher choice as well.
- Incorporate collaboration with training and/or global peers.
- Design so that teachers leave with a “ready to implement” created model of their own.
- Your role is that of a facilitator. You are the support. Don’t coddle…guide.
As with any development, all of the above largely depends on the goals of the session and that of the teachers. The bottom line is that if we want to see transformation in the classroom, we must be ready to transform within our own role as staff developers.
We can’t expect different if we aren’t willing to model it.