ISTE standard: Professional Learning Facilitator
Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders to use technology to advance teaching and learning. Coaches:
c. Evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet the schoolwide vision for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning.
Successful implementation of education technologies depends upon extensive, high-quality teacher professional development and ongoing support (Martin et al. 2010). PD opportunities offered in many districts often are traditional one-time workshops that do not provide sufficient time to help teachers effectively use technology in their specific context and teaching practices. How to plan effective professionally learning and provide continuous support to educators in using educational technology?
The goal of professional development is the effective implementation of skills and strategies that enhance knowledge and transfer of learning (CDC, 2019). According to Trotter (2006), research around adult learning has identified four key principles for high-quality teacher learning activities:
- Use of concrete experiences (i.e., coherence): Activities that are explicitly linked to curriculum teachers use, their classroom/school context, and their individual needs and interests.
- Continuously available feedback (i.e., sustained duration): Activities that provide teachers with sufficient time to learn and reflect on strategies that improve their practice.
- Encouragement of teachers to take on new and complex roles (i.e., active learning): Activities that provide teachers with opportunities to get hands-on experiences in designing and/or trying new instructional strategies.
- Collaboration (i.e., collective participation): Activities that give teachers the opportunities to share their ideas, work collaboratively, and help with each other’s learning.
I find the second key principle, continuously available feedback, has been the missing key for many professional developments for teachers. Effective professional development includes the planning for and provision of one or more follow-up support strategies after a professional development event. Follow-up support is intended to strengthen the transfer of learned strategies or skills so they will be retained and applied effectively. It may take place over time and can be altered as the needs of the participants change. Follow-up support is not the introduction of new information; it is the reinforcement of information provided at the professional development event (CDC, 2019).
The World Bank Blog (2021) also suggested 8 tips to help policymakers structure an effective one-on-one teacher support system:
- Determine whether the system would benefit most from a ‘highly structured” support model or a “low structured” support model.
- Regardless of the support model, ensure pedagogical leaders do not simultaneously support teachers and act as their evaluators.
- Ensure pedagogical leaders are not responsible for too many teachers.
- Ensure pedagogical leaders are visiting teachers at least once per month and for the duration of the school year.
- When conducting classroom observations, ensure pedagogical leaders use a classroom observation tool and observe teachers for the full duration of the lesson.
- Ensure pedagogical leaders provide feedback to teachers following an observation.
- If in-person support is not possible, encourage pedagogical leaders to provide feedback and encouragement through a hybrid model of virtual and on-site support.
- Programs that focus on providing ongoing support to teachers must be embedded within a larger system infrastructure focused on supporting, motivating, and developing teachers throughout their full career cycle.
Too often technology professional learning is one time event, because it is facilitated by people outside of the school community. Digital Promise (2020) suggested that creating an environment where teachers are supporting one another in learning and implementing new teaching strategies, tools, and frameworks throughout the year will both increase collaboration among teachers and help to spread best practices. This environment can be created and maintained using instructional technology coaches, teams of teacher leaders, or other systems of support within schools.
Finally, to provide ongoing support to teachers, particularly in learning educational technology, schools should harness the power of instructional technology coaches, leverage the expertise of teacher leaders, and provide opportunities for peer-led professional learning, for example, implement peer demonstration classrooms that allow teachers to use new tools and teaching strategies while being observed by peers who can provide feedback and get ideas about how to use those same tools and strategies in their own classrooms (Digital Promise, 2020).
Martin, W., Strother, S.A., Beglau, M., Bates, L., Reitzes, T., & McMillan Culp, K. (2010). Connecting Instructional Technology Professional Development to Teacher and Student Outcomes. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43, 53 – 74. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ898528.pdf
Trotter, Y. D. (2006). Adult Learning Theories: Impacting Professional Development Programs. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 72(2). https://verizon.digitalpromise.org/elements-of-success/provide-ongoing-embedded-professional-learning-opportunities-for-teachers/
Provide ongoing, embedded professional learning opportunities for teachers (2020) Digital Promise. https://verizon.digitalpromise.org/elements-of-success/provide-ongoing-embedded-professional-learning-opportunities-for-teachers/
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Follow-up Support Tool Kit. (2019) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/tths/followup_toolkit-508.pdf
8 Tips to Structure Effective One-to-One Support Systems for Teachers. Wilichowski, T. & Popova, A., (2021). World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/8-tips-structure-effective-one-one-support-systems-teachers