Developing Effective professional learning

Planning Alternative Professional Learning FINAL PLAN

Change is constantly happening in the educational field due to factors that, most of the times, are out of the control of teachers, administrators, parents, and even students. As a teacher, I need to embrace the change and make adjustments to the way I teach my students. Due to all what has been happening to today’s society, I believe my school can evolve to update to the current century and offer students a learning experience that makes a positive impact in their learning. For my innovation plan, I propose to implement a Blended learning approach in my school. By using a blended learning approach, I want to give students more control and agency over students’ learning. I expect students to be more engaged, and independent so that they can master the student expectations provided by the state. The immediate feedback students have access to when participating in a blended learning environment allows them to advance within the lesson or content being targeted – see Innovation Plan.

Implementing a blended approach takes time and collaboration from every stakeholder on campus. The area of greatest struggle is not in learning a new skill but in implementing it, something referred to as the “implementation dip” (Fuller, 2001). If a change in instruction wants to be seen, the implementation stage of the implementation plan must be supported more explicitly with professional learning offerings so that teachers can embrace the instructional change. But reality is that I cannot implement my innovation plan on my own. What I want to do is to empower teachers to embrace change and effect it across the campus so that they can create the best learning environments for each one of the students at school.

In order to plan for effective Professional Learning to implement a blended learning approach – Innovation Plan, I have designed the following outline, which is divided into three phases.

Phase I (Semester 1 2021-2022 school year)

At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, I will be implementing a blended learning approach in my Spanish classroom. This will happen from September to November. During that time, I will be collecting data and artifacts that will allow me to showcase evidence of how blended learning will increase student engagement and agency in the classroom. All videos will be housed in a Schoology course I will design for this specific purpose (Professional Learning). As Schoology is the learning platform all teachers and students use across the school, building the course in this platform would make it more accessible to teachers and students. In addition to this, as I am going to do alternative PD, I will use this platform to model a blended learning approach.

During the first semester, I will also start sharing the foundational information regarding blended learning. My school divides the school year in 4 different grading cycles. During the first cycle, team leaders will analyze how a blended learning approach will bring about a change in student engagement. In order to do this, I will share different resources (articles and videos) that they need to watch before each Professional Learning session. The goal is to put a seed in their heads that will start some meaningful conversations across other disciplines. This collaboration will support all teachers and learners once teachers start taking risks implementing the strategies.

Duration: Team leaders and support staff will participate in two different PL sessions during the first semester through a blended learning platform. For each PL session, teachers will need to read or watch some media/articles that will be discussed during the remote learning session using Zoom. Each session will take approximately 30 minutes taking into account that participants have already watched/read the materials needed for the sessions. The sessions will target:

  • Why: I plan on explaining why that specific strategy can help teachers engage learners and develop student agency.
  • What: In this section, I will describe the blended learning strategy.
  • How: In this section I will model what the strategy looks like in the classroom.
  • Next steps: In this section, I will describe how teachers will celebrate their success and reach out for support.

In addition to collecting artifacts, designing a Schoology course for the PD, and training team leaders and support staff (SPED), I will support teachers in how implement a learning blending environment in their classrooms. By doing this, team leaders will collect evidence so that they can show it to their teams.

Support: This principle is key to a successful implementation of the initiative. I will first provide a Professional Learning session to the team leaders and support staff (SPED) during a learning meeting (after school). This will allow me to provide another expert or knowledgeable peer who can be readily available to support their teams. By training the support staff, I am ensuring teachers have different points of contact they can reach out to in order to think about solutions to problems they might encounter in the classroom. Every third week of each grading cycle, I will meet with team leaders and support staff to follow up on challenges they may have and what systems can be in place to support them and their students. The support sessions will be done synchronously using Zoom. This will allow me and the team members to continue experiencing some of the components of blended learning.

Active Learning: The main goal of the innovation plan is to increase student engagement and this is the perfect opportunity to showcase the blended learning strategies embedded in the innovation plan. Traditional Professional Learning sessions are mostly a sit and get event. By doing this, teachers become passive listeners. What I really want to implement in the bite-sized learning sessions is involving teachers as active learners. They should be able to practice the strategy when attending the learning session as many more questions may arise through such a practice. Besides that, when practicing the strategy, teachers are able to collaborate with other colleagues and start building support groups that will be very helpful throughout the implementation stage.

Modeling: One of the main components I will incorporate in each of the Professional Learning sessions during the first semester is modeling. This is why the It is of utmost importance to show teachers what the strategy looks like from the teachers’ perspective and the student perspective as well. The goal is to help teachers see what the outcomes should look like. As a result, they will start thinking about how to integrate it in their classrooms.

Context Specific: In order to address the different needs teachers have – especially in their context – I will train the team leaders first so that they can turn around and implement it in their classroom. Each classroom is unique as the needs are specific to their learning environment. After that, they will share the strategy with their team (department) using their own experiences. I truly believe teachers need to experience (first-hand) how the strategy can be implemented successfully in a classroom or environment similar to theirs. Teachers PD will take place during the second semester of the school year. Once team leaders have experienced success.

Throughout the implementation stage, I will foster collaboration in different ways:

  • Training team leaders first will give a first layer of support for all other teachers. The goal is for team leaders to implement the strategy in their classroom first. The collaboration amongst departments will support not only teachers but students as they will see how adults engage in tasks that demand high collaboration to accomplish a goal.
  • Support teachers will collaborate with content area teachers in the classroom. It is important for both teachers (SPED and Content teachers) to discuss different ways to support students.

The following table provides the PL design I am planning to use for the implementation of my innovation plan. This outline will be completed as I continue planning the different phases of this process.

Learning Goals/OutcomesLearning ActivitiesAssessment Activities
Foundational
Teachers will analyze how a blended learning approach will bring about a change in student engagement.
Read “What is blended learning” (https://www.blendedlearning.org/)
Analyze various scenarios to determine what blended learning model works best for their students.
Participate in discussions to clarify any questions teachers may have about blended learning.
Reflection on how blended learning may impact student learning. (Flipgrid)

Discussions

Application
Teachers will create a learning activity in which they use a blended learning strategy.
Analysis of Models
Review and reflect on the definition of each model. Then brainstorm its potential benefits and drawbacks
Workshop
Integration Stage 1
Teachers will analyze their curriculum and student needs to determine challenges that might impact the implementation of the approach.
Research current blended learning practices for educators and summarize findings.Review three reliable technology tools that are often integrated into blended classrooms.
Integration Stage 2
Teachers will develop a lesson plan that clearly outlines the blended learning strategy and how
Create a sample personalized learning plan and provide/receive peer feedback.Research blended classroom management tools and develop a blended classroom management plan
Human Dimensions/CaringParticipate in discussions regarding enhancement of communication and collaboration.
What does blended learning should look like in my classroom? 
Reflection survey

What will teachers (team leaders) do in each session during Phase I?

Before meeting with team leaders, the following video will be shared with the team. The goal is to provide a preview of what the sessions will be about.

Slide deck – Blended Learning

MODULE 1

Goal: Define blended learning, and discuss how it impacts student learning.

Activity 1 – Share and connect

The presenter will showcase the slide deck (blended learning) to share the why behind this innovation plan.

Then, participants will take a moment to name their department, interest/goals for this session on blended learning. If they have previous experience with blended learning, they will share it.

Activity 2: The presenter will ask participants the following question:

What words come to mind when you hear “blended learning”?

Participants will list any and all the words that come to mind. The presenter will collect their thoughts into a word cloud (Mentimeter.com) to show their collective word associations with blended learning.

Activity 3:

This will be an asynchronous activity. All participants will read each one of the following article and video:

Parents Choose Blended Learning For The Classrooms Of The Future

Blended Learning: Making it work in your classroom

Each participant will share two take-aways from both readings and one lingering question.

MODULE 2:

Goal: Continue digging deeper into what blended learning is. Survey various models of blended learning, identify opportunities and benefits to a blended learning approach.

Activity 1:

From the readings below, select two to review and answer:

a. What blended learning instructional model better fits the content area you teach?

b. Discuss how your initial thinking about blended learning has changed or what hesitations you have about implementing blended learning at school.

Participants will post their answers in Schoology.

Activity 2:

After participants have explored the different instructional models, they will read the article: 10 Big questions about blended learning and create a two-slide presentation on one question they have explored. Each teacher will create a 1-minute video showcasing their take-aways.

MODULE 3:

Goal: Outline how you might determine learning objectives for your own course and identify resources to help with this

Activity

Pre-work:

Read and learn more about learner-driven design and the principles of the learner-driven framework:Learner-centered Curriculum Model and Learner-driven Learning Design Model

Think about this question: Have you ever used a specific or a formalized design approach to build your course? be ready to chat with your shoulder partner.

A discussion will be around this question: Which design model resonates with you and why?

MODULE 4:

Goal: Start to consider potential blended learning activities that you can implement in your course.

Activity

In this session, you will start constructing a blueprint for your personal blended learning activity. Think about some activities that might work well in a blended learning environment. What specific things do you feel require face-to-face interaction, or what activities do you think fit well in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment?

Phase II (Second semester 2021-2022 school year).

During the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year (January – March), I will make the necessary adjustments to the Professional Learning sessions I used with the team leaders. This will be done using the feedback provided by team leaders. The ultimate goal is for team leaders to use the same materials to share the strategies with their teams. However, team leaders will share the artifacts, and the experience when implementing the strategy during the first semester. By doing this, each team will feel supported by their leader in the journey of implementing change in their classrooms.

The components described in Phase one will be used during this stage as well. The only difference is that team leaders will share the content with their teams. The support in this stage is key as I am not the one implementing the PL. My role will be that of coaching team leaders when sharing their experiences with their teams. I will support each team leader by joining them in their PL session.

Phase III (May 2022)

During this phase (May), I will be collecting data (google form) regarding the implementation of the blended learning approach. The goal is for teachers to share their experiences regarding the impact of blended learning on student engagement and agency.

After collecting the data, I will share it with the admin team and teachers at school. It is important for teachers to see the results of the survey and share their experiences with others. My role is not to convert teachers into believers of blended learning. What I really strive to do is empowering other teachers to become agents of change in my context.

Some of the resources / items that I will be needing for the PL are:

a. Team leaders from each content area

b. Creating a two main presentations to present Blended Learning strategies.

c. Create google forms to request feedback from team leaders

d. Set up sessions in Zoom for blended learning PD

e. Have a video recording device available to record evidence of how the strategies are implemented.

References

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in culture of change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Horn, M and Staker, H. (2014). Models of Blended Learning. https://www.blendedlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/1-Models-of-Blended-Learning.pdf

L&S Learning Support Services (2013). Teaching with Technology Workshop. https://teachingwithtech.lss.wisc.edu/m0.htm


CALL TO ACTION

 What is the Story Behind the Story?

As the end of the school year starts to draw to a close, I like to reflect upon my growth as a Spanish teacher in my school. Everyone knows that due to the pandemic teachers, students and parents have gone through rough times and certain systems changed to make learning more accessible. While it is true that some systems were refined to support student learning, it is also true that teachers needed targeted professional development to be able to support student learning. In my case, such professional learning opportunities did not happen and to be truthful about it, they have not happened for the last three years. The professional development opportunities that are mandated in my district do not align with the needs my students have “and it’s hard to look forward to teaching when mandated PD is not always high quality.” (Heather Wolpert-Gawron, 2018). As a result, I have to admit that in most PD sessions, I feel disengaged from the learning that is happening and have dreaded the sessions.

Effective PD needs to be effective to the content teachers teach, support teachers plan and improve their instruction, include hands-on strategies applicable to their setting, recognize teachers are professionals with valuable insights, needs to be highly interactive, and sustained over time (Perkins, 2019). Unfortunately, the PD sessions that I have been part of for the last three years have not included teachers’ voice. There has not been a survey in which I have been able to express the needs I have in my classroom. However, I have received emails requesting me to present a topic or two to all other Spanish teachers in the district. I appreciate the opportunity to lead a Professional Development session; however, I would rather present about an instructional problem that I had in my classroom and how I went about it to solve it rather than an imposed topic that might not be related to my needs.

In addition to not having input into the content being delivered in the PD sessions, I have also participated in sessions in which facilitators were the only ones speaking, leaving all participants listening passively. The lack of hands-on experiences led me to wonder how to implement the ideas being presented. The times I have been part of PD sessions in my department, I have been surrounded by teachers with varying levels of experience to whom the topics seem irrelevant. As a result, they start talking about how bad the idea is. A sense of negativity starts growing among the participants and discourages others from implementing them. Instead of disregarding the experience teachers have,

No More Bad Coffee: PD that Honors Teachers TEDxABQED

What is it that I want Professional Development to be in my school setting? It is simple. I want PD that showcases the different issues teachers experience in their classrooms and how they have tackled the situation. I want PD that is relevant and I become an active learner through hands-on experiences. Professional Development does not have be a full day sitting down in front of a screen or in a classroom listening to others talk. PD can also be done by visiting other teachers in different schools. I sometimes get very excited about ideas others present but get very discouraged when I get to my school and I have no idea where to begin implementing the idea. Chard (2014) states that “teachers want to be honored as professionals with wisdom and expertise and treated with dignity and respect.” I truly believe that Professional Development for teachers should have not be a sequence of back-to-back meetings in which there is an overflow of ideas and information. According to Chard (2014), “Professional Development should be more like design studios in which teachers are given the time and the resources to work on innovative projects of their own creation.” Therefore, Professional Development needs to stay away from to do lists and allow time for teachers to reconnect with others and the vision they had when they started their teaching careers.

Who: PD can be led and participated in by teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators. PD should be take into account the varying levels of expertise teachers have. However, some collaboration across such expertise levels should occur to have collective inquiry and shared expertise and inspired conversations.

When: PD can happen before, during or after school.

Where: PD can happen in schools, central locations or online. However, from my perspective, the more hands-on experiences the PD offers, the more impactful the session is.

How: PD should always have highly meaningful interactions with hands-on experiences that allow teachers to be active learners.

Why: PD should meet the needs of teachers and their students. PD sessions provide an opportunity to build knowledge and skills to support teachers.

What: PD opportunities can address teacher learning and skills development so that they are able to support their students.

Alternative model of Professional Learning

The real question is how will I deal with objections and roadblocks when implementing a PL program that addresses the needs of teachers and students? Change is not easy. The best way to communicate a change in practices is by explaining the why behind the change. In addition to that, teachers need to provide their input regarding the type of Professional Learning they want to be part of throughout the school year. Therefore, the school or district needs to send a survey to discover what type of opportunities to grow teachers want to have. After that, the school or district can also recruit teachers who are willing to showcase their ideas or struggles and describe how they solved the problem. When teachers participate in Professional Learning in which they are active participants, they are more likely to implement what they learn. As a result, the impact on student learning will increase.

The following presentation includes the principles for effective PD. It highlights the principles for effective Professional Learning.

Professional Learning – A call to action

The video was created first as a presentation using Canva.com. The presentation was downloaded as an MP4 video and upload it to my YouTube channel.

References

Wolpert-Gawron, H. W.-G. (2018, October 18). The Importance of Choice in PD. EDUTOPIA. https://www.edutopia.org/article/importance-choice-pd

7 Characteristics of Great Professional Development. (2019, July 2). TeachThought. https://www.teachthought.com/education/8-things-professional-development/

EDx Talks. (2014, April 10). No More Bad Coffee: Professional Development That Honors Teachers: Sheryl Chard at TEDxABQED [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiW0s6_83dw&feature=youtu.be