Consulting Project – The New Professional Development Program for the Urvi School

Note: This school and situation are both fictitious.
Introduction

According to Hase & Kenyon (2000),

Education has traditionally been seen as a pedagogic relationship between the teacher and the learner. It was always the teacher who decided what the learner needed to know, and indeed, how the knowledge and skills should be taught. In the past thirty years or so there has been quite a revolution in education through research into how people learn, and resulting from that, further work on how teaching could and should be provided. (p.2)

Hase and Kenyon (2000) identify that effective learning occurs when through a learning-centered model. As the consultants for this organization, we aim to develop a professional development (PD) program for teachers modeled on three learning theories: social constructivism, heutagogy and connectivism. This program is outlined below using the ADDIE model for instructional design.

Current State

The Urvi School is an independent grade 3 to grade 8 elementary/junior school. The 17 teachers and 5 staff members of the school are lead by a principal and vice principal. The curriculum coordinator of the school manages the structure and development of the PD system for the teachers. The current PD structure consists of three primary components:

  • in-school PD events in the form of guest speakers and workshops (whole school sessions)
  • in-school internal PD (teachers visiting each other’s classes, PD messages during staff meetings)
  • outside of school PD events based usually subject based which teachers sign up for independently

The in-school events take place three times a year: in August before school beings, in January before term two begins and in June when school has ended. Teachers are generally not guided or instructed on which outside of school events they should enroll in but are required to attend at least one during the year. At the beginning of the school year, the theme of the PD events is given to the teachers by the curriculum coordinator; however, the workshops/guest speaker events frequently deviate from the theme. The PD messages during staff meetings occur approximately every two weeks and include an activity that is to be completed outside the staff meeting (e.g. fill out brainstorm for PBL activities for staff bulletin board). Teachers are required to visit each other’s classes once a term.

The current structure does provide a number of opportunities for PD. The challenges with this structure is that teachers are not given ownership over their PD, self directed learning is not being encouraged, there exists no formal tool for collaboration and dialogue between teachers and teachers are not given choices or structure in the format or content of the PD activities.

ADDIE Instructional Design Model for the Learning Program

Analysis

The learning outcomes imposed by the school’s administrators (principal, vice principal and curriculum coordinator) contain three components:
  • Teachers will receive whole school PD in order to collectively learn the school’s vision and direction
  • Teachers will choose their outside of school PD sessions based on their own teaching subjects
  • Teachers will visit their colleague’s classes in order to learn from each other and possibly align teaching strategies

The scope and structure of the new proposed PD program is based on a leaner-centered model. This PD structure aims to be continuous throughout the year and as well as appeals to the needs/direction of the school and teachers. The school contains the various budgetary and technological tools to implement this program. The program will need to be assessed throughout the year in order to determine the effectiveness for the learners.

Design

This learning program was developed based on the triad interaction of teachers, facilitators and the PD program within a digital environment. The triad relationship was adapted from Borko (2004). Figure 1 below illustrates the framework used in this learning program.

Figure 1. Framework depicting the triad relationship, theories and type of activities involved in the new PD program.

Teachers as Learners

In this program, teachers are defined as the learners (Borko, 2004). Although all teacher-learners will be expected to participate in this PD program, its effectiveness for each teacher is dependent on their internal locus of control, their ability to be intrinsically motivated and a positive attitude towards their facilitators, colleagues, PD program and digital technologies. They must also be willing to interact, communicate, collaborate and share work with individuals and the environment in their personal learning network (PLN) and communities of practice (CoP) (Dabbagh, 2007).

Facilitator

The facilitator(s) within this program can be a number of individuals ranging from administrators, teacher-experts, theorists, workshop leaders and guest speakers. The facilitator’s role is to guide the “teachers as they construct knowledge and practices” during PD opportunities (Borko, 2004, p.4).

PD Program

The activities, learning opportunities, instructional objectives and instructional strategies within this PD program are rooted in three theories: heutagogy, connectivism and social constructivism.

Heutagogy emphasizes the development of individual’s capabilities within an environment of self-directed learning, knowledge sharing, intuition and reflection. The heutagogical approach to learning can be effectively conducted using online and digital technology mediums (Hase & Kenyon, 2000).   

Connectivism is a process of learning in which the environment can shift, change and is not necessarily within the control of the individual. It focuses on connecting information, determining important and unimportant information, and recognizing new information which changes decisions (Siemens, 2004). Connectivism states that: “ (i) Knowledge rests in networks, (ii) Knowledge may reside in nonhuman appliances, and learning is enabled / facilitated by technology, and (iii) Currency (accurate, uptodate knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities” (Siemens, 2006, as cited in McLoughlin, 2008, p.2).

Social constructivism emphasizes that learners “create meaning through their interactions with each other and with the environment they live in” (Kim, 2001, p.3). Knowledge and meaning are constructed as a product of social and cultural experiences. Thus, “meaningful learning occurs when individuals are engaged in social activities” (Kim, 2001, p.3). Social constructivists posit that effective instructional models should include collaboration and interaction among learners and members of the community (Kim, 2001).    

Instructional Objectives / Learning Outcomes

1.       Through a variety of mediums, teachers are actively engaged in a PD program through:
a.       a CoPs with colleagues, administrators and facilitators
b.      sharing, engaging in dialogue, discussing with colleagues, administrators and facilitators
c.       collaboration and connecting with colleagues, administrators and facilitators  
2.       Through PD activities and active engagement (listed in point a., b., and c.), teachers:
a.       Develop their understanding of subject-matter content
b.      Develop their understanding and practice of effective teaching strategies

Structure, scope and timing

The structure of the program involves asynchronous, synchronous and face-to-face learning. Teachers participate in workshops, conferences, courses, teacher meetings (type 1 and type 2) and class visits. Each teacher will be provided with an individual blog. CoPs within the school (e.g. math department, English department, all grade 6 teachers etc.) are provided with wiki pages. All teachers are encouraged to create a Twitter account (lists will be created based on communities of practice). The learning system ANGEL will be used to keep track of all wiki and blogs links as well as used primarily for class video posting.  Table 1 below indicates the structure of the learning opportunities, the use of technology and the timeframe in which they will occur throughout the year.

Asynchronous
Synchronous
Face-to-face
Technology
Timeframe
Workshops

Twitter / Blogs / Wikis
Once a term
Conferences

Twitter / Blogs / Wikis
Once a term
Courses
Twitter / Blogs / Wikis
One in either fall, winter or summer
Teacher meetings  Type 1
(discuss student work)

Blogs / Wikis
1/week
(alternate with type 2)
Teacher meetings Type 2
(expert teacher discussion)

Twitter / Blogs / Wikis
1/week
(alternate with type 1)
Class videos

Blogs / Wikis / ANGEL
35 minute lesson/ week (recommended)

The use of the four forms of technology listed in the table above will: 1) encourage intrapersonal dialogue, 2) encourage interpersonal dialogue, 3) connect CoPs, 4) encourage individual knowledge construction, 5) encourage group knowledge construction and collaboration, 6) develop subject matter knowledge, 7) develop effective teaching strategies and 7) provide a platform for teachers and administrators to share resources. Note: for safety purposes and student/parent anonymity, teachers and administrators are asked to omit student/parent names and descriptions when writing on their blogs and commenting on Twitter. Class videos will only be posted on ANGEL which is password protected and restricted to teachers and administrators within the school.   

Blogs
Each teacher is provided with a blog. This blog is to serve as a platform for the teachers to record their learning, thoughts, reflection, summaries or questions. They are encouraged to post on their blogs after any PD activity. This includes formal PD sessions (workshops, conferences, courses, teach meetings and class videos) and informal PD opportunities (hallway conversations with a fellow teacher/administrator, ah-ha moment in the classroom or discussion with a student or parent). Every teacher’s blog link is posted on the wiki and on ANGEL for all teachers and administrators to access. Teachers are encouraged to regularly read their fellow teacher’s blogs and engage in dialogue based on the blog topic by commenting on the entry.  

Wikis
Teachers will be members of two CoPs within the school. The first group consists of teachers teaching the same grade. The second group consists of subject teachers regardless of grade.
Each CoP group will have their own wiki page on the main wiki. The purpose of these wiki pages is for teachers to post links to resources that they learn about during formal and informal PD opportunities. Teachers can browse the resources at their own time and add to the list. Teachers will also be encouraged to posted feedback or reflections regarding the resources they may have tried or have experience with. Resource links can include but are not limited to: web links, book titles, facilitator information etc.

Twitter
Teachers are encouraged to post comments on Twitter about their learning, activities or interesting quotes they might hear. This will allow other teachers within their CoP (or even outside of the school CoPs) to engage in further dialogue. Posting on Twitter is encouraged during or after workshops, conferences, courses and type 2 teacher meetings.

ANGEL
Teachers and administrators have individual usernames and passwords to access the learning management system: ANGEL. ANGEL will be used for teachers to post class videos. Teachers can view the videos at their own time and post comments on either ANGEL’s discussion board or on their fellow teacher’s blogs.

Workshops / Conferences

Description
Teachers are asked to attend one face-to-face workshop and one conference per term based on their specific subject area. The first purpose for this activity is for teachers to meet and interact with other teachers and workshop facilitators in order to develop their PLN. The second purpose is for teachers to develop their knowledge in subject-matter content and teaching strategies. Note: teachers are encouraged to share their blog link and Twitter ID with individuals they meet at workshops and conferences.

Instructional Strategies
To encourage self-directed learning, teachers will not be told which workshops and conferences to attend but will be presented with a list to choose from which meet the needs of the school. Teachers are encouraged (if possible) to choose workshops/conferences that blend together lecture based instruction with hands on activity/group work. This will allow teachers to participate in intrapersonal dialogue and “internal didactic conversations” while listening to lecture style presentations but to also participate in interpersonal dialogue with the facilitator and other teachers during hands on activities (Gorsky & Caspi, 2005, p.139). This blended style of instructional strategies will appeal to a variety of learners and encourage individual and collaborative knowledge construction.

Content
The workshops and conference choices given to teachers will be based on the subjects they teach. These workshops and conferences will provide subject matter information as well as effective teaching strategies.

Courses

Description
Based on the teacher’s qualifications, teacher’s time commitment and the school’s needs, teachers are encouraged to take an AQ or ABQ course in either the fall, winter or summer sessions. Teachers can choose the university they wish to enroll in as well as the format of the course (face-to-face, online or blended).

Instructional Strategies
Instructional strategies are subject to the facilitator running the AQ or ABQ.  

Content
Teachers are encouraged to enroll in courses that relate to their teaching subjects or within an area of interest (e.g. upgrading their technology skills).

Teacher Meetings Type 1 – Student Work

Description
Type 1 meetings involve teachers meeting every other week within their CoP group (all teachers teaching the same subject matter regardless of grade). All teachers are asked to bring one sample of student work to the meeting. The first purpose of these meetings is for teachers to engage in discussion about the various student work artifacts. The discussion topics include: the format of the project, impact on student learning outcomes, skills and knowledge development and student engagement, motivation and creativity. The second purpose of these meetings is for teachers to give constructive feedback with regards to the student’s work and the activity designed by the teacher.    
Instructional Strategies
During these meetings, teachers act as both teachers and learners. They ask questions about their student’s work and about the work of other students. They answer questions about their student’s work and their design of the activities. Teachers are encouraged to discuss, take notes, give constructive feedback and provide support. These meetings encourage interpersonal dialogue and thus collaborative knowledge construction. Once teachers leave the meeting they can reflect and participate in intrapersonal dialogue to further construct their knowledge regarding their teaching strategies, design of activities and their student’s work.  

Content
These meetings are open-ended, leaner-centered and depend greatly on the discussion generated based on the student work and the teacher’s design of the activity. Teachers are encouraged to discuss the work with keeping in mind the effectiveness of teaching strategies and fostering student learning.

Teacher Meetings Type 2 – Expert Teacher Discussion

Description
Type 2 meetings involve teachers meeting every other week within their CoP group (all teachers teaching the same grade). Teachers alternate each meeting to be the expert teacher to lead discussion on an expert topic. The purpose of these meetings is to encourage dialogue between grade teachers to learn about teaching strategies, learning activities or to design/develop cross-curricular work.

Instructional Strategies
During these meetings, one teacher is the expert teacher to lead discussion and the other teachers are learners and contributors to discussion. Expert teachers can choose to present their topic, material and research in any format they choose. They are encouraged to provide teachers with a short descriptor of the week’s topic by posting on the CoP wiki. These meetings encourage interpersonal dialogue and thus collaborative knowledge construction. Once teachers leave the meeting they can reflect and participate in intrapersonal dialogue to further construct their knowledge on the expert topic. 

Content
The topics for these meetings are up to the expert teacher. The teacher can choose their topic based on their needs, the school’s needs or CoP’s needs. Topics can include but are not limited to: effective teaching strategies, classroom management, student motivation, curriculum/lesson design, technology integration etc.   

Class Videos

Description
Teachers are encouraged to record one 35 minute class per week and upload their video onto ANGEL. Teachers can choose to record any subject or grade they teach. The purpose of these videos is for teachers within the CoPs to view videos for their own learning, to observe and reflect on teaching strategies and to offer support and constructive feedback to the teacher who recorded the video.

Instructional Strategies
Teachers within the CoPs have the opportunity to view their fellow teacher’s videos at their own time and space. They are recommended to watch at least one video per week. Teachers are encouraged to engage in discussion via online comments and feedback posted on ANGEL. Teachers are encouraged to post reflective comments on their blogs regarding their learning based on the videos they have seen or the feedback they have received on their lessons. Teachers are encouraged to comment on each other’s blogs as well as update/add resources to the CoP’s wiki based on the lesson.  

Content
The content of these videos is the choice of the teacher posting. The comments posted on the blogs and resources of the wikis are based on the video being observed.

Development

All teachers will meet before the school year starts to be introduced to the new PD program through a presentation that includes the learning outcomes of the program, an introduction to the structure of the program (Table 1) as well as the new technology being implemented. Teachers will be introduced to their personal blogs, their communities of practice (CoPs) wikis, ANGEL and Twitter. This half day workshop will allow teachers to interact with the technology, participate in discussion and ask questions.

The summer before the school year begins would be ideal to gather the resources and material needed for this PD program. We would gather and create a complied list of scheduled workshops and conferences that occur during the year. Teachers are not limited to this list and may choose other workshops and conferences that they find. We will also gather information and compile a list of AQ and ABQ courses (in a variety of formats: face-to-face, online and blended) from various universities. Through the school’s budget, we will also purchase a set of three digital video cameras and three tripods for recording lessons. They will be placed in a secure location in the school office and available to sign out by any teacher.

Implementation

To begin the implementation process, we will create every teacher blog, CoP wikis and set up ANGEL to accommodate video sharing and discussion boards. We will organize with the administration the half day workshop for teachers. Teachers will receive handouts, tutorials and videos regarding the technology and its benefits to learning during this workshop. Lastly, we will collaborate with teachers and administrators to develop a schedule for teacher meetings (type 1 and 2) to be embedded within the school day. 

Evaluation

To assess and evaluate the learning of this PD program, two forms of assessment will take place. The first involves our consultants checking, reading and recording comments from the wikis, blogs, Twitter feed and videos from ANGEL. The number of comments on blogs and Twitter feed will continuously tallied as well as number of videos posted and wiki postings. This will give us quantitative data to determine the use of the technology to assist in learning during this PD program. Next, all text comments and posting will be transcribed and complied for each teacher. At the end of each term, the comments and postings will be analyzed to determine if learning has occurred in the areas of subject matter knowledge or effective teaching strategies. The quantity and quality of the dialogue between individuals via these online tools will allow us to determine the connectedness and collaboration of the teachers’ work.
The second form of assessment will be a survey/interview form filled out by the teachers. This form will be given to teachers at the end of ever term. The short and simple survey will ask teachers the following types of questions:

1.       Has your knowledge in the subject matter changed through PD opportunities?
a.       If it has changed, how has it changed?
b.      What activities/interactions caused this change?
c.       If it hasn’t changed, why might that be?
2.       Have your teaching strategies changed as a result of the PD opportunities?
a.       If they have changed, what are you now doing differently?
b.      What activities brought about these changes?
c.       If it hasn’t changed, why might that be?
3.       Has the technology implemented in this program affected your learning?
a.       If it has made an impact on your learning, please describe how.
4.       Do you feel that the technology helps or does not help to connect and collaborate with your peers? Please explain your answer.

Future State

The intent of this program is to move the organization’s PD efforts from a stagnant and prescribed system to one that is dynamic, self-directed and harnesses the power of collaboration, connection and dialogue between all members. Through this PD program, teachers will have opportunities to be learners, experts and leaders in order to enhance theirs and their colleague’s teaching practices and subject matter knowledge. The future state of the organization will become a networked, interdependent system of teacher learners as teachers direct their learning, develop connections and construct knowledge through dialogue and collaboration through online tools. It is hypothesized that if this program is a success and if the learning outcomes are achieved, teachers’ subject matter knowledge will further develop and their teaching strategies will change and improve. This in turn will have a positive impact on student learning. In the long term, this program will positively impact learning for all members of the organization.

References

Dabbagh, N (2007). The Online Learner: Characteristics and Pedagogical Implications. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(3), 217-226

Borko, H. (2004). Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), p.3-15.

Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2000). From Androgogy to Heutagogy. ultiBASE publication, December, 2000.

McElvaney, J., & Berge, Z. (2009). Weaving a Personal Web: Using online technologies to create customized, connected, and dynamic learning environments. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology 35 (2), 1-12.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology, 1-9.

Kim, B. (2001). Social Constructivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved March, 28, 2011, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/

Gorsky, P. & Caspi, A. (2005). Dialogue: a theoretical framework for distance education instructional systems. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 137-144.
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