In the world of educational technology we often talk about the different models of professional development (PD), and how to best approach them to match our audience’s learning styles. Certain content or curriculum focus can require different models. The audience itself also can dictate the style of PD as well. Face-to-Face Learning, Online Synchronous Learning, Online Asynchronous Learning, Blended Learning and Flipped Classroom Learning are all different models that educators around the globe are strategically implementing to meet their audience’s designated needs.
The more traditional methods of delivering PD to educators in a Face-to-Face model such as at a staff meeting, or during a designated teacher inservice day, certainly gives the whole crowd a full plate of focused content, but sometimes leave participants with a bad taste in their mouth. It’s hard to deliver PD to a full school building or district and still be able to individualize it enough for all of the participants that are present. Often there is a mix of teachers, specialists, administrators and possibly even students and community members at these events. Scripting PD to this diverse group has to be broad enough to target the audience, but not too broad so that the learners feel that it wasn’t worth their time.
However, there are times where Face-to-Face Learning is very appropriate and can be the desired model for the learners. Anything hands-on usually works best in this model of PD. Gathering a small group together in the Learning Commons to discuss a new technology like Google Expeditions for instance allows the group to play with the tools in real time and ask questions as they discover how best to use this in their classroom. This would be much harder to understand by simply watching a video, reading about the technology or listening to a podcast of how individuals are using it in their classroom. In this case, in order to fully grasp the concept and see how it could be used while the trainer(s) are in the room could prove to be invaluable to the attendees.
Other times a Blended Learning or Flipped Classroom model would be the best structure. In these scenarios introductory videos or assignments are completed online prior to everyone getting together in real time. This way the face time can be used for rich discussions, planning and collaborative work rather than watching a video or listening to a person explain the process. When time is short, this can often be the best model to structure the learning with as it provides for more time in the reflection and collaborative stages of the work. I have seen this used at our middle school here in York where our Principal shares out a screencast prior to staff meetings. In these quick videos, she explains the work that will be done when everyone gets together for the meeting so that none of the time for the actual meeting is dedicated to house keeping items and directions. Work can get started immediately when the meeting starts.
Online methods of PD certainly hold a real value as well. Whether in the form of Just-in-Time Learning, such as finding a video on YouTube and figuring it out on your own, or PD video playlists curated by a trainer, some learners prefer this quick and easy outlet to learn something on their own time. Finding really good blogs, YouTube Channels or podcasts to subscribe to can often make this process easier as well. A learner doesn’t necessarily need to view the content as it is published, but knows where to go and look for resources when the need arises.
More formal online learning models are very content driven with a scope and sequence. These are often setup by colleges and universities. In these courses participants move through modules with assessments to prove competencies. Both Synchronous Online Learning (students are engaged in the same learning at the same time) and Asynchronous Online Learning (students move through the learning at different times) are the models often used in these online courses. Micro-credentialing has become increasingly popular for online Asynchronous learning as well. In this model the learner moves through modules at their own pace and take assessments at the end of lessons or units to prove their understanding. In reward for passing the exam they are awarded badges or certificates (digital or tangible) to gain recognition for their accomplishments.
Different models of PD are important to think about before delivering content to the intended audience. The student will often choose a different model for their learning based upon their learning style and needs. It is also important to think about why a learner would want to sit in on this session as well.
I’m an advocate of technology in education and I personally use it daily, but I also understand that there are some that do not use tech for various reasons. Either they are afraid of it, do not have enough experience, or they just don’t see the point. I get it. I really do. The last argument I have reflected on a great deal in my career both as a tech integrator and as an administrator.
We are constantly talking about learning targets for students, and giving students the bigger picture in their learning so that they understand the reason why they are learning the content. Why then would we forget to offer this piece of information to our adult learners when rolling out PD? As a trainer, I always ask myself, why would an educator want to sit in on my training, or watch a video I intend to publish online before I begin. I need to reflect on why attendees would want to learn the content that I intend to deliver.
Often I will stress to educators that technology should be used when it can make their jobs more efficient (either for daily routines or student workflows), or when the technology enhances the lesson. Enhancement is achieved when something that could not have been achieved without the use of technology is discovered and succeeded. This style of transforming the delivery, moving from digitized lessons to digital lessons can enhance student understanding, engagement and presentation of the learning. It can also stretch the growth mindset of both the teacher and students. Any of the models discussed can achieve this learning if planned out and delivered successfully.
In my next blog post, I will take a deeper dive into the different faces of PD that focus more on the planning for the learning. I’ll discuss PD designed for efficiencies (both from a teacher perspective as well as a student perspective), thought provoking discussion and pedagogy, productivity, and curriculum enhancement.