Initiating and Sustaining: Two-Part Approach to Successful PD

The good news: teachers desperately want quality technology professional development. The bad news: many still aren’t receiving options for high quality, ongoing professional development. ISTE Coaching Standard 1d asks coaches to “implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” (Iste.org, 2017). As I considered this particular substandard, I immediately focused in on the initiating and sustaining wording. The combination of initiating and sustaining is critical to the success of technology PD.

– INITIATING –

Needs-based PD

Just as students have a wide variety of needs, so do teachers. One way to identify the needs of teachers is by creating technology PD that is customized. Prior to planning PD, surveys can be a valuable tool in determining teacher needs. Using a combination of closed and open-ended questions, “Try to ascertain which members of your teaching staff need training on specific technology tools or techniques and determine which are comfortable using technology but need more help integrating it into instruction” (Roland, 2015). PD sessions can then be targeted based on staff interest and ability. PD sessions can also be “self-contained so that teachers can choose to attend workshops only in the areas where they need extra learning” (Roland, 2013).

The technology coach at my former school did a wonderful job of hosting PD that was teacher-driven and needs-based. Workshops for new tools were leveled for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners. Other workshops were created after polling staff to identify needs and interests. By avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, he was able to effectively implement technology innovation in our district.

Constructivist PD

All PD walks a fine line between theoretical and practical.  Quality technology PD should begin with a solid presentation or discussion of WHY this particular tool, device, or method is a good fit for meeting the needs of learners. Once a theoretical basis exists for using the technology, teachers need the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technology while under the guidance of an experienced peer or coach.

This critical shift in how PD occurs can be described as dissemination versus implementation. Teachers need the opportunity within a PD session to work directly with the new tool or method being introduced. This can be accomplished through a learning environment “where we see demonstrations, engage in simulations, have time to practice new technique with expectations of ongoing support and collaborative reflection and sharing” (Kelly Young as cited in Ferlazzo, 2015).

– SUSTAINING –

PD as a Cycle

Similar to the shift from dissemination to implementation is the idea that PD should very much be a cycle of inquiry where teachers are exposed to new ideas, allowed the opportunity to practice the concepts learned at the PD, discuss what worked and what didn’t with an experienced coach or peer, and set new goals based on that conversation. This cycle is necessary because “the process of improving teaching and learning is not often smooth or instantly successful” (Foltos, 2013).

Sean McComb, a National Teacher of the Year, believes that once-and-done PD is rarely effective. McComb advocates a three-part approach to successful PD: give teachers choice, make the content relevant and job-embedded, and don’t limit exposure to a single session. Successful and sustainable change requires that teachers “learn about a way to improve, have the opportunity to plan and implement, and then reflect and adjust, ideally in company and collaboration with colleagues or a coach” (McComb as cited in Ferlazzo, 2015).

Take and Go PD

Best practice when providing PD for teachers is to include take-home resources which can be either digital or paper. These materials might include “online tutorials, help sheets or short videos [which] will allow [teachers] to review the training on their own if they do forget how to do something” (Roland, 2015). It is also best practice to provide contact information so that attendees know how to reach the presenter should they have any questions.

Teacher and technology coach, Craig Badura, has taken the idea of distributing materials to a new level with his gamification-like App Task Challenges.  The Challenges involve short and simple directions to walk teachers through the process of using a new app or aspect of an app. Badura explains, “I have to have teachers get their hands dirty while they’re learning a new tool, so to speak, but they have to have that assurance that I’m going to help them clean up when they get done if they need that help during that time” (as cited in Gonzalez, 2016).

– CONCLUSION –

As coaches and peer leaders consider the aspects of technology professional development which will lead to best results for teachers and students, hopefully, we will begin to see an emphasis on both sides of the tech PD equation: initiating and sustaining. Without the sustaining piece, even the best initiation will not be successful long-term.

 

Sources
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching (1st ed.). Corwin.

Gonzalez, J. (2016). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers | Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].

Roland, J. (2015). Empowering teachers to implement technology-driven educational programs. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=569

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