2b. Coach in technology-enhanced strategies & assessments to address differentiation


The wording of this substandard is very closely aligned to the first substandard, however, the focus is on the ways in which coaches can support technology-enhanced learning experiences that meet diverse needs of students. Specifically, coaches are asked to use “a variety of research-based, learner-centered instructional strategies and assessment tools” in order to equip teachers to use technology to meet the needs and interests of diverse students.

For this substandard, I really hone in on the research-based and learner-centered strategies for professional development. I am passionate about this area because I have had to sit through so many ineffective professional development sessions in my career as a teacher. The other aspect of the standard narrows the focus of technology-enhanced learning towards meeting the needs of diverse learners.

For my first piece of evidence, I reflect on a blog post that I wrote detailing the ways that administrators and coaches can apply active learning principles to professional development. These principles are best practice for using technology to train teachers. The best way for students to learn is by doing and the same applies to teachers.

My next piece of evidence is another reflection on a blog post that I wrote which outlines the workshop model for professional development. The workshop model is a way for administrators and coaches to differentiate professional development based on teacher interest and skill level. This model, like the active learning one, reflects principles of adult learning.

My last piece of evidence is a post that I recently wrote which introduces coaches and teachers to the basics of blended learning which is a research-based way to support individualized learning and differentiation in the classroom.

Evidence: Active Learning and Professional Development

Jeffrey Anderson [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Passive learning through lectures, reading from assigned texts, or outlining content is still prevalent in higher education and teacher trainings despite evidence that supports active learning: “Long-term retention, understanding, and transfer is result of mental work on the part of learners who are engaged in active sense-making and knowledge construction … learning environments are most effective when they elicit effortful cognitive processing from learners and guide them in constructing meaningful relationships between ideas rather than encouraging passive recording of information.” (Lynch, 2017)

According to educational researcher Dr. Jay Lynch, three of the most powerful ways to incorporate active learning into instruction include production of ideas over passive collection, integration of new knowledge with existing knowledge, and frequent opportunities to engage with new content.

So what might this look like on a practical level when introducing a new tool or platform? In researching possible answers to this question, I discovered the ITPD3 Framework as introduced at the 2015 ISTE Conference by Dr. Cynthia Vavasseur, Sara Dempster, and Cammie Claytor.

For more on the ITPD3 Framework and how it supports active learning in professional development, please use the link below to access my blog post.

Evidence: Workshop Model for Professional Development

Despite the popularity of workshop-based professional development (one study showed over 90% participation nationwide), research does not show a link between the traditional, once and done workshop model and student achievement. In an extensive report completed by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest for the Institute of Education Services, researchers combed through over 1,300 studies on teacher professional development to find links between teacher development and student achievement. Ultimately, the studies which had the lowest number of hours of professional development using the workshop model (5-14 total) showed no statistical impact on student achievement. Conversely, in studies where teachers received an average of 49 hours of professional development using the workshop model, students’ performance was boosted by 21 percentile points. (Yoon et al, 2007)

In my February 2019 post, I examine a case study for effective implementation of the workshop model. I identify various elements that led to success in the 2005 study such as ongoing training and support, active and hands-on learning, responsiveness on the part of facilitators to teachers’ needs, and intrinsic/extrinsic rewards. For more on this study and the implications for professional development, please see my post linked below.

Evidence: Blended Learning for Personalization and Differentiation

The following phrases from this substandard (2b) kept jumping out at me: “technology-enhanced…research-based…learner-centered.” Because educational technology is relatively new, research is still emerging and ever-changing. In my exploration, I came across a 2016-2017 study on the benefit of blended learning. Blended learning by definition incorporates technology. In my blog post,  I outline a study on the effectiveness of blended learning and then present various models for incorporating blended learning which is learner-centered and facilitates differentiation. 

The Christensen Institute, which has an incredible resource bank on blended learning, posits that effective blended learning must have three components:

  • learning occurs partly through online learning where student has input in time, place, path, and/or pace

  • learning occurs partly through in-person interaction away from home (school)

  • learning includes interconnected modalities along student’s learning path within a content area

It’s important to note that blended learning in and of itself doesn’t guarantee personalized learning. For example, if a math teacher has all students watch a video tutorial as homework and then has students apply the formula the next day, no personalization or differentiation is involved. Effective blended learning must incorporate elements of student voice and choice in addition to providing a means with which teachers can differentiate for students. To take the prior scenario and make it personalized, the math teacher could have students watch the tutorial and apply the concepts to a set of problems as homework. Using a tool like Google Forms, he/she could quickly determine which students got the correct answer. The next day in class, a rotation model could be utilized so that students needing one-on-one support could work directly with the teacher while those who are ready to move on could work with a partner to write math problems utilizing the concept and then quiz each-other. 

For my full post on ways to incorporate blended learning in the classroom, please use the link below.