Professional Learning Strategies: Digital Learning Framework
We apologize for getting distracted there for a few weeks! We’re sure you were all busy with the start of school and barely missed us, but we’re sorry we left you hanging. But the good news is that we have had plenty of time to think about professional learning strategies. These should come in handy as you’re thinking about professional learning opportunities this school year. Of course, if you need additional help or guidance, feel free to contact us. We’d love to partner with you!
Professional Learning Strategies: Start Where You’re At
It’s important to understand what’s currently happening in the schools and district with respect to professional learning. Even in districts at the very beginning of their digital learning initiatives, there are likely pockets of success in individual departments, schools, or even grade levels. Expanding upon these successful practices can create some early wins with respect to helping teachers get started with digital learning. Districts that have been implementing digital learning for a while may need to reassess what’s been happening to ensure that professional learning opportunities continue to meet the needs of educators as they become more proficient and as technology continues to evolve. Administrators and teachers are the best source of information as they know about both formal and informal efforts that are taking place.
Professional Learning Strategies: Leave No Administrator Behind
Successful implementation of digital learning initiatives begins with administrators who are willing to take risks, model the use of digital tools in their own practice, and help teachers set professional goals related to digital learning. Unfortunately, many administrators may not be ready to take on this role and may not have a support system to help them learn new skills. Establishing a professional learning community for administrators, led by peers who have been successful with digital learning initiatives, is important for helping them gain the skills and knowledge necessary to provide effective support systems teachers in their schools. Taking advantage of digital tools, such as Twitter, MOOCs, and blogs, can reinforce the use of digital tools for learning. This article from Scholastic gives some good examples of administrators taking advantage of social media for their own professional development.
Professional Learning Strategies: What Did You Expect Would Happen?
Too often we implement professional learning programs and opportunities without clearly stating what should happen as a result of these efforts. After years of “getting credit” for merely sitting in the chair during professional development, clear expectations for participation and implementation are necessary so participants know what they should do once they return to the classroom. Creating a logic model that describes the inputs the district will commit, the expected outputs (who will do what), and the desired outcomes (what’s going to happen after we do this) will help keep everyone moving toward a common goal. Keeping the logic model on one person’s computer doesn’t help though; it must be shared early and often to ensure the professional learning program has the desired impact. Need some help with your logic model? Here is a great example to help you get started.
Professional Learning Strategies: Build It In
Once the expectations for implementation are clear, a system must be developed to provide appropriate supports, incentives, and accountability. This will require a participatory evaluation system on all levels that encourages goal setting, collaboration, and risk-taking, and gives every professional a voice in their own evaluation. Determine what policies are in place that may be preventing this type of evaluation from taking place, talk to stakeholders to determine what might be needed at the district and school levels, and look to other districts for examples of how to implement this type of evaluation system within the constraints of state and federal requirements. The National Association of Secondary School Principals has some interesting information on teacher evaluation systems across the nation as well as some recommendations that might be useful.
Professional Learning Strategies: Assess Your Efforts
Once you know what’s happening in the district, you will need a way to continually assess the effectiveness of these efforts and make changes to better meet stakeholders’ needs. The focus of these evaluations should go beyond people’s perceptions of the professional learning experiences and dig into whether the outcomes stated in the logic model are being achieved. It’s great if everyone loved the professional learning opportunities, but if instruction and practice don’t change as a result, then adjustments will need to be made. We need to shift our emphasis in professional learning from successful provision of the experiences to whether or not these experiences are resulting in improvements in classroom instruction and, ultimately, student learning. If you need help with the evaluation piece, contact our evaluation team and we can get you going!
The new school year is a great time to get started on a new professional learning plan! These strategies should help, but if these aren’t exactly what you need, we have many more ideas. Give us a call or shoot us an email. Next week the exciting topic of budget and resources, because we eventually have to talk about money and we’ve put it off as long as we can!