How can coaches use technology to design, implement, and evaluate effective professional development?
In the first module for our EDTC 6106 course, the focus has been on developing effective professional development. As I reflected on my experience both as a participant and designer of professional development, I thought about professional learning experiences that have been impactful and others that have felt irrelevant. The PD sessions that were most impactful felt designed for my needs, involved collaboration with participants, and its impact on student learning was clear. Initially, this reflection drove me to research how to effectively survey and assess participants needs prior to professional development design. As my research continued, I decided to expand my inquiry question to not only include the design of effective professional development, but also the implementation and evaluation. While this shift broadened my inquiry question, it also allowed me to refine my understanding of how technology can be utilized in all of these phases to produce effective professional development. When researching my inquiry question for this module, I focused my research on ISTE Coaching Standard 5: Professional learning Facilitator and its connected indicators.
ISTE Standard 5: Professional Learning Facilitator
a. Design professional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, social-emotional, and learning needs.
b. Build the capacity of educators, leaders, and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback.
c. Evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet the schoolwide vision for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning.
Using Technology in Effective Professional Development…
One way coaches can utilize technology in regards to professional development is through its design. When designing professional development, it is vital that prior to this development coaches take time to gather feedback from staff and identify needs and growth goals. Developing pre-needs assessments puts teachers’ growth and needs at the forefront by including them in the process. Heidi Zollman (2017) describes the value of gathering input from participants to help inform decisions on designing professional development.
“I used a pre-survey to uncover what participants knew and wanted to know about competency-based education (CBE) and created a structured plan for the first day. I created a draft agenda and a flexible slide deck with different sections that could be presented in any order” (n.p.).
Inspired by Heidi Zollman’s approach, I created this Seesaw training pre-needs assessment for my colleagues to fill out prior to multi-day Seesaw professional learning I facilitated this fall. This pre-needs assessment helped me collect valuable data on staff familiarity with the Seesaw platform and concerns, questions, and/or excitements they had about using Seesaw in their classrooms. By sending this pre-needs assessment out in advance, I was able to utilize the information to make appropriate adjustments to the first day of professional learning, and think intentionally about designing Zoom breakout rooms for participants to engage in during the training sessions.
Additionally, when designing effective professional development, coaches should utilize technology that teachers will be directly engaging within their classrooms. With professional learning currently happening virtually via Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, it is essential that PD is designed with relevancy and application for teachers to use in their remote teaching, no matter the topic of professional learning. Hanover Research (2014) explains, “…teachers should be taught with the technology they will be using. When teachers are trained this way, they will have experienced the effectiveness of technological tools and will be better positioned to believe that they can utilize them effectively” (p. 11). During professional development, coaches can use digital tools such as Nearpod, Peardeck, Padlet, or Google Forms to design interactive PD, and model effective use of technology and formative assessment.
In designing effective professional development through the use of technology, it is also important to consider choice for participants. Utilizing PD models like choice boards, whether it be during professional development or as continued extension after a learning session, can be empowering. As part of our professional development to begin the school year with remote learning, our administration built out this Professional Development Choice Boards. I appreciated that this professional learning provided opportunities to listen, watch, read, and share related to learning topics both new and ongoing in our community. Best practice tells educators to offer voice and choice to empower learners and increase student engagement. The same is true for the way adult learners are internally motivated through choice. Coaches can build effective professional development by recognizing that in any professional development session there are typically novice and advanced participants and offering choice is essential. Choice may be avoided in PD at times because of the time and effort required to design this model of learning.
During the implementation of professional development, technology can be effectively utilized to obtain real-time feedback on the effectiveness of the PD and to allow for adjustments to be made. The information collected from pre-needs assessments helps in the design of professional development and while PD is being implemented (especially multi-day PD) it is important to reference the PD’s effectiveness in relation to participants’ needs. One way to obtain feedback during professional development implementation is using formative assessments, like temperature checks, to gauge effectiveness. Interactive, digital tools like Nearpod and Peardeck provide beneficial ways for coaches to obtain feedback during professional development. Digital tools such as these can allow for individualization, interactive participation, and relevancy. Collecting data from participant feedback before, during, and after professional development fosters effective professional development that is data-driven and responsive to need. Ken Halla (2017) adds that, “Rather, administrators must adjust PD to allow for teachers to go at their own pace as well. This means leaders will have to plan long-term and continually tweak PD to meet teachers’ needs, just as teachers have to do with their own students” (n.p.). Another way those leading professional development can receive real-time feedback, and use technology to implement effective professional development, is by utilizing polls. Polls are efficient and effective, taking minimal time to send to participants and even less for participants to respond to. Polls can also be designed to readdress learning outcomes of professional development and gain clarity on participants’ understanding. For professional development to be effective, coaches must reflect on the intended design and identified needs during implementation, and also use data collected during implementation when performing evaluations.
Once professional development has been designed and implemented, coaches must use technology to evaluate the PD to better understand its effectiveness. When evaluating the effectiveness of professional development, it is important for coaches to look at the levels of impact of the PD. In researching evaluations of effective professional development, I came across the article, Does It Make a Difference? Evaluating Professional Development by Thomas R. Guskey (2002). In it, Thomas Guskey identifies five critical levels of evaluation for professional development, and a backward approach to evaluation. This approach really resonated with me, because it aligned with Understanding by Design’s (UbD) model for curriculum design. Centering professional learning evaluation through the critical lens of impact on development and improvement of student understanding, and then working through other essential levels of impact, will help to intentionally create meaningful experiences for participants to acquire knowledge and skills. In his “Five Levels of Professional Development Evaluation,” Guskey asks critical questions at each level for intentional evaluation of impact.
- What Questions Are Addressed?
- How Will Information Be Gathered?
- What Is Measured or Assessed?
- How Will Information Be Used?
In beginning with level five, Guskey (2002) reminds coaches that PD evaluation starts with the intended result, “improved student outcomes” (n.p.). The desired result of any professional development, and often the most difficult to immediately evaluate, is improving student learning. While it takes time for teachers to go back to their classrooms and apply the acquired knowledge and skills, evaluating student learning outcomes is essential for guiding improvements, developing future pre-needs assessments, and increasing the effectiveness of implementation. M. Bruce Haslam (2010) advises that, “Whenever feasible, surveys should be administered three to six weeks after the professional development is completed, instead of the standard end-of-the-session-on-the-way-to-the-parking-lot approach to survey administration used in many local evaluations” (p.28). I know I’m not alone in feeling less than excited about filling out a professional development survey after an all-day conference or professional learning session. I find that while I’m certainly able to provide some feedback immediately following PD, that I haven’t had time to process the learning or put the newly acquired learning to practice. I appreciate this approach of waiting a few weeks after the PD session to administer a survey, giving time for participants to reflect and reassess what additional support might be helpful. While all of the levels of this evaluation model need to be addressed, another level of this professional development evaluation that I believe is important for assessing effectiveness (and at times is not always critically evaluated) is level three, organization support, and change. Figure 4 below shows this level of evaluation and the shift from students and participants to organizations. The questions this level addresses are important ones, evaluating what support and resources were available to participants post-PD. As I continue to grow in my evaluation of professional development, this resource will certainly be one that I return to.
As I continue to grow in my evaluation of professional development, the resources listed above and referenced below will certainly be ones that I return to. When designed with intention, and evaluated critically, professional development can have a powerful impact for students, teachers, and organizations. If you are someone involved in professional development creation, how do you use technology to effectively design, implement, and evaluate professional development? What tools, models, or programs do you use to assess impact? What do you take into consideration as you plan professional learning? For those who are participants of PD, what are examples of professional development that have worked for you? Please share your thoughts and experiences, as well as any feedback or questions you have, in the comment section below.
Ferlazzo, L. (2020, December 08). Response: Improve Professional Development With ‘Choice, Debate, & Feedback’ (Opinion). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/opinion-response-improve-professional-development-with-choice-debate-feedback/2018/06
Guskey, T. R. (March 2002). Does It Make a Difference? Evaluating Professional Development. Retrieved January 23, 2021, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar02/vol59/num06/Does-It-Make-a-Difference%C2%A2-Evaluating-Professional-Development.aspx
Halla, K. (2018, December 27). Say Goodbye to Boring PD: Rethinking Technology’s Role in Professional Development – EdSurge News. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-02-07-say-goodbye-to-boring-pd-rethinking-technology-s-role-in-professional-development
Hanover Research (June, 2014). Professional Development for Technology Integration. [PDF]. Retrieved January 22, 2021 from https://ts.madison.k12.wi.us/files/techsvc/Professional%20Development%20for%20Technology%20Integration.pdf
Huynh, D., Maxfield, J., & Mueller, D. (June, 2011). Evaluation of Professional Development through Technology. [PDF]. Retrieved January 22, 2021 from https://www.wilder.org/sites/default/files/imports/ProfDevelop_MplsPublicSchools_6-11.pdf
ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
Johnson, L. (2015, January 22). Using Pre-Needs Assessment for Effective PD. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pre-needs-assessment-effective-pd-lisa-johnson
Mancinelli, D. (2020, September 16). 6 Things to Consider When Planning Professional Development. Retrieved January 23, 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/6-things-consider-when-planning-professional-development