Practical & Effective Professional Learning

Steps to Success – Heading in the right direction for transformative professional learning

High quality professional learning has always been a strength within Killeen Independent School District. In the 27 years that I have been a KISD employee, I have earned over 1473 hours of professional learning. As the District Instructional Technologist for elementary, I propose and hope to enact an innovative, comprehensive, alternative instructional technology professional learning plan that will continue that solid tradition of providing high quality professional learning opportunities for teachers, but also enhance it.

Part 1Why?

In Killeen ISD our mission statement is to “Teach so that students learn to their maximum potential.” To me, this is a two-fold mission if we consider our teachers to be our students, then we want to help them reach their maximum potential. It is upon us to provide opportunities for our teachers to build solid teaching practices. This in turn, will allow them to guide students to learn to their maximum potential.

The Killeen ISD Vision is “Through the implementation of a full, innovative, rigorous, comprehensive education program, Killeen ISD will provide superior learning opportunities so that upon graduation, students are prepared for success in the workforce and/or in higher education.” As our education program for students needs to be full, innovative, rigorous and comprehensive, so does our professional learning program. 

Some of our current strengths in the area of professional learning are:

Curriculum Study sessions – Our elementary teachers have opportunities to learn from teacher leaders in their grade level quarterly to discuss lesson ideas and best practices for their upcoming units.

Culture of coaching – At the elementary level we have 10 instructional coaches focused on promoting stellar teaching standards in math and literacy. These include coaching walks and weekly meetings with their teachers.

Weekly PLCs – Teachers create unit plans and review common unit assessment date to drive instructional decisions.

Summer Professional Learning – There were over 300 summer professional learning sessions available this summer!

New Teacher Induction – We host hundreds of new teachers in Killeen ISD every year.

Mentor Training – Teachers support each other, and this training is the first step to that support!

Restorative Practices – Every teacher in Killeen ISD received Restorative Practices training to achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision making. 

I could go on and on about the wonderful opportunities!

Much of what we already do follows the suggestions of Allison Gulamhussein’s 5 Principles of Effective Professional Development:

  1. The duration of professional learning must be significant and ongoing to allow time for teachers to learn a new strategy and grapple with the implementation problem. (This is what my plan has that the other opportunities may not include.)
  2. There must be support for a teacher during the implementation stage that addresses the specific challenges of changing classroom practice. (Hence learning coaches.)
  3. Teachers’ initial exposure to a concept should not be passive, but rather should engage teachers through varied approaches so they can participate actively in making sense of a new practice. (Teachers will have opportunities to practice their skills in the classroom!)
  4. Modeling has been found to be highly effective in helping teachers understand a new practice. (Teachers will have opportunities to observe colleagues teaching.)
  5. The content presented to teachers shouldn’t be generic, but instead specific to the discipline (for middle school and high school teachers) or grade-level (for elementary school teachers).

But even with all of these wonderful happenings, we can still take steps to aim higher and help our teachers and students reach their full potential, particularly in the area of instructional technology and integration. My hope is that this alternative learning plan will be the steps we need to take in the right direction toward building a digital learning ecosystem. With the skills they build for themselves and their colleagues, teachers will be able to masterfully integrate technology and blended learning strategies when the situation calls for it. 

Throughout the pandemic, teachers had the need to embrace and learn multiple digital learning tools in order to successfully teach virtually. They did this willingly and swiftly out of an urgent need. My hope is that they learned some new tricks of the instructional trade that they could use to make their face-to-face teaching easier, more rich or more effective. I also hope that with face-to-face learning, teachers do not lose their newly gained skills. Rather, I hope that we can capitalize on that learning and build upon what they learned to improve every day instruction.

According to a 2017 study published by The American Society for Cell Biology, Active learning activities such as group discussions and quiz questions are not enough to cement learning. Rather, for true construction of learning, active activities, accompanied by eliminating misconceptions, and formative assessment of student understanding must occur.  

In a 2015 ASCD article, Bryan Goodwin contends that when it comes to collaboration and coaching in the area of professional learning, quality trumps quantity. He goes on to say that what frequently occurs is that experts are brought in to share new practices that are to be adopted by teachers. This does not follow the same line of thinking or model what we would want teachers to do for students. Rather, it is more of a behaviorist than constructivist approach.

I believe that collaboration and coaching are essential, but like Goodwin, I believe that it must be quality collaboration. That means that teachers are revisiting new methods, observing each other and following up with guiding questions and protocols. Ultimately, teachers will use data to support strategies and guide their instruction. If the teachers in my 3-year plan will follow the coaching model that we already have established in our district, incorporating technology and evaluating how that affects student achievement, then we will certainly succeed!

Another step in the right direction is to include learners of all levels into the plan. This means that the learning should be available to various audiences, such as: teachers, curriculum specialists, librarians and other campus administrators.

In the video Innovation That Sticks Case Study, Denise Andre, director of Education at the Ottawa Catholic School Board, emphasized that in their successful professional learning model, school leaders are learning side-by-side with the teachers, fully involved. When the school leader is involved in a session as a learner that demonstrates multiple fundamentals:

  1. is that they believe the importance of what is being taught. 
  2. they are removing themselves as the expert
  3. they are walking the talk and fully invested

“What is our next best step toward creating a digital ecosystem to empower our teachers to positively impact learners?”

I believe that it is my three year plan which includes:

  • Blended Learning Cohorts – for 3rd – 5th grade teachers.
  • Includes campus administrative staff
  • Instructional Technology Coaches

The next phase of my presentation (which will be posted here next week) will outline these elements in greater detail.

Part 2

In designing my call to action video I took several steps to prepare and used multiple tools and resources. First, I had to consider Simon Sinek’s message and the “WHY” of what I was hoping to accomplish. That is to help transform what already exists as a high-quality professional learning environment to include instructional technology and blended learning at a deeper level. Second, I included some research about effective professional learning principles. Third, I consulted my school district website to refresh my memory about our mission and vision. Additionally, I gathered statistics about professional learning in my school district to include how many sessions I have attended and how many professional learning sessions my department, Elementary Learning Services, has presented lately.

It was great fun to pull together some images that I have of our own teachers and other instructional staff engaging in various professional learning opportunities. Then I learned how to include some stock video footage and audio files from YouTube and convert them. PowerPoint helped me locate some icons and modify them to fit my color scheme. I used a Google slide template from Slides To Go to bring my color scheme together. 

Finally, I took the advice of Nancy Duarte and Jennifer Gonzalez with their presentation techniques as I put it all together in Adobe Spark. I am hopeful that these efforts are fruitful as I share this alternative learning plan with the leadership in my district.

4K HD Free Stock Footage No Copyrights. (2020). Kids Free Hd Stock Footage For Download and Reuse Without Copyright. YouTube. 

Andrews, T. M., Leonard, M. J., Colgrove, C. A., & Kalinowski, S. T. (2017). Active learning not associated with student learning in a random sample of college biology courses. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 10(4), 394–405. 

EdCan Network Le Réseau ÉdCan. (2016). Innovation That Sticks Case Study – Ocsb: Collaborative Professional Development. YouTube. 

Glatch, S., Mahoney, E., & Becky. (2021, July 30). The 5 stages of freytag’s pyramid: Introduction to dramatic structure. 

Goodwin, B. (2015, December 1). Research Says / Does Teacher Collaboration Promote Teacher Growth? ASCD. 

Gulamhussein, A. (2013, September) Teaching_Effective_Professional_Developmt.pdf. Dropbox.

Life Mentor. (2018). Simon Sinek – How to present properly(Part 5). YouTube. 

Stanford Graduate School of Business. (2013). Nancy Duarte: How to Tell a Story. YouTube.

The cure for bad powerpoint: A review of presentation zen. Cult of Pedagogy. (2020, June 13). 

Watchel, T. (n.d.). Defining restorative: Restorative practices. IIRP. 

One Comment on “Practical & Effective Professional Learning

  1. Pingback: Professional Learning Plan & Resources | Holly D. Landez ePortfolio

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