What if Professional Development Could Be…Fun!?

As has been oft-discussed on this blog, as well as among communities of teachers since time immemorial, professional development (PD) activities are quite frequently dull, irrelevant, time-consuming, and centered around a single expert delivering one-size-fits-all content to a group of workshop attendees.  This is not an effective approach to adult learning (or any learning, really), and it’s a poor approach to facilitating meaningful professional development. Higher education instructor Melissa Nicolas (2019) offers some particularly painful examples of poor PD from her own experience, which many educators can probably identify with: 

  • A three-hour lecture on active learning. 
  • An hourlong lecture on how ineffective lecturing is 
  • A session on student engagement citing the fact that most people only retain the first 10 minutes and last 10 minutes of any lecture, delivered via a 60-minute lecture.  
  • A town hall meeting that left precisely two minutes for questions. 
  • A workshop that began with, “Everything I am about to share is in X document, so you can just read that.” 

Unfortunately, I would guess that almost all professionals who have engaged in PD, not just teachers, can recall examples of their own underwhelming, ineffective, and passive PD experiences.  While instructors at all levels are asked to promote and prioritize social-emotional learning for their students, it is less common for schools to simultaneously invest in fostering a dynamic, supportive staff environment that cultivates the social and emotional competence and capacity of their teachers (CASEL, 2022). 

Imagine a world where professionals are actually excited to participate in PD activities.  Imagine a world where instructors feel like PD truly supports their cultural and social-emotional learning needs while simultaneously helping them do their jobs better… 


I daresay it’s possible.  Thus, in this investigation I’d like to take a moment to explore the lighter side of PD and highlight a few great ideas for making PD fun (that’s right…fun) and engaging for educators in all contexts. 

For starters, if a PD initiative is going to be meaningful to the participants, they must have the opportunity to interact with one another and collaborate on authentic, relevant, problem-based activities (Teräs & Kartoğlu, 2017).  This means that formal presentations (i.e. lectures) should occupy the smallest portion of time in a PD workshop, and student-centered activities should occupy the largest.  If this is the starting place for any kind of PD initiative, there’s no need for a workshop coordinator to feel like they need to prepare anything flashy to ‘wow’ their attendees and trick them into thinking they’re having fun; prioritizing time for engagement and collaboration is the first and most important step.  From there, the rest might be icing on the cake.   

You’d like some recipe ideas for the icing, you say?  Well allow me to share a few tips and tools which promote collaborative, active learning for adults which could potentially ‘ice’ your PD ‘cake’ beautifully. 

Introduction/Icebreaker Activities 

All good lesson plans have an initial entry point—a hook—that helps students engage with prior learning, share background knowledge, establish social presence, and generally get curious about the content.  Adult learning is no different. Why not try incorporating some of these ideas from Ditch That Texbook (2019) to kick off your next PD gathering? 

  1. Digital Escape Rooms – Digital escape rooms get participants collaborating immediately over a shared problem/objective in a fun way.  The escape room theme can be tied into the learning objectives for the PD, or it can be a stand-alone activity which serves as an example of something to try with students. Here is a link to some free digital escape rooms to offer some initial inspiration. 
  1. Use Flipgrid for Short Intro Videos – either some or all PD event attendees can be tapped to create short intro videos which help them introduce themselves to their colleagues. Videos can be shared to the whole group or in small groups.  Fun prompts for what to share about (e.g. a hobby or a fun fact) can help colleagues connect with each other in new ways and engage on a social-emotional level. 
  1. Use a Google Jamboard, Kahoot, Quizizz, Gimkit, Quizlet, etc. – have participants immediately engaging in a session with a starter quiz, poll, or brainstorm board based on an opening question or theme.  This helps activate prior knowledge, but it also serves as an opportunity for instructors to engage with a tool they may want to use in their classrooms. 


Custom-made Jeopardy games have been used as learning activities in K-12 classrooms for decades, and I’m here to say that they still hold up. When I was a 5th grade classroom teacher (not all that long ago), Jeopardy review day was a hallowed day…even for kids who had never seen an episode of the actual gameshow.  Likewise, I still remember playing Jeopardy when I was a student in my 6th grade social studies classroom many years ago (and our whole class loved it).  This is the power of gamification as a tool for learning.  Of course, kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy games. 

“…adults love to be playful, take risks, and experiment with new ideas just as much as children do.”

(Schmidt, 2015)

So why not gamify PD for adult learners? 

Carl Hooker (2015) offers an example of PD gamification through Interactive Learning Challenges (ILCs).  At its core, an ILC “…starts with the concepts of collaborative problem-solving and interactive creativity and adds an element of competition to learning.” An ILC can take place over the course of several days or in one hour, and it can be done with a relatively small group of people or a very large group of several hundred.  The challenges themselves can take many different forms, but Hooker (2015) describes one particularly successful activity, a scavenger hunt, which he facilitated in place of of a keynote address during a PD event.  In this ILC, the goal was to help a large group of educators better leverage iPad and App use in their classrooms.  He created a custom scavenger hunt activity in which educators worked in groups to complete challenges related to the learning objective.  “I had the entire group line up and self-identify who was the most or least tech-savvy. After that, I paired and grouped the staff to ensure that each team of four included at least one ‘high tech’ person. The way I designed the challenges, every team member had to…participate in the creation of the final product, regardless of tech skills” (Hooker, 2015).  

After the activity, participants noted that they loved being engaged with the actual tools they were meant to be using, they valued learning from/with their peers, they felt empowered to try new things in a safe, collaborative space (especially those who identified as least tech-savvy), and…drumroll please…they had fun! 


Other ILC examples might include gameshow-style formats (Family Feud, Amazing Race, trivia, etc), or perhaps a STEM-style design challenge in which participants work in groups to build or create a final product given a clear goal and building constraints (Ditch That Textbook, 2019).  These are, once again, activities which educators may choose to replicate or adapt for their own classroom environments.  

Also, offering prizes never hurts… 


Finally, another option for creating an engaging PD experience is trying an EdCamp format. An EdCamp is an informal, peer-led, collaborative workshop (held either face-to-face or virtually) where educators gather to share stories, experiences, lesson plans, resources, and new ideas with each other, often around a shared theme or learning objective (Schmidt, 2015). EdCamps are usually grassroots “non-conferences” in that there typically isn’t any kind of registration fee, vendors, or keynote speakers; they’re open to everyone, they’re often hosted locally, and sessions are usually led by volunteers (also workshop attendees) who are homegrown experts in their particular fields of interest (Schmidt, 2015).  In other words, at an EdCamp, everyone has something to share, and everyone has something to learn.   

EdCamps are a way for educators to take ownership in their own learning and simultaneously participate in something immediately relevant to their professional needs/interests.  EdCamps honor the rich reservoir of background experiences and professional expertise that all adult learners bring to the table, which is key to effective adult learning.  EdCamps help support and expand professional learning networks/communities and provide ‘playful’ learning environments where adult learners can take risks and experiment with new tools and ideas (Schmidt, 2015). No two EdCamps look alike, and there are endless possibilities for how to structure or format an EdCamp, making them particularly accessible, affordable, and customizable options for PD initiatives, no matter what the theme or learning objective(s) might be. 


In short, in order to make PD ‘fun’ and engaging, coordinators should look to prioritize time for participant interaction, collaboration on problem-based activities, and opportunities to establish social presence.  There are a variety of ways to do this, and introducing games or an EdCamp format are just a couple of options.  No artificial gimmicks needed in order for PD to be fun, just an opportunity for professionals to learn from and with each other in a space that encourages exploration and experimentation….and did I mention that prizes never hurt? 


CASEL Guide to Schoolwide SEL (2022, March 1). Strengthen Adult SEL. CASEL. https://schoolguide.casel.org/focus-area-2/overview/ 

Ditch That Textbook (2019, August 16). 12 Engaging Activities to Rock Your Back-to-School PD. Ditch That Textbook. https://ditchthattextbook.com/12-engaging-activities-to-rock-your-back-to-school-pd/ 

Hooker, C. (2015, February 10). It’s Time to Make Learning Fun Again, Even for Adults. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/make-learning-fun-for-adults-carl-hooker 

Nicolas, M. (2019, November 19). Workshops that Work. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/11/19/how-academe-should-improve-its-professional-development-workshops-opinion 

Schmidt, P. (2015, March 20). Promoting Playful Learning Through Teacher Networks. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/changemakers-playful-learning-teacher-networks-philipp-schmidt 

Teräs, H., & Kartoğlu, Ü. (2017). A grounded theory of professional learning in an authentic online professional development program. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(7). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i7.2923 

Meaningful Feedback in Online Professional Development

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Just as online teaching and learning became a necessity for K-12 and postsecondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic, so too did online professional learning activities for educators at all levels.  Not only have professional development (PD) activities primarily been held in virtual spaces over the last two years (both synchronously and asynchronously), but often the learning goals themselves have orbited around the use of educational technology in service of the immediate improvement of online teaching and learning experiences. 

Of course, even prior to COVID-19, many professional learning and development enterprises took place online in order to meet the needs of busy educators. Asynchronous, “on demand” courses and workshops are commonly used for PD so that instructors may access materials whenever, and however frequently, they want.  Additionally, online PD allows instructors to access valuable resources they might not otherwise have access to, both locally and globally. In a case study performed by Gaumer Erickson, Noonan, and McCall (2012), special education teachers in a rural district were able to collaborate with educators and experts in a non-rural district via an online PD enterprise.  Participating teachers felt that the modality was an asset to their learning since they were given resources and feedback from experts the district might not otherwise be able to provide due to geography or lack of funding (Elliott, 2017).

As mentioned by participants in this case study, one of the key contributors to a successful professional learning experience is the opportunity to receive meaningful feedback.  Feedback and participant interaction is part of an active professional learning experience wherein an adult learner is implementing their learning in an authentic, problem-based activity (Teräs & Kartoğlu, 2017).  Feedback may come from a coach or instructor or from peers (or both), but regardless of the source, getting professional feedback is necessary in order to support learning implementation and critical reflection.  Feedback can feel like an automatic and organic part of the learning process in face-to-face settings.  For example, if an educator is being observed by a coach or mentor in their classroom, they would expect feedback to be shared directly following the observation.  Similarly, if a peer group is working on a project together in a shared space or workshop, they will naturally give instant formative feedback, usually verbally, to each other as they collaborate. 

What about with online PD?  For context, the operational definition I’m using for online PD is any Internet-based form of learning or professional growth that an educator is engaged in (Elliott, 2017). How might feedback for professional development look similar or different in an online learning context?  To what extent might feedback look different in an asynchronous environment? If PD is going to increasingly be situated in online environments, what tools are available to help assist in delivering meaningful feedback?

Teräs & Kartoğlu (2017) approach online professional development (OPD) through a framework called authentic e-learning.  Authentic e-learning has a nine-point framework, the points of which are well supported in PD research and adult learning theories independent of the mode or learning environment (Teräs & Kartoğlu, 2017).  The nine points for an authentic e-learning framework they propose are as follows:

1) Authentic context

2) Authentic tasks

3) Access to expert performances and the modeling of processes

4) Promoting multiple roles and perspectives

5) Collaborative construction of knowledge

6) Reflection

7) Articulation of understanding

8) Coaching & scaffolded support at critical times

9) Authentic assessment

Numbers 5, 8, & 9 are bolded on this list because each of these points requires interactions and communication among learners and instructors which will often take the form of meaningful feedback through a virtual medium.  Within this learner-centered framework, technology should not be thought of primarily as a mode of delivering content.  Rather, it should be viewed as a platform for facilitating interactions.  Knowledge may be transferred using technology, but that’s not it’s most important role in e-learning.  When technology is a conduit for a dynamic web of collaborative interactions, authentic e-learning can take place (Teräs & Kartoğlu, 2017).  It’s certainly possible for information to be delivered in an asynchronous format using technology as the medium, but this shouldn’t be conflated with an authentic e-learning experience.  Interaction are key.

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to facilitate online interactions for professional development purposes is to create a Community of Practice (COP).  Names for similar groupings that surface in the literature include Professional Learning Community (PLC) or a Community of Inquiry (COI).  Despite any nuanced differences that may exist between the three, COPs, PLCs, and COIs have quite a bit in common.  They are all entities distinct from formal learning and organizational structures, and are particularly valuable for their ability to extend beyond them.  Members gather around shared experiences and/or goals and create their own communication channels and behavioral norms (Liu et al., 2009).  These communities can exist within an organization, or they might consist of professionals across multiple organizations, but they are meant to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and tools and encourage critical discourse in a manner that is beneficial for professional growth for each of its members.  COPs are inherently collaborative, and can often be formed around solving authentic, work-based problems (Liu et al., 2009).  Though coaches, mentors, or experts may participate in COPs, peer interaction and collaboration are at the heart of a COP, and thus feedback is most often sourced from peers.  COPs serve as a promising way to deliver timely, effective, relevant, and individualized support for adult learners while simultaneously decreasing the need for feedback coming solely from “experts.”

Online learning communities can be formed in a variety of different platforms, but regardless of the tech tool or medium, or whether the communities engage synchronously or asynchronously, COPs should have a medium in which they can engage in discussion, peer review, and collaborative problem-solving so that meaningful feedback may take place.  Referencing a prior post in March of 2021 (Global research collaboration and the pandemic: How COVID-19 has accelerated networked learning in higher education), some notable computer-based platforms for collaborative enterprises include:

This list represents nine, powerhouse collaboration platforms, all of which rolled out between 2010 and 2020, and many of which depend heavily on the power and popularity of cloud storage or cloud computing, such that platform users may interact and build upon one another’s contributions in both synchronous and asynchronous ways.

When attempting to collaborate asynchronously, especially where coaching or mentoring is concerned, video review software can be another important tool to consider.  Teacher education programs or instructor professional development initiatives often use video review software to conduct remote classroom observations (though of course, video review may be used in a variety of fields for a variety of purposes).  GoReact is just one example of video review software.  This user-friendly review software offers users the opportunity to:

  • Record and share videos easily using any kind of device, including smart phones
  • Utilize cloud-based video storage so that recording, viewing, and grading can happen asynchronously
  • Integrate video evidence seamlessly within common Learning Management Systems
  • Give and receive time-stamped feedback on submitted video evidence, both written and recorded
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Though I could likely spend a great many more hours discussing possible platforms to use in service of online learning communities, I wish to conclude with this simple, summative takeaway: quality PD requires feedback; therefore, effective PD conducted online must have ample space for interactions to take place among participants.  It really is that simple.


Elliott, J. C. (2017). The evolution from traditional to online professional development: A review. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education33(3), 114-125. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21532974.2017.1305304

Gaumer Erickson, A. S., Noonan, P. M., & McCall, Z. (2012). Effectiveness of online professional development for rural special educators. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 31(1), 22–31.

Liu, W., Carr, R. L., & Strobel, J. (2009). Extending teacher professional development through an online learning community: A case study. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange (JETDE)2(1), https://aquila.usm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1072&context=jetde

SpeakWorks, Inc. (2021). GoReact. GoReact. https://get.goreact.com/

Teräs, H., & Kartoğlu, Ü. (2017). A grounded theory of professional learning in an authentic online professional development program. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning18(7).

Did It Work!? A Brief Look at Professional Development Evaluation in Higher Education & Beyond

As I continue to dive deeper into the research related to professional development (PD) and adult learning initiatives within higher education, one aspect of PD I’ve yet to explore is the evaluation of PD.  In other words, how do we determine if a PD enterprise was successful?  Is the learning having an ongoing, meaningful impact in the workplace?  Did it make a difference? 

Image Courtesy of stock.adobe.com

In order to answer these questions, we must step back to think about two things: 1) what do we mean by ‘success’ in relation to PD (in other words, what particular indicators should we pay attention to), and 2) how/when should we gather data related to those indicators? 

As an entry point to this investigation, Guskey (2002) does an excellent job of pointing our attention to key indicators of effective PD and adult learning, as well as possible ways of gathering data related to those indicators.  These indicators (or “levels of evaluation”) are applicable for higher education instructors just as much as they are for K-12 teachers. Accordingly, Five Possible Indicators of PD Effectiveness—as I am referring to them—are summarized below: 

Indicator What’s measured? How will data be gathered? 
Participants’ Reactions Did participants enjoy the learning experience? Did they trust the expertise of those teaching/leading? Is the learning target perceived as relevant/useful? Was the delivery format appropriate/comfortable? Exit Questionnaire, informal narrative feedback from attendees 
Participants’ Learning Did participants acquire new knowledge/skills? Did the learning experience meet objectives? Was the learning relevant to current needs? Participant reflections, portfolios constructed during the learning experience, demonstrations, simulations, etc. 
Organization Support/Change Was the support for the learning public and overt? Were the necessary resources for implementation provided? Were successes recognized/shared? Was the larger organization impacted? Structured interviews with participants, follow-up meetings or check-ins related to the PD, administrative records, increased access to needed resources for implementation 
Participants’ Use of New Knowledge/Skills Did participants effectively apply the new knowledge/skills? Is the impact ongoing? Were participants’ beliefs changed as a result of the PD? Surveys, instructor reflections, classroom observations, professional portfolios 
Student Learning Outcomes What was the impact on student academic performance? Are students more confident and/or independent as learners? Did it influence students’ well-being? Either qualitative (e.g. student interviews, teacher observations) or quantitative (e.g. assignments/assessments) improvements in student output/performance, behaviors, or attitudes 
Table adapted from Figure 1.1,”Five Levels of Professional Development Evaluation” in Guskey (2002) 

It is important to note that these indicators often work on different timelines and will be utilized at different stages in PD evaluation, but they should also be considered in concert with one another as much as possible (Guskey, 2002).  For example, data about participants’ reactions to PD can be collected immediately and is an easy first step towards evaluating the effectiveness of PD, but participants’ initial reactions as reflected in an exit survey, for example, certainly won’t paint the whole picture.  Student learning outcomes are another indicator to consider, but this indicator will not be able to be measured right away and will require time and follow-up well beyond the initial PD activity or workshop. Furthermore, it can be harmful to place too much evaluative emphasis on any single indicator. If student learning outcomes are the primary measure taken into consideration, this puts unfair pressure on the “performance” aspect of learning (e.g. assessments) and ignores other vital evidence such as changed attitudes or beliefs on the part of the teacher or the role of context and applicability in the learning: 

“…local action research projects, led by practitioners in collaboration with community members and framed around issues of authentic social concern, are emerging as a useful framework for supporting authentic professional learning.”

(Webster-Wright, 2009, p.727)

In most instances, PD evaluation may consist entirely of exit surveys or participant reflections shortly after they complete a workshop or learning activity, and very little follow-up (e.g. classroom observations, release time for collaboration using learned skills) occurs into the future (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007).  This does nothing to ensure that professional learning is truly being integrated in a way that has meaningful, ongoing impact.  In fact, in their 2011 study dedicated to evaluating faculty professional development programs in higher education, Ebert-May et al. (2011) found that 89% of faculty who participated in a student-centered learning workshop self-reported making changes to their lecture-based teaching practices.  When considered by itself, this feedback might lead some to conclude that the PD initiative was, in fact, effective.  However, when these same instructors were observed in action in the months (and years!) following their professional learning workshop, 75% of faculty attendees had in fact made no perceptible changes to their teacher-centered, lecture-based teaching approach, demonstrating “…a clear disconnect between faculty’s perceptions of their teaching and their actual practices” (Ebert-May et al., 2011).  Participants’ initial reactions and self-evaluations can’t be considered in isolation.  Organizational support, evidence of changed practice, and impact on student learning (both from an academic and ‘well-being’ perspective) must be considered as well.  Consequently, we might reasonably conclude that one-off PD workshops with little to no follow-up beyond initial training will hardly ever be “effective.” 

It is also worth mentioning here that the need for PD specifically in relation to technology integration has been on the rise over the last two decades, and this need has accelerated even more during the pandemic.  In recent years the federal government has invested in a number of initiatives meant to ensure that schools—especially K-12 institutions—keep pace with technology developments (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). These initiatives include training the next generation of teachers to use technology in their classrooms and retraining the current teacher workforce in the use of tech-based instructional tactics (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). With technology integration so often in the forefront of PD initiatives, it begs the question: should tech-centered PD be evaluated differently than other PD enterprises? 

I would argue no. In a comprehensive and systematic literature review of how technology use in education has been evaluated in the 21st century, Lai & Bower (2019) found that the evaluation of learning technology use tends to focus on eight themes or criteria:  

  1. Learning outcomes: academic performance, cognitive load, skill development 
  1. Affective Elements: motivation, enjoyment, attitudes, beliefs, self-efficacy 
  1. Behaviors: participation, interaction, collaboration, self-reflection 
  1. Design: course quality, course structure, course content 
  1. Technology Elements: accessibility, usefulness, ease of adoption 
  1. Pedagogy: teaching quality/credibility, feedback 
  1. Presence: social presence, community 
  1. Institutional Environment: policy, organizational support, resource provision, learning environment 

It seems to me that these eight foci could all easily find their way into the adapted table of indicators I’ve provided above. Perhaps the only nuance to this list is an “extra” focus on the functionality, accessibility, and usefulness of technology tools as they apply to both the learning process and learning objectives. Otherwise, it seems to me that Lai & Bower’s (2019) evaluative themes align quite well with the five indicators of PD effectiveness adapted from Guskey (2002), such that the five indicators might be used to frame PD evaluation in all kinds of settings, including the tech-heavy professional learning occurring in the wake of COVID-19. 


Ebert-May, D., Derting, T. L., Hodder, J., Momsen, J. L., Long, T. M., & Jardeleza, S. E. (2011). What we say is not what we do: Effective evaluation of faculty professional development programs. BioScience, 61(7), 550-558. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/61/7/550/266257?login=true 

Guskey, T. R. (2002). Does it make a difference? Evaluating professional development. Educational leadership, 59(6), 45. https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=edp_facpub 

Lai, J.W.M. & Bower, M. (2019). How is the use of technology in education evaluated? A systematic review. Computers in Education 133, 27-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.01.010 

Lawless, K. A., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2007). Professional development in integrating technology into teaching and learning: Knowns, unknowns, and ways to pursue better questions and answers.  Review of Educational Research, 77(4), 575-614.https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0034654307309921 

Webster-Wright, A. (2009). Reframing professional development through understanding authentic professional learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 702-739.https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0034654308330970 

Best practices in professional development: What educational institutions might have to learn from the business sector

Though it’s generally acknowledged that education theory and practice inform adult learning and professional development activities in all kinds of domains, the connection between education research/best practices and teaching/learning as it occurs in corporate environments is perhaps less explored.  For the purposes of this investigation, I’m interested in finding exemplars of professional learning design and implementation that are taking place outside of K-12 schools and higher education institutions.  How are best practices in education being applied in corporate environments in innovative ways? Conversely, are there novel approaches to professional development (PD) and adult learning activities being used in corporate America that school systems may want to adopt for themselves? 

For starters, it may be helpful to first draw attention to some of the ways PD activities have been found lacking within education circles.  Drawing from content in my July 2021 post, Professional Development & Technology in Higher Education: What’s Working?, I’ll once again highlight the 2014 report put together by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) working on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  For this report, BCG surveyed over 1,300 stakeholders in education (teachers, administrators, instructional coaches, etc.) on topics related to PD (BCG, 2014).  Research suggested that teachers at all levels were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the majority of PD offerings made available to them.  Reasons cited included: 

  1. A disconnect between classroom observations by administrators and meaningful coaching interactions 
  1. A lack of trust or authority from those leading the PD initiatives 
  1. PD presented as an exercise in compliance instead of a meaningful opportunity for growth 
  1. Lack of opportunity for collaboration with peers  
  1. Lack of choice 
  1. Lack of relevance to immediate needs 

Suggestions for future practice included a decreased dependence on external vendors for PD workshops and increased attention to teacher-driven needs and collaboration time, as well as considerations for leveraging technology to boost collaboration and streamline workloads (BCG, 2014).  So where might we find examples of these suggestions being put into practice? Let us take a moment to see what the business sector has to offer. 

Image Source https://medium.com

One particular company “walking the walk” in PD is creative media powerhouse, Pixar.  Many will know Pixar as the studio behind the world’s first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story (1995), as well as the slew of creative, narratively diverse, visually stunning, and commercially successful animated films it has released in the decades since (Catmull, 2008).  Yet the secret to Pixar’s success, at least according to Pixar executive Ed Catmull, isn’t just having good ideas.  Rather, it’s a commitment to hiring good people and investing in a dynamic, creative, collaborative professional community, supported by meaningful and ongoing professional development.  Pixar has three operating principles which help shape its professional growth and community building (Catmull, 2008): 

  1. Everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone 
  • Prioritize professional relationships built on trust 
  • Don’t get too invested in a hierarchical system, especially as it pertains to lines of communication and problem-solving 
  • Make it easy for people to collaborate across departments 
  1. It must be safe for everyone to offer ideas 
  • Regularly share works in progress 
  • Create opportunities for peer review and feedback 
  • Consider collaboration as an essential part of problem-solving and professional growth 
  1. Stay close to innovations happening in the academic community 
  • Encourage attendance to professional conferences, publishing, and sharing work with others as is appropriate to individuals in their particular fields; this stands in contrast to bringing in outside vendors to deliver PD workshops to the whole company in a “one size fits all” approach. 
  • Pixar University: Pixar offers a collection of in-house, online PD courses responsible for training and cross-training people as they develop in their careers.  It also offers an array of optional classes that give people from different disciplines the opportunity to expand their knowledge base and personal growth, while also appreciating the expertise and contributions of others within the organization. 

If we look at the BCG findings and suggestions for future practice, Pixar seems to be doing several things “right.”  They’re providing much of their PD in-house and reducing dependence on external vendors or workshops, they’re cultivating practical avenues for collaboration and peer review, and they’re leveraging technology to provide opportunities for needs- and interest-based training through Pixar University.  They’re also investing in the company culture at large by widening avenues of vertical and horizontal communication and building trust in their workplace community. 

Regardless of the context, whether it be in a school or business environment, creating pathways towards authentic problem solving and practical application are key to effective PD endeavors. Effective adult learning offers opportunities for growth and development within the student’s context, adding value to their life and work, and ultimately giving them new skills, independence, or autonomy (Merriam, 2017).  Adult learners are often interested in “learning how to learn”—in becoming skilled at learning in a range of different situations and through a range of different styles in order to apply that learning in novel situations in their daily lives (Brookfield, 1995).  Consequently, adult learning should often be more problem-centered than subject-centered with a clear “so what” factor in any given learning experience (Merriam, 2017). In other words, pure knowledge transmission is not the substance of effective adult learning (or really any learning for that matter). 

This does not mean that structured courses have no place in PD. Rather, excellent examples can be found where corporations partner with higher education institutions (HEIs) to anchor structured learning experiences within real work-based problems. 

One example of this approach is described by Collis and Margaryan (2004) in relation to the Shell EP corporation, an organization primarily concerned with finding and producing oil and gas.  In this case study, Shell EP (tasked with the professional learning, growth, and ongoing training of over 30,000 employees scattered across 45 countries), began a research partnership with University of Twente, the aims of which were “…to develop, share, and apply state-of-the-art knowledge and experience relating to new forms of learning in the organization, supported by technology” (Collis & Margaryan, 2004).  Using a web-based platform for blended learning developed by the University of Twente, petroleum engineers, petrophysicists, geologists and other technical professionals from various operating units of Shell EP were brought together to collaborate on a specific problem-based PD initiative (Collis & Margaryan, 2004).  In this specific setting, the problem they tackled as part of their PD was a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), a complex task involving the assessment of possible risks to employees and/or the environment where drilling or the handling of delicate chemicals was required. HRA development was previously addressed through a knowledge transfer course model that required no collaboration among colleagues or practical applications. 

In its redesigned format, the HRA assessment was authentically performed as part of the PD course, meaning a potential health hazard was collaboratively identified by a team of coworkers, and a plan to minimize or eliminate the hazard was presented to supervisors. Some of the benefits of this approach included:  

  1. Leveraging technology to mitigate the need for employees to travel or step out of the workplace into a classroom  
  1. Building communication and collaboration skills among coworkers, even from differing fields/departments 
  1. Creating a meaningful final product which could have an immediate impact on workplace strategy, while also being saved in an employee’s personal portfolio as evidence of professional growth (Collis & Margaryan, 2004). 
Image Source: https://www.aihr.com/blog/collaboration-in-the-workplace/

Tech giant Microsoft offers us another example.  Using a similar model to the one listed above, Microsoft partners with online learning platforms like edX to provide curated professional learning experiences for their employees. In this approach, edX and participating HEIs design the courses and host the self-paced, computer-based learning experiences (including assessments and rubrics, content delivery, course completion, etc.), while Microsoft provides the specialists and integrated expert knowledge which make the course most relevant to the company’s context and industry norms.  Additionally, access to the courses are approved through Microsoft managers such that there is accountability and incentive for employees wanting to expand their professional portfolio. It’s perhaps the best of both worlds when it comes to utilizing the strengths of an external learning designer while still paying particular attention to the needs and interests of the learners within a particular company/context. 

Finally, and by way of concluding these thoughts, I’d like to offer a few final examples/approaches to PD coming out of the business world. Ripplematch, a company that matches early career individuals with prospective job opportunities, interviews, and internships, recently released a curated list of companies which (according to their estimations) offer exceptional professional development programs for their employees (Ripplematch Team, 2021).  In reviewing this list of 27 companies and their various PD enterprises, several themes emerge which reinforce the examples already discussed in this post, as well as the previously noted gaps in PD often found in education. Below you will find my own “Top 10” checklist for PD enterprises, a summary inspired by these examples from the business world: 

  1. PD learning opportunities must be customizable to make sense for individual needs/contexts 
  1. PD activities ought to be curated in-house as much as possible 
  1. PD should help open channels of communication and collaboration between colleagues both horizontally across departments, and vertically between employees, supervisors, and senior leadership. 
  1. PD should help employees better leverage technology in their work environment 
  1. PD opportunities should make space for leadership development 
  1. PD should not be considered extra work on top of established work expectations; PD activities should be embedded into existing work hours and/or should be embedded within appropriate release time 
  1. PD should offer opportunities for collaboration where learners work with each other to accomplish a shared goal 
  1. PD should be problem-based and should produce final products/solutions that are authentically useful to the workplace 
  1. PD should be accessible (often utilizing online platforms) and offered continuously 
  1. PD should allow opportunities to learn from—and be mentored or coached by—experts in the field. 

It’s my opinion that, at the end of the day, PD activities in the business world and in education share the same end in mind: to help adult learners identify goals and learn new skills to help them succeed in their work. And though it’s tempting to assume that the field of education is the ultimate authority on all things teaching and learning, it’s okay to acknowledge that, at least where PD is concerned, schools are usually falling short in their delivery. Consequently, it shouldn’t be taboo to look for exemplars of adult learning practice in other fields; there’s much inspiration and innovation to be found. 


Boston Consulting Group (2014). Teachers know best: Teachers’ views on professional development. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  https://usprogram.gatesfoundation.org/news-and-insights/usp-resource-center/resources/teachers-know-best-teachers-views-on-professional-development 

Brookfield, S. (1995). Adult Learning: An Overview. In A. Tuinjman (Ed.) International Encyclopedia of Education. Pergamon Press. 

Collis, B. & Margaryan, A. (2004). Applying activity theory to computer-supported collaborative learning and work-based activities in corporate settings. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(4), 38-52. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02504717.pdf 

Catmull, E. (September, 2008). How Pixar fosters collective creativity. Harvard Business Review.  https://hbr.org/2008/09/how-pixar-fosters-collective-creativity 

Merriam, S. (2017). Adult learning theory: Evolution and future directions. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theorists…in their own words (83-96). Routledge.  

Ripplematch Team (May 9, 2021). 27 companies that offer exceptional professional development programs for entry-level employees.  Ripplematch. https://ripplematch.com/journal/article/companies-that-offer-exceptional-professional-development-programs-for-entry-level-employees-f53abebf/ 

Instructional Coaching Reflection, Digital Literacy

This quarter I’ve had the opportunity to dust off some of my classroom teaching skills and come alongside a friend and fellow teacher to help her think critically about a 6th grade nonfiction English/Language Arts unit she’ll be teaching this Fall.

Image Source: https://cdn.kqed.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2013/07/157716329.jpg

In this unit, which is approximately one month in length (3-4 weeks), 6th grade students explore the power of nonfiction texts for both reading/writing and complete two writing projects over the course of the unit.  One writing project is an “expert book;” this is meant to be a passion project in which students practice informational paragraph writing on their topic of choice, drawing much of the writing content from their own background knowledge and experiences (though some supplementary research will also be involved).  In addition to this project, students read exemplar informational texts and watch documentaries during their reading blocks.  Student engagement with this content lays the foundation for a final written essay which requires additional research from students into informational texts.  The informational essay is the larger of the two writing projects and focuses on one of five topic categories which were previously voted on by the students.  In regards to improvement goals, my coaching partner and I chose to focus on the current absence of support for building digital literacy skills for informational texts within the unit, and provide new opportunities for students to think critically about their interactions with informational texts in the research process. These improvement goals align with the following standards for WA State:

Technology Standard 3 for grades 6-8: 

Knowledge Constructor – Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. 

Writing Standard 2 for Grade 6 Students: 

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. 

A major goal of this unit is to help students better understand the power of nonfiction writing and its role in society.  In order for students to draw on what they have learned to create and use knowledge in the real world and be able to better engage with nonfiction writing and informational sources in their own lives into the future, they ought to have the opportunity to focus on building their own digital literacy skills in the research process for this unit.  Thus, within our coaching partnership, we decided to focus our efforts on creating a supplemental lesson plan, roughly 40 minutes in length, which could be embedded within the first week of the unit.

See suggested Lesson Plan Template for new supplementary lesson outline, timing, teacher directions, needed materials, and essential digital resources.  In this lesson, technology is used to enhance student learning by: 

  1. presenting content in a concise, visually interesting, multimedia format 
  1. showcasing authentic examples of both credible and inaccurate information sources found on the internet 
  1. providing the platforms through which students may engage in quality internet research 

Though a formal reflection of the lesson isn’t possible in this moment due to timing (the unit/lesson won’t be taught for some weeks yet), there are certainly some valuable takeaways and observations that I can make based on my coaching experience this quarter: 

1) Starting with a posture of “how can I best help/serve you” is essential.  When teachers feel like you’ll ultimately be able to take things off their plate and make their lives easier/better (rather than add additional items for them to execute on), they are grateful and much more likely to fully invest in the coaching experience.  More often than not, teachers want to make improvements and changes to their teaching…they just need time and resources to make it happen.

2) A quality coaching experience, especially when digital technology is in the mix, isn’t about suggesting flashy new tech add-ons.  As has been oft-suggested in the literature pertaining to instructional design and tech integration, quality coaching isn’t about the tool(s) used; it’s first and foremost about good pedagogy.  In this project, the actual curriculum suggestions in the lesson plan aren’t mind-blowing or novel where tech integration is concerned.  Rather, the lesson suggestions creat time/space to think about a gap in the unit curriculum that could better address student learning needs, as well as learning standards for both ELA and Ed Tech held by the school/district/state. 

3) I’m holding expectations for the implementation of this suggested lesson loosely.  At the end of the day, I’m not terribly concerned with this lesson being implemented exactly as outlined (if it is, then great, but that’s not the most important thing).  Instead, I’m interested in this suggested lesson bringing valuable resources to the forefront that might not otherwise have been used, or that my coachee might otherwise not have had time to explore on her own.  I’m interested in making sure that a nonfiction unit addresses digital media literacy as an essential part of reading/writing nonfiction text, in whatever form that comes. It is my desire that this coaching experience helped bring thoughtful attention to a gap in the learning pertaining to digital literacy, and that the suggestions put forth were helpful in some capacity. 

I will look forward to future communication from my coachee once the unit instruction is underway; I am eager to hear what worked for her and her grade-level PLC and to what extent it expanded their teaching and learning experiences in meaningful ways. 

Learning Analytics in Higher Education: What’s Working?

Image Source: https://www.openpr.com/

Data analytics play their part in all aspects of work and industry these days, and there’s no question that data analytics are also here to stay in the world of higher education. Through tracking, aggregating, and analyzing student activity captured in learning management systems, universities are hoping to “open the black box of education” using learning analytics technologies (Jones, 2019). Of course, in order to analyze data, there must be data to look at in the first place, and as the number of students participating in online learning has increased exponentially (both in K-12 and higher education) during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the amount of educational data instructors and administrators readily have access to has increased as well.  In fact, perhaps unsurprisingly, according to Wong 2021 and a 2020 survey conducted by EDUCAUSE, demand for student success analytics, particularly in relation to online teaching/learning activity, increased by 66 percent during the pandemic. 

Yet the use of data in any capacity brings with it a whole host of questions: where is the data coming from and is it ethically sourced? For what purpose is the data being used?  Is the data capturing the ‘big picture’ or is it only one piece of the puzzle?  Are there biases in the data that need to be reckoned with?  Data, in all its forms, is hardly neutral, and thus we must proceed carefully as we look to data to influence decision-making in education.  In my mind, data will only ever tell part of the story, but it certainly can be a helpful tool in the educator toolbox when handled with care and context. 

Perhaps it is also helpful to clarify what I’m referring to when I say ‘student data.’  For the purposes of this post, I’m referring to certain biographical and socio-economic information related to a student’s background (e.g. whether or not a student is first-generation, financial aid information, etc.), student behavior and participation in courses and campus life, and student performance in particular courses in the form of grades.  When it comes to analyzing this data and using that analysis to improve teaching and learning, what’s working in postsecondary education? 

Identifying At-Risk Students at the Institutional Level: 

An oft-cited use for student data in higher education in this moment is identifying students who might be at-risk of dropping out in order to offer early intervention and support.  This is often done at the administrative/academic services level as opposed to the level of individual course instructors.   

Since 2017, Gannon University, a private Catholic University in Pennsylvania, has been using a “homegrown application” which collects and aggregates data points from applications across campus, including data related to a student’s academic performance, financial well-being, and engagement in campus activities/community (Wong, 2021). In other words, both qualitative and quantitative data points are observed.  A computer model helps determine which data points are most significant, and then summarizes the important data for a student dashboard format. Staff and administrators then check the data dashboard four or five times each semester, including at key grading periods, and if students are flagged as struggling, the advising center or the student development and engagement offices reach out to check on them (Wong, 2021). 

Using a similar three-pronged approach, staff and administrators at the University of Kentucky use Tableau software to help interpret student data and identify students who may need support with academics, financial stability, or health and social well-being (Wong, 2021).  Based on the data and the populations of students who are flagged as at-risk, staff and faculty have formed outreach protocol, including the ability to increase financial aid support for specific students through grant funding when needed.   

Both Gannon and the University of Kentucky have seen retention rates increase over 4% as a result of their meaningful use of student data (Wong, 2021).  Of particular note here is the use of data from multiple sources, all of which help tell a fuller story of student success.  Grades aren’t the only indicator of a student’s level of risk; financial stability and social well-being are treated as equally important information sources. 

Improving Classroom Instruction: 

Student data can also be helpful to individual instructors as they look to monitor the effectiveness of their instruction and better meet the needs of students who may be struggling.  In an earlier post titled Using Canvas Analytics to Support Student Success, I specifically looked at the student data analytics capabilities native to the Canvas LMS platform, but there are certainly plenty of comparable features in other LMS platforms which would assist instructors in the efficient analysis of student data. 

When it comes to student engagement and indicators of successful course completion, information gathered in the first weeks of the course can prove invaluable.  Rather than being used solely for instructor reflection or summative ‘takeaway’ information about the effectiveness of the course design, course analytics may be used as early predictors of student success, and the information gleaned may be used to initiate interventions from instructors or academic support staff (Wagner, 2020).  For example, if a student in an online course is having internet access issues, the instructor can likely see this reflected early-on in the student’s LMS analytics data (not logging in to the course, not accessing important posted materials, etc.). The instructor would have reason to reach out and make sure the student has what they need in order to engage with the course content.  If unstable internet access is the issue, the instructor may then flex due dates, provide extra downloadable materials, or continually modify assignments as needed throughout the quarter in order to better support the student. 

In addition to student performance, LMS analytics tools may be used by the instructor to think about the efficacy of their course design, especially in online learning environments.  Course analytics tools can help instructors see which resources are being viewed/downloaded, which discussion boards are most active (or inactive), what components of the course are most frequented, etc.  Technology can also help instructors save valuable time.  For example, course analytics tools can quickly cull through quiz results to identify which concepts remain hazy in students’ minds, helping instructors to efficiently discern which of their lesson plans is most effective, and which concepts need more attention and/or a different teaching approach (O’Bryan & Shah, 2021).   

Gathering Student Feedback: 

Finally, student surveys have proven to be another effective way to access student data and meaningfully use that data in support of student success.  Student surveys elevate the use of student voice within the data, and they are much easier to use where data privacy management is concerned. “Since learning analytics often rely on aggregating significant amounts of sensitive and personal student data from a complex network of information flows, it raises an important question as to whether or not students have a right to limit data analysis practices and express their privacy preferences as means to controlling their personal data and information” (Jones, 2019).  Within a survey context, students have choice around when and how they participate in providing data, and they often have greater insight into how the data will be used afterward.  This is not always the case when it comes to data used in and through learning management systems, and many scholars and researchers feel that the ethics behind data collection/use/privacy in learning analytics have yet to be properly addressed (Viberg et al., 2018; Jones, 2019). 

To that end, University of Connecticut offers a great example of elevating student “voice and choice” in the data collection process.  UC has developed a software suite in-house called Nexus that is designed to involve the entire campus community in improving student retention and success, especially the students themselves. Students can choose to log in to a UC campus application at any time to create study groups with classmates, schedule advising and tutoring appointments, and connect with mentors and other resources as needed. The university also occasionally asks students to fill out a short online survey when they log in to the app; the 60-second survey asks critical questions such as how they are doing and whether they are contemplating dropping out for any reason (Wong, 2021).  Thus, in this approach, students are able to volunteer data relevant to their learning needs and connect to available resources when it feels appropriate to them; they are not passive in the data collection process. 

Course completion surveys are also commonly used by higher education institutions, and these surveys provide important student-sourced feedback about the effectiveness of individual instructors and courses.  However, since the feedback is summative/reflective in nature, its ability to have any impact on an individual student’s learning at a point of accute struggle during a term of study is limited, if not completely obsolete.  Additionally, these course surveys are usually more focused on growth and improvement for instructors and course design, and the data collected gives little additional insight on individual student performance. 


To be sure, there are likely many other examples of places and spaces where data analytics are working well in higher education, and I’ve only touched on a few key areas in this post, but generally speaking, data or learning analytics seem to be proving helpful at the institutional level to improve retention rates, at the instructor level as a way of efficiently identifying student needs in real time within a course, and at the student level when student feedback data, often via surveys, is used meaningfully in support of student success.  Learning analytics have not been, and will never be, some kind of computer-aided substitute for sound pedagogical assessment in a classroom. Furthermore, as mentioned above, educators are wise to bear in mind that any single data set is only part of a larger story.  Learning analytics seem to be at their best to the extent that they are truly used in support of individual student growth and flourishing in all aspects of education.  As Viberg et al. (2018) would posit, the more the use of learning analytics in higher education shifts focus away from a prediction emphasis and towards a dynamic understanding of students’ real-time learning experiences, the more we’ll be able to see authentic and substantive improvements in student outcomes. 


Jones, K.M.L., (2019). Learning analytics and higher education: a proposed model for establishing informed consent mechanisms to promote student privacy and autonomy. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 16(24). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-019-0155-0 

O’Bryan, C. & Shah, B. (2021, September 8). Higher education has a data problem. Inside Higher Edhttps://www.insidehighered.com/views/2021/09/08/using-data-holistic-way-support-student-success-opinion 

Wagner, A. (2020, June 6). LMS data and the relationship between student engagement and student success outcomes.  Airweb.org. https://www.airweb.org/article/2020/06/17/lms-data-and-the-relationship-between-student-engagement-and-student-success-outcomes 

Wong, W. (2021, October 18). Higher education turns to data analytics to bolster student success.  EdTechhttps://www.edtechmagazine.com/higher/article/2021/10/higher-education-turns-data-analytics-bolster-student-success 

Viberg, O., Hatakka, M., Balter, O., & Mavroudi, A. (2018). The current landscape of learning analytics in higher education. Computers in Human Behavior 89, 98-110.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.07.027 

The Role of Reflection in Professional Learning & Development

Image Source: https://www.newrow.com/7-adult-learning-principles-every-online-educator-should-know/

When considering the role of an instructional coach or any kind of professional learning facilitator, it’s important to note how their roles are both similar and dissimilar to that of a typical classroom teacher.  Both are educators hoping to assist students in reaching learning goals.  A notable difference, however, is the fact that instructional designers/coaches work almost exclusively with experienced adult learners who are already professionals in their fields.  In what ways, then, should professional learning be structured to meet the specific cultural and social-emotional needs of adult learners? Furthermore, what role can reflection have in helping to evaluate the impact of a professional learning enterprise with adult learners? 

More than any other student population, adult learners enter a classroom environment with a rich reservoir of experience, knowledge, skills, etc. to pull from in their learning.  Effective adult education, then, will take each student’s context into account as an active influence in the learning process. This may include considerations for digital literacy levels1, norms and standards in their specific professional fields, and the knowledge gained from previous years of practice in their discipline.  

Adult learning also ought to be student-directed and immediately relevant to meaning-making in the student’s world (Merriam, 2017).  Self- or student-directed learning focuses on the process by which adults take control of their own learning, and it incorporates how adults set their own learning goals, locate appropriate resources, decide on which learning methods to use, and evaluate their progress (Brookfield, 1995).  

Effective adult learning offers opportunities for growth and development within the student’s context, adding value to their life and work, and ultimately giving them new skills, independence, or autonomy (especially in Western cultures) (Merriam, 2017).  Adult learners are often interested in “learning how to learn”—in becoming skilled at learning in a range of different situations and through a range of different styles in order to apply that learning in novel situations in their daily lives (Brookfield, 1995).  Consequently, adult learning is often more problem-centered than subject-centered, and many adult learners will be keen to know the “so what” factor in any given learning experience (Merriam, 2017). 

Jack Mezirow, professor of adult education at Columbia University’s Teachers College and a foundational researcher in andragogy, argues that adult learning should be transformative in nature; it should help adults reassess the structures and assumptions that frame their thinking so that they may, “…think critically for themselves rather than take assumptions supporting a point of view for granted” (Sutherland & Crowther, 2006). Adult learning must provide ample opportunities for critical reflection, for space and time to determine how a student’s learning is actively impacting their worldview and/or their way of being in the world.    

Let us pause here in order to focus more time on this essential component of learning theory: critical reflection.  A gap can exist between learning a skill and implementing a skill, and that gap usually has something to do with a learner’s individual values or beliefs.  A teacher, for example, may learn how to implement a teaching strategy (e.g. annotated reading) during a PD workshop, but this doesn’t mean he/she will necessarily implement the strategy in the classroom unless he/she has come to believe that it is impactful, worthwhile, and compatible with prior knowledge and experience, at least on some level (Marvel, 2018).  So how are belief systems shifted in PD enterprises such that adult learners might be more inclined to accept novel ideas into their worldview and professional practice? 

Critical reflection can help bridge that gap.  Critical reflection or metacognition—the process of thinking about one’s thinking—allows adult learners the time and space to “wrestle” with a new concept in order to, as Sutherland & Crowder (2006) suggest, think critically for themselves and avoid taking assumptions supporting a certain concept for granted. Reflection also creates space to situate learning in the big picture of work-based goals and the lifetime of learning that serves as the backdrop for any newly-acquired concept or skill.  It is not a coach’s responsibility to enforce reflection as some kind of assessment activity.  Instead, a coach may think of themselves as a guide, helping to create space and structures that allow adult learners to engage in reflection in the first place. Helyer (2015) offers some practical suggestions for what reflection guidance-in-practice might look like, and in my opinion, these are excellent reflective exercises to use at the beginning of a professional learning enterprise: 

  1. Have the learner thoughtfully reflect on a past experience wherein he/she experienced significant learning; what did that look like and feel like?  What was the outcome? 
  1. Remind learners that professional activities and the learning process are intertwined, not separate entities; we learn in the midst of action, reflection just helps us make sense of it before, during, and after. 
  1. Have learners reflect not only on their current focus of study but more generally along their life path; have them consider where they are currently situated in terms of career, personal development, and learning. 
  1. Encourage students to acknowledge what they are already good at, and to think critically about where they might have room for improvement; being self-aware is a key component to reflection. 

There are many ways to promote reflective exercises.  They can be thought, spoken, or written; they can look like mindfulness exercises, journals, or comprehensive reports; they may be oriented towards the individual, pairs, or groups; they may happen before, during, or after an active learning experience take place; they may be linear or cyclical in nature…the list goes on.  But no matter the form, all reflective exercises are worthwhile endeavors that help students make sense of their learning and situate their development properly within their life circumstances. Of course, even while acknowledging that reflection can take many different shapes2, it can certainly be helpful to have some kind of structure to act as a guide, especially where coaching is concerned.  Consequently, as a final thought in this blog post, I’ll leave you with one possible framework for reflection adapted from the work of Bain et al. (2002) by the University of Edinburgh for their “Reflection Toolkit:” The 5R framework for reflection.  This framework helps moves lerners through the key stages of reflecting—usually when reflecting back—with helpful prompt questions to ask along the way: 

Image Source: https://www.ed.ac.uk/reflection/reflectors-toolkit/reflecting-on-experience/5r-framework
  • Reporting of the context of the experience: 
  • What happened? 
  • What are the key aspects of this situation? 
  • Who was involved? 
  • What did I do? 
  • Responding to the experience (observations, feelings, thoughts, etc.) 
  • How did what happened make me feel? 
  • What did I think? 
  • What made me think and feel this way? 
  • Relating the experience to knowledge and skills you already have 
  • Have I seen this before? 
  • What was similar/different then? 
  • Do I have skills and knowledge to deal with this? 
  • Reasoning about the significant factors/theory to explain the experience 
  • What is the most important aspect of this situation and why? 
  • Is there any theoretical literature that can help me make sense of the situation? 
  • How do different perspectives (for example personal, as a student or professional) affect the way I understand the situation? 
  • How would someone who is knowledgeable about these types of situations respond? 
  • Reconstructing your practice by planning future actions for a similar experience 
  • How would I need to do this differently in the future? 
  • What might work and why? 
  • Are there different options? 
  • Are my ideas supported by theory? 
  • Can I make changes to benefit others? 
  • What might happen if…? 

1 Check out the blog post, “Coaching digital immigrants: Considerations for digital equity and inclusion” by higher education instructor Joey Freeman to explore this topic further 

2 Additional practical suggestions for metacognitive exercises may be explored here: https://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/learning-activities/Pages/activities-for-metacognition.aspx 


Brookfield, S. (1995). Adult Learning: An Overview. In A. Tuinjman (Ed.) International Encyclopedia of Education. Pergamon Press. 

Bain, J.D., Ballantyne, R., Mills, C. & Lester, N.C. (2002). Reflecting on practice: Student teachers’ perspectives. Post Pressed. 

Helyer, R. (2015). Learning through reflection: The critical role of reflection in work-based learning (WBL). Journal of Work-Applied Management, 7(1). https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JWAM-10-2015-003/full/html

Marvel, A. (2018, June 7). The place of reflection in PD. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/place-reflection-pd

Merriam, S. (2017). Adult learning theory: Evolution and future directions. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theorists…in their own words (83-96). Routledge.  

Sutherland, P. & Crowther, J. (Eds.) (2006). Lifelong learning: Concepts and contexts. Routledge. 

21st Century Skills in the Higher Education Classroom

The term “21st Century Skills” has been referenced frequently in education circles for over a decade.  Though the educational philosophies and political/economic motivations undergirding these skills originated well before the dawn of the 21st century, the list that coalesced into the 21st Century Skills we recognize in American education today gained prominence with educational initiatives like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) Framework for education (2002) and the Common Core State Standards (2010).  21st Century Skills have been discussed ubiquitously over the years, but generally speaking, 21st Century Skills are “…the knowledge, life skills, career skills, habits, and traits that are critically important to student success in today’s world…” (Buckle, n.d.).  The P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning categorizes 21st Century Skills this way: 

  • Learning Skills: Also known as the “Four Cs”–critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. 
  • Life Skills: Flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity, leadership 
  • Literacy Skills: Information literacy, media literacy, technology literacy 

(Buckle, n.d.) 

Much effort has gone into applying these skills to K-12 education curriculum and standards.  Indeed, the Common Core State Standards are excellent examples of just such an effort.  Another set of standards, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for students, educators, coaches, and educational leaders, are closely tied to the successful integration of 21st Century Skills in classrooms and teacher preparation programs, especially where the last bullet point listed above is concerned.  According to the ISTE website, their standards for technology use and integration have been adopted in all 50 states and in a number of countries across the globe.  They exist as valuable resources and guidance for educators trying to understand how to best integrate technology in their classroom, no matter the age or content. 

A gap exists, however, between K-12 and higher education, such that the standardization of, well…. anything really…in postsecondary education becomes tricky.  Higher education instructors aren’t required to go through any kind of teacher preparation program before they begin teaching, they merely need to be experts in their discipline, and perhaps productive researchers.  Being a good teacher is often just a bonus in higher ed. Thus, credential requirements and State standards for educators don’t apply in higher ed the same way they would in K-12 education or in teacher prep programs.  Neither are there any kind of central, cohesive, discipline-neutral, nationwide standards that define what it means to earn a degree in a particular field and possess the “21st Century Skills” necessary for future success, either at the undergraduate or graduate level.  There may be accreditation guidelines, field-specific certifications, practicums, or comprehensive exams which help structure higher education curricula, but because of the vastly differing needs/demand of higher education disciplines, postsecondary instructors have a great deal of autonomy in their approach to teaching and learning, for better and for worse. 

Technology integration in the higher ed classroom, then, is no exception.  Returning to the concept of 21st Century Skills, high school graduates hardly arrive at higher education institutions in possession of all the 21st Century Skills they need to thrive in the workplace or in society.  If they did, they might be advised to skip college and head straight into the work force. So what kind of 21st Century Skill development is expected of students in postsecondary education?  Are these any different than those expected of students in K-12?  And perhaps most importantly, where should higher education instructors and coaches look for guidance? 

The 21st Century has brought with it a “new learning paradigm” (Kivunja, 2014).  In order for higher education instructors to be effective within this new paradigm, they must first be willing to move away from a teacher-directed model wherein the main objective in a course is transferring content knowledge.  Instead, the slow-moving machine that is higher education must prioritize student-centered learning that promotes an active exchange of ideas, the acquisition of new skills, and the application of those skills to solve problems in real-world situations (Kivunja, 2014).  Roger Brooks of Connecticut College shared his own, similar ideas about 21st Century teaching/learning in higher education in his 2013 Tedx presentation: 

(minutes 10:10-12:00 are most pertinent to this discussion) 

But where to begin?  If a higher education instructor or instructional coach/designer are on board with this paradigm, what are some practical suggestions for how to start transforming teaching/learning in the classroom now?  Perhaps recognizing that there is a gap in resources specifically aimed at supporting instructor training and best practices for student-centered, 21st Century teaching/learning in higher ed, Germaine et al (2016) offer some practical suggestions for integrating the four C’s of 21st Century Learning Skills into postsecondary teaching/learning: 

  1. Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: 
  • Allow student choice to determine areas of research 
  • Encourage students to closely examine values/ideas/concepts and weigh them against their own personal values/ideas/concepts 
  • Provide space for intellectual autonomy 
  1. Communication: 
  • Assign group projects which require successful interpersonal communication to achieve a common goal 
  • Leverage technology to have students communicate ideas in nonverbal ways (graphics, visuals, multi-media) 
  • Create space to consider how communication strategies might differ in global contexts 
  • Review, evaluate, and critique communication efforts 
  1. Collaboration: 
  • Utilize online professional learning communities in which students engage in group problem solving and feedback 
  • Consider how the use of social media, blogs, and discussion forums can be best used to promote student interaction 
  • Use assignments/projects which ask students to connect with those outside their peer group and even the institution 
  1. Creativity/Innovation: 
  • Establish assignments or projects with a clear objective or end goal but with real freedom in deciding how that objective or end goal will be met. 
  • Use concept mapping to help students create unique representations of abstract concepts 
  • Have students “write their own exam” and have them reflect their understanding of a concept by creating their own assessment 

This list of suggestions is hardly exhaustive, but it’s heartening to be reminded of the ways 21st Century Skills can be implemented with versatility and without feeling limited by the parameters of a specific discipline.  It’s also proof that 21st Century Skills, no matter the lists, standards, or frameworks in which they appear (and there are many), are indeed essential to the postsecondary classroom and should not be relegated to the concerns of K-12 teachers and administrators.  Whether higher education instructors need to be pointed to the ISTE standards, the P21 Framework, or some other list of 21st Century Skills, the skills themselves are relevant to learning and student success from preschool to graduate school.  Perhaps what we need is more higher education instructors speaking out about successes in their classrooms and disciplines, inspiring others to think critically and creatively about how 21st Century teaching/learning could be brought to life in their own contexts.  


Brooks, R. (2013, May 26). Rethinking Higher Education for the 21st Century: Roger Brooks at TEDxConnecticutCollege.  Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4avr9l6DTtM 

Buckle, J. (n.d.). A comprehensive guide to 21st Century Skills. Panorama Education. https://www.panoramaed.com/blog/comprehensive-guide-21st-century-skills 

Germaine, R., Richards, J., Koeller, M., Schubert-Irastorza, C. (2016). Purposeful use of 21st Century Skill sin higher education. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching, 9(1), p.19-29. https://www.nu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/journal-of-research-in-innovative-teaching-volume-9.pdf#page=27 

Kivunja, C. (2014). Innovative pedagogies in higher education to become effective teachers of 21st Century Skills: Unpacking the learning and innovations skills domain of the new learning paradigm. International Journal of Higher Education3(4) p37-48. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1067585 

Shoology (2018, November 19). What are the ISTE Standards for Teachers and why are they relevant? Schoology Exchange. https://www.schoology.com/blog/understanding-iste-standards-teachers 

Online Teaching & Learning in Higher Education During COVID-19 & Beyond: Pitfalls & Opportunities for Access & Equity

Like so many other countries across the globe, higher education institutions in South Africa were forced to reckon with a rapid pivot to online teaching/learning in order to maintain operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 26 public universities in South Africa, 25 are residential institutions that did not allow distance education prior to 2014 (Czerniewicz et al., 2020).  This scramble to change modalities in 2020 came on the coattails of nationwide student protests from 2015-2017 during which typical campus activities and courses were repeatedly interrupted at some of the largest public institutions because of the #FeesMustFall movement, a student-led initiative boycotting swift, large, and prohibitive hikes in tuition costs instituted by the South African government. At the heart of the #FeesMustFall movement was attention to the fact that systemic racism and resource inequalities left historically marginalized students most unable to cope with the tuition increase. Unsurprisingly, the scope and scale of online teaching/learning suddenly required during the Pandemic only further accentuated the obvious issues of access and equity as reflected by university students in South Africa, particularly in regards to the digital divide among the South African student population.  When students had access to usual campus infrastructures, they were able to utilize tools like free Wi-Fi, libraries, and computer labs which reduced some level of disparity in regards to technology access (Swartz et al., 2018). When this access was taken away, many existing inequalities were made starkly visible, and students without expansive resource networks were left adrift. 

“Across the nation, the pandemic revealed historic (and mostly forgotten) fault lines, and as silence settled down upon buzzing cities and communities and we all came to a standstill, we were forced to hear the tectonic layers pushing and shoving against one another, tectonic layers of intergenerational inequalities, unheard and ignored for too long.”

Czerniewicz  et al., 2020, para. 14

This quote might just as easily be referring to the United States, especially in the weeks and months following the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020 and the ongoing discourse about racial tensions and inequalities embedded in American systems.  Indeed, the relative ‘silence’ ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the consistent hum of existing inequalities imbedded within communities, throughout countries, and across international borders which significantly impacted the ability for students at all levels to continue in their learning (or not).

Internet users in 2012 as a percentage of a country’s population
Source: International Telecommunications Union.

In light of the socio-political factors influencing teaching/learning in COVID-19, Czerniewicz et al. (2020) set out to analyze how issues of equity and inequality played out in the pivot to online teaching/learning in South African higher education during the pandemic, and how these concerns might have implications or offer guidance for the educational enterprise post-pandemic. In this case study, nine themes on access & equity emerged which, almost certainly, will find echoes among educators and school administrators worldwide.  Some themes serve as cautions and highlight system failures, while some highlight the possibilities and opportunities afforded through online teaching/learning: 

  1. Inequalities Made Visible: the crisis made preexisting inequalities and infrastructure failures starkly visible; this included poorly-constructed pedagogies that previously failed to meet the varied and nuanced needs of real university students (as opposed to the disembodied ‘ideal’ student), crisis notwithstanding. 
  1. Imbedded in Context: the sudden shift to online teaching/learning took place within embedded contexts where gender, culture, race, geopolitical context, etc., played a part in a student’s lived experience; all influencing factors must be considered intersectionally in the learning environment, online or otherwise. 
  1. Multimodal Strategies: it became clear that in order to even come close to meeting student needs for remote learning, a ‘multimodal’ or ‘hyflex’ approach was required; this meant course content had to be highly accessible through multiple media formats, some of which were not digital. 
  1. Making a Plan: pre-existing emergency plans for instruction at both the institutional and instructional level are a necessity and must include provisions for unreliable electrical power or internet access. 
  1. Digital Literacy: student levels of digital literacy and capacity for effective navigation of e-learning tools cannot be assumed; neither can assumptions be made of the faculty/staff responsible for implementing digital learning tools. 
  1. Places of Learning: in lockdown, many students, faculty, & staff, no longer had a dedicated space to be able to engage in their scholastic duties. Students/faculty/staff were unevenly impacted and had to make substantially different sacrifices depending on their circumstances (e.g. parents with young children at home, students caring for elderly relatives, etc.) 
  1. Parity of Pedagogy: the crisis forced learning design to become more student-centered than ever before. Though there were certainly gaps and failings, instructors were re-thinking assessment strategies and intervention options in comprehensive ways.  
  1. Sectoral Stratification: similar to the first theme, the pandemic highlighted existing inequalities, this time at the institutional level.  Larger/smaller, urban/rural, ranked/not ranked universities all faced different kinds of obstacles. Historically advantaged institutions fared better in their emergency responses. 
  1. Social Responsibility in Higher Education: The boundaries between higher education and larger society are porous. Universities cannot pretend they are neutral when it comes to social and economic inequities. 

Perhaps central to each of these themes is a need for student-centered learning design and careful consideration for the extent to which stakeholders have access to internet and a suitable device.  The pandemic has shown the urgent need to teach and support student learning no matter where they live or what resources they personally possess (Correia, 2020).  In support of the third theme listed above (multimodal pedagogical strategies), Correia (2020) offers an array of concrete tools and strategies for low-bandwidth online teaching/learning that can help mitigate the impacts of the digital divide in digital education environments: 

  1. Start designing a course with three assumptions in mind:  1) The student may have limited bandwidth, data, or internet access with which to participate in the course 2) The student may be much less familiar with the technology being used than the instructor, and 3) They may not have access to tech equipment like cameras, printers, and scanners 
  1. Make frequent contact and learn about student accessibility needs. Consider the use of postal mail (with postage cost covered), landline phone calls, chat check-ins, and asynchronous video messages. 
  1. Consider how to incorporate a students’ informal learning and life experiences into course assignments and objectives; in other words, lean in to student learning that occurs offline.
  1. Use free resources and tools profusely. OER Commons is just one example of a public digital library of open educational resources. Bear in mind, however, that where assignments are concerned, internet access may bar frequent usage, even if the tool is free.  
  1. Utilize pre-recorded lectures and transcripts for students unable to join synchronous video conferences 
  1. Use audio recordings as educational resources (e.g. podcasts), as well as for instructor-student communication.  Audio recordings often result in fewer tech issues and use less bandwidth; they mitigate the need for a camera along with possible feelings of intrusion or shyness that cameras can bring. 
  1. Use alternative forms of assessment which may include portfolios, open book examinations, or discussion forums. 

Of course, COVID-19 did not usher in the dawn of online education.  The demand for digital education in its various forms has been growing steadily over the course of the last decade, even prior to the pandemic (Xie et al., 2020). It’s increase in popularity can largely be credited to the possibilities it provides for access and equity, including opportunities for flexibility, efficiency, the promotion of innovative and student-centered teaching strategies, access to varied (and often free) sources of information, access to global research and collaboration, and increased access/reduced costs for higher education, especially for students who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend a residential university (Xie et al., 2020). The comprehensive demands for remote teaching/learning during the pandemic has merely accelerated the adoption and acceptance of online teaching/learning in all kinds of educational settings, and it’s fair to assume that a certain level of online teaching/learning integration will define the “new normal” in education moving forward (Xie et al., 2020).  Educators and educational institutions, then, must be able to recognize the potential pitfalls for access and equity as it pertains to digital education.  To the extent that online teaching/learning is here to stay, educators can’t afford to ignore student needs and the ways online teaching/learning might be insufficient to meet them.  And yet, there remains significant potential. 

“[The pandemic] has brought into focus numerous examples of extraordinary resilience, networks and…unexpected alliances of collaboration and support, including inspiring creativity, examples of technology used for equity purposes and moments of optimism. …There is an opportunity in the moment for genuine equity-focused innovation, policymaking, provision and pedagogy.” 

Czerniewicz et al., 2020


Correia, A. (2020).  Healing the digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarterly Review of Distance Education 21(1), 13-21. https://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=a9h&AN=146721348&site=ehost-live 

Czerniewicz, L., Agherdien, N., Badenhorst, J., Belluigi, D., Chambers, T., Chili, M., de Villiers, M., Felix, W., Gachago, D., Gokhale, C., Ivala, E., Kramm, N., Madiba, M., Mistri, G., Mgqwashu, E., Pallitt, N., Prinsloo, P., Solomon, L., … Wissing, G. (2020). A wake-up call: Equity, inequality and Covid-19 emergency remote teaching and learning. Postdigital Science and Education2, 946–967. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00187-4 

Swartz, B.C., Gachago, D. & Belford, C. (2018). To care or not to care – reflections on the ethics of blended learning in times of disruption. South African Journal of Higher Education 32(6), 49‒64. 

Xie, X., Siau, K., & Nah, F. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic – online education in the new normal and the next normal.  Journal of Information Technology Case and Application Research 22(2). https://doi.org/10.1080/15228053.2020.1824884 

EDTC 6104 Community Engagement Project – Professional Development Workshop for Resilient Pedagogy

For this quarter’s Community Engagement Project I have been tasked with creating a professional learning presentation or workshop on a topic of my choice which would be used to engage and provide professional growth for a selected audience. This project is meant to demonstrate my understanding of the performance indicators for ISTE Coaching Standard 3. The following is a framework for the construction of my professional development workshop for resilient pedagogy (RP).

ISTE Coaching Standard 3

  • 3a Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.
  • 3b Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.
  • 3c Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.
  • 3d Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.

Intended Audience:  

The intended audience is higher education instructors from all over the world.  This will include attendees to a virtual Global Symposium and a group of instructors from a higher education institution in Indonesia participating in virtual PD workshops. 

Chosen Topic:  

The topic for this PD presentation will be Resilient Pedagogy (RP), both theory and practice. RP is an emerging instructional philosophy/framework with extremely timely implications for this current moment in education and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the many unknowns that may introduce themselves in the form of future crisis or disruption.  Though facets of RP have long been practiced by educators in the form of classroom differentiation, and though other frameworks like Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) inform resilient pedagogy, Rebecca Quintana and her colleagues at the University of Michigan have attempted to define a more expansive type of differentiation by building upon these approaches to instructional design and extending beyond them, bringing to the forefront the need for instructors to be agile and intentional in all educational contexts, but especially in moments of crisis and change.  More than just a fancy synonym for differentiation, resilient pedagogy can be defined as “…the ability to facilitate learning experiences that are designed to be adaptable to fluctuating conditions and disruptions.”  Resilient teaching is an approach that “take[s] into account how a dynamic learning context may require new forms of interactions between teachers, students, content, and tools,” and those who practice resilient pedagogy have the capacity to rethink the design of learning experiences based on a nuanced understanding of context (Quintana & DeVaney, 2020, para. 8).  The key to resilient teaching is a focus on the interactions that facilitate learning, including all the ways that teachers and students need to communicate with one another and actively engage with the learning material.  

My intent is to create a workshop that introduces the basic tenets of RP to participating instructors, offers practical examples or RP, provides inspiration and opportunity for implementing RP, and, ultimately, helps build resilience in educators in the long term.

Event Description:

This PD material will be used in two settings: 1) a virtual, Global Research Symposium in which academics and higher education instructors from all over the world will be in attendance, sharing with and learning from one another’s research enterprises 2) a PD workshop for a university in Indonesia.  The Global Symposium will consist solely of a pre-recorded presentation, 12 minutes in length, with some opportunity for follow-up discussions in breakout rooms. The PD workshop will have opportunities for follow-up activities which extend beyond the pre-recorded presentation.

Concerns for this project include the fact that I must make considerations for an international audience.  Providing transcripts, for example, will be important given the fact that, for many attendees, English is not their first language (though they are fluent).  Additionally, since I am not currently employed as a higher education instructor or learning designer, establishing trust/rapport with the intended audience may take some extra consideration.


The pre-recorded presentation of RP content and case study examples is 12 minutes; 12 minutes reflects the presentation timing restraint given for the Global Symposium. However, there will be extended activities and reflection questions for use in a PD workshop space.  Time allotted may vary depending on the workshop schedule, but my thought is that the presentation (12 minutes) and follow-up activities (30-45 minutes) might be a total of 60 minutes in an active workshop session, not including any additional applications instructors may want to add on their own time.  In the workshop, time will be prioritized for instructor reflection and active participation with colleagues vs. lecture/presentation time.  I am creating follow-up activities under the assumption that attendees will participate synchronously in an online format, and I may or may not be the one leading the actual follow-up activities.

Active and engaged learning/collaborative participation

This slide deck is a framework for follow-up activities, engaging attendees with reflection questions, group discussions, and suggestions for practical application.  A summary of the framework is as follows:

  • Opportunity for brief social-emotional connection via a simple “What dog do you feel like today” slide; participants can respond in the chat with a number corresponding to the dog they associate with.  It’s silly and lighthearted.
  • Brief recap of the most important points from the RP presentation
  • 3 slides with reflection questions, each tailored to a different design principle of resilient pedagogy.  Ideally these questions would be discussed among peer instructors who work in the same department (i.e. group discussion).
  • An activity/exercise which asks instructors to workshop one of their own courses for extensibility.  A sample product is shown in the slide deck to model and help with direction.  The hope is that instructors will each work on their own course while actively collaborating and sharing ideas with members of their discussion group.

Address content knowledge needs

This presentation/workshop on the theory and practice of RP gives educators a chance to explore new instructional strategies (ISTE standard 3a), consider use of new digital tools and resources for varied mediums of instruction (ISTE standards 3c and 3d), and build their own resilience (ISTE standard 3b) so that they are better prepared to meet the fluctuating needs of their students–especially in moments of crisis–in the future.  Instructors will be invited to reflect upon barriers that may exist in their own contexts preventing them from practicing RP more robustly.  Additionally, instructors will be given the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues on possible applications of RP in their course designs.

Address teachers’ needs/presentation artifacts:

  • The original slide decks will be shared with attendees/instructors ahead of time so that they may keep it for their own reference, view it ahead of time, and have access to references and resources with live links. 
    • A link to the slide deck for the pre-recorded presentation is here.  It is only visible to those within my university organization for the time being
    • A link to the workshop framework slide deck is, once again, here.
  • A recording of the presentation without captions will be provided separately as one of the deliverables for this project.  Captions have been edited and a version of the recording with cc is available. I will not be sharing a link to the presentation in this blog post until after a pending publication on this RP material is released.
  • Additionally, a written transcript for the recording is available here.  If a video platform does not easily allow for uploading the closed captions for presentation, the transcript document is both a back-up plan (redundancy!) and a possible supplement to the existing captions.

Standards reflection

This presentation/workshop on the theory and practice of RP gives educators a chance to explore new instructional strategies (ISTE standard 3a), consider use of new digital tools and resources for varied mediums of instruction (ISTE standards 3c and 3d), and build their own resilience (ISTE standard 3b) so that they are better prepared to meet the fluctuating needs of their students–especially in moments of crisis–in the future.  Examples of each are provided below.

  • 3a Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies.
    • The workshop invites educators to think about resilient pedagogy as an approach to instructional design which helps make courses resistant to disruption. 
    • This presentation and follow-up workshop gives practical guidance for what it looks like to design a course for extensibility, flexibility, and redundancy.
  • 3b Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.
    • Takeaways can be immediately applicable, and the topic is especially relevant given the many ongoing challenges faced by schools and universities during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It’s meeting higher education instructors where they’re at and speak into the experiences and challenges they’ve already faced over the last year and a half.
    • Instructors are encouraged to make the learning relevant to their specific discipline and teaching role.  They are also encouraged to think critically about their own course design and reflect on their approach to teaching/learning, which is always valuable.
  • 3c Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.
    • Opportunities for reflection are provided, including questions which ask instructors to reflect on their relationships to the digital tools they use (or would like to learn to use) in their teaching. For example:
      • What new educational technology tools or platforms could you experiment with as you think about adapting a course for different modalities?
      • Do you know how you would approach teaching a course if students had unreliable internet access?
  • 3d Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.
    • The workshop slidedeck models a possible way to plan a course with extensibility in mind.  It helps educators take concrete next steps towards resilience.

I look forward to delivering this project to real instructors in higher education with hopes that the theory and practical application of RP will be a source of inspiration, confidence, and clarity in the ever-changing landscape of teaching and learning, especially with the continued unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.


May 23, 2022:

Building on the foundation set forth above, I have created a screencast on the theory and practice of RP to be used as a resource for higher education instructional faculty. This screencast is 13 minutes long and may be used as an asynchronous option when a live presentation/workshop isn’t an option.