Learning Analytics in Higher Education: What’s Working?

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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 

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.

“Put me in, Coach:” A Brief Look at Best Practices for Instructional Coaching in Higher Education

In 2020, Apple TV’s comedy series Ted Lasso starring Jason Sudeikis became an unlikely hit after its debut season, earning rave reviews, excellent ratings, and a platform as a quirky source of inspiration for coaches–and really just ordinary people–everywhere.  The premise of the show has fictional American football coach, the mustachioed Ted Lasso, recruited to coach a British Premier football (soccer) team, a sport which he knows nothing about.  He’s been recruited by an embittered and recently-divorced club owner who wants to see the team fail miserably in order to get back at her ex-husband.  As the season unfolds, Ted Lasso’s folksy wisdom, relentless optimism, vulnerability, and refreshing and profound decency eventually win over the skeptics, both in the show and in real life.

Image Source https://www.si.com/soccer/2021/07/22/ted-lasso-season-two-preview-jason-sudeikis-apple-tv

Indeed, professional athletic coaches such as Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz and Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors have come out in support of the show and the coaching prowess of its lead (Cohen, 2021).  Snyder was even quoted saying that “[Ted Lasso] should be required watching for coaches” (Cohen, 2021).  Among Ted Lasso’s most notable coaching attributes are his:

  1. Commitment to having a short memory for failure while simultaneously building self-efficacy and resilience in his players
  2. Openness to modeling vulnerability, curiosity, and personal growth
  3. Ability to empower other leaders around him
  4. Varied approaches to coaching different individuals on the team depending on their individual needs, personalities, and backgrounds

Now of course I’m referencing a fictional television series geared at athletic coaching which can only go so far, but I think some of these “stand out” tactics of Mr. Lasso’s are relatable for a reason. As journalist Ben Cohen puts it in his 2021 Wall Street Journal article, “Why Real Coaches Want to be Ted Lasso”:

“There is a takeaway from the series…that applies to any line of work: The best coaches are the best managers of people.”

Ben Cohen, Wall Street Journal

Thus, as I turn to look at instructional coaching relationships in the world of higher education, there are many aspects of “what makes a good coach” that are universal to effective leaders and, dare I say, teachers in all kinds of contexts.  After all, what is a good coach if not a good teacher? What is a teacher if not a ‘manager of people’? Perhaps we are all wise to think on the attributes of a good coach, regardless of whether or not our job titles imply that we are as much.

Anderson and Wallin (2018) offer some excellent “empirical tips” for instructional coaches to help us get started.  You’ll see that many of them, at their core, overlap nicely with some of Ted Lasso’s coaching “best practices” listed above.

  1. Build Relationships: Nothing meaningful can be accomplished without trust and respect between the coach and the coachee.  This takes time.  Establishing trust may even require that coaches acknowledge where their own shortcomings in skills/experience are in order to better listen to and learn from those whom they are coaching.  
  2. Remain Connected to Students: Stay active, connected, and relevant. In other words, “practice what you preach.” Trust and respect are harder to establish with instructors when there is a disconnect between the coach and what’s going on in classrooms.  If possible, continue teaching in some capacity while in a coaching position.
  3. Develop Leadership Skills: Maintain a growth mindset and actively seek out ways to improve upon the coaching and leadership skills you already possess.
  4. Model for Teachers: Be prepared to demonstrate.  Don’t just tell people to “go do” something; focus on active learning opportunities and practical takeaways that can be modeled for those being coached.
  5. Build in Planning Time: Allow for one-on-one time to come alongside those being coached and address their needs individually.  Collaboratively work with educators during this time to plan and implement new strategies. Treat instructors as partners in the process.
  6. Remain Focused on the Goal: It’s easy to be distracted by all the things that might be addressed by an instructional coach, and no single coach can be all things to all teachers.  Lean into your particular areas of expertise and stay attuned to the specific ways you’ll be best equipped to improve instruction.

Of course, when it comes to focusing on your goals as an instructional coach, much will depend on context, and higher education is its own unique ecosystem of teaching and learning.  Higher education is notoriously slow-moving in its shift away from a traditional, lecture-based classroom format.  Reasons for this are many, but they certainly include 1) time constraints for faculty, 2) lack of proper training in teaching practice, and 3) conflicts with instructors’ existing beliefs about teaching and learning (Czajka & McConnell, 2016).  There can also be a tension between faculty members’ prioritization of research activities over and above investing in the improvement of teaching practice, depending on their campus culture and which part of their job has a greater influence on their own professional identity (Czajka & McConnell, 2016).  This, then, is the unpredictable instructional landscape instructional designers/coaches in higher education must navigate.

Czajka & McConnell (2016) conducted a case study wherein an instructor from a large research institution was invited to work with an instructional coach to reform a course taught frequently to undergraduate students. The work in this case study is referred to as “situated instructional coaching.”  Situated instructional coaching has a qualified collaborator (i.e someone familiar with the subject/discipline/curriculum in question) working one-on-one with an instructor to change a course design over time, including class observations and feedback on real-time delivery, as well as creating opportunities for the instructors to reflect on the changes. In its original format, the instructor’s course for this case study was very much lecture-based and revolved around lengthy PowerPoint presentations delivered over the course of 75-minute class sessions twice per week. 

Image Source https://www.society19.com/free-things-to-do-when-youre-bored-and-in-college/

However, after working closely with an instructional coach and implementing changes to her course design and delivery in three phases, the instructor demonstrated measurable changes in attitudes regarding her perceptions of “what worked” when it came to teaching and learning while also implementing changes to her course that were notably more student-centered (such as breakout discussions in small groups).

According to this case study, the situated instructional coaching model seemed to work particularly well in a higher education setting. Having a collaborator who can aid in revisions can significantly reduce the time burden of recreating a course (which is often a major deterrent for faculty).  Additionally, since training is specific to the discipline and occurring in the classroom in real time, instructors are not investing time to attend general training workshops, listen to talks, or read and interpret unfamiliar literature as additive activities on top of their already-full schedules, nor are they having to wonder how certain strategies will actually translate into their specific field of study. Situated instructional coaching occurs in the midst of their normal teaching responsibilities, with feedback and opportunities for reflection provided immediately by the coach (Czajka & McConnell, 2016). It’s worthwhile to imagine how instructional coaches in higher education might ‘situate’ themselves on their own campuses to be the most helpful and relevant to the instructors they hope to assist.

If I may conclude with a return to Ted Lasso, we must remember that coaches and instructors are all on the same team and they need one another to meet their goals. The coach succeeds when the the player/instructor they’re working with succeeds. When coaches seek to openly collaborate with the individuals they’re coaching, faithfully modeling best practices in teaching and investing in the specific needs of the individuals they’re assisting, much growth is possible. And perhaps at the end of the day, it’s more important to see players improve and grow over the course of the season then walk away with the championship trophy.


Anderson, V. & Wallin, P. (2018). Instructional Coaching: Enhancing Instructional Leadership in Schools. National Teacher Education Journal 11(2), 53-59.

Cohen, B. (2021, July 14). Why real coaches want to be Ted Lasso. Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/ted-lasso-nba-coaches-11626232223

Czajka, C.D. & McConnell, D. (2016). Situated instructional coaching: a case study of faculty professional development. International Journal of STEM Education 3(10). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-016-0044-1

Culturally Responsive Teaching in Digital Learning Environments

In 1994, author and educator Gloria Ladson-Billings introduced the term “culturally relevant pedagogy” into the vernacular of the education world.  This term was used to describe an approach to teaching that engages learners whose experiences and cultures have traditionally been excluded from mainstream settings.  Building on the work of Ladson-Billings, in 2010, Geneva Gay sought to further operationalize this idea  and started using the term “culturally responsive teaching” (CRT) to refer to the use of “cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them.” (Gay, 2010, p.31)

Since 2010, many educational researchers have built upon the original work of Ladson-Billings and the core principles behind CRT to produce meaningful research about best practices in teaching that, ultimately, improve academic outcomes and help develop positive cultural identities for historically marginalized students.

But what about a digital environment?  What does CRT look like in practice when teaching and learning are mediated through technology?  This post seeks to explore some effective examples of CRT at work in digital classrooms, especially in higher education environments.

To begin with, it will be helpful to further flesh out what CRT “looks like” in a general sense.  According to Gay (2010), effective CRT will be:

  1. Validating: CRT utilizes cultural knowledge, worldviews, background experience, and performance styles to make learning encounters relevant and effective for students while affirming their differing strengths and contributions to a classroom environment.
  2. Comprehensive: CRT will support students of color in maintaining connections with their communities while cultivating an ethos of camaraderie and shared responsibility; acquiring individual skills and knowledge  will not be held separate from the development of the whole learner.
  3. Multi-dimensional: CRT will require attention to curriculum, context, climate, instructional techniques, classroom management, assessment, and student-teacher dynamics and the role each of these plays in a learning environment.
  4. Empowering: CRT will promote personal confidence, courage, and initiative on the part of the student, ultimately enabling students to be better human beings.
  5. Transformative: CRT is explicit about respecting the cultures and experiences of traditionally under- and misrepresented populations (especially African American, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian students), and it recognizes existing strengths in these students that may be further enhanced in the learning process.
  6. Emancipatory: CRT resists the constraints of the historical norms in education and expands ways of knowing in a manner that is psychologically and intellectually liberating.  This requires making authentic knowledge about different ethnic groups accessible to students and acknowledging learner agency in course design.

Woodley et al. (2017) offer some excellent examples of CRT in an online classroom that use these six principles as the framework and rationale:

Sample ASample BSample C
ValidatingPre-assess technology comfort levelIncorporate student introductions. Asking specific questions about students’ cultural identities/ backgrounds and providing examples can help students feel comfortable in sharing (Rhodes & Schmidt, 2018)Utilize an icebreaker activity or question that provides a platform for establishing social presence
Comprehensive &Multi-dimensionalAssign projects with opportunities for exploring possible solutions to issues of equity and social justice (also Emancipatory)Use a discussion board as a platform for a respectful debate where multiple solutions or perspectives can be exploredCreate pathways for students to use different mediums for turning in work; this may include options for submitting directly to an instructor and not on a public board
Empowering & EmancipatoryCreate opportunities for leadership or facilitation of group work and discussions for all studentsAllow students to co-design the course and establish mutually-agreed upon norms (Rhodes & Schmidt, 2018)Let student interest drive discussions and deliverables with relevant application to their own lives as a motivating factor
TransformativeProvide program and/or course orientations to help build community and comfort levels in an online environmentCreate opportunities for weekly synchronous or asynchronous course discussions among classmatesShare knowledge; utilize student presentations for assignments

Each of the above samples were drawn from the expertise of instructors in a higher education context, but many–if not all–can easily translate to a physical classroom (perhaps using technology to enhance the activity), and/or a K-12 learning environment.  The thread that runs throughout each of these examples is the student-centered nature of CRT.  Student self-expression, tech-supported or otherwise, allows students to “…name their own reality.  Teachers, in turn, are able to foster a space where their students’ lived experiences are legitimized and incorporated into the ‘official’ curriculum” (Frederick et al., 2009, p. 11).

When it comes to technology’s potential for supporting student-self-expression, Ferlazzo (2020) highlights some recent, “teacher approved” digital tools and platforms that have worked well for online teaching/learning, especially as they have proved their merit for online teaching/learning during the pandemic.  Each has the ability to put the elements of instructional design listed above into practice.

  1. Flipgrid:   At its most basic, this free tool can be used by students and instructors to produce short video introductions at the beginning of an online class to increase social presence, but it also has the ability to support video dialogue betweens students.  This increases opportunities for collaboration, response, and expression.   Additionally, “English- and world-language learners can practice new speaking skills while previewing and editing their video responses as they master pronunciation” (Ferlazzo, para.15).
  2. Google Slides: Also free and easy to use, when students have editing access to a Google Slide deck they can collaborate, observe, and modify each other’s work in real time creating a much more interactive classroom experience which also gives opportunities for students to act as co-constructors of learning.
  3. Peardeck:  Easily integrated with Google Slides, Peardeck allows various add-ons to be shared on slides during a synchronous class session including various types of formative assessments (polls, matching, multiple choice, etc.), drawing boards, interactive questions, audio recordings, etc.  Peardeck helps create varied ways for students to express themselves and their learning in a digital classroom.
  4. Padlet: Often used like a virtual whiteboard, Padlet is a great way to share thoughts in real time in a virtual class.  The image search option is oft-cited as a nice option for students to vary their mode of expression online, especially for English Language Learners.
  5. Quizizz, Baamboozle and Kahoot: These are (also free) online game/quiz platforms which can easily be used for assessments or reinforcement activities and are especially helpful in online environments when completed by teams/small groups.  Additionally, problem-based learning can be used to make learning meaningful/relatable to students, and to help them engage in critical inquiry (Rhodes & Schmidt, 2018).

Some additional suggestions I’ve come across include:

  1. iMovie:  If students have access to this app already on a personal device (often included for free with Apple products), iMovie is an approachable way for students to create more detailed and creative video responses for a project or presentation wherein they can also see themselves reflected (perhaps literally) in the final product.  The final product can then be shared out to their classmates in either a synchronous or asynchronous fashion.  A video production is also a good example of an alternative form of assessment.
  2. Kialo:  Free for educators, Kialo is a tool designed to frame a debate or map a logical argument. It’s specifically designed for classroom use and promotes thoughtful collaboration and critical thinking while helping students construct well-reasoned arguments on important topics.

At the end of the day, culturally responsive educators are reflective.  They continually examine their own cultural perspectives and biases to ensure that they are creating environments that are supportive to all learners, and they continually think critically about their course design (Rhodes & Schmidt, 2018).  To conclude, then, I’d like to leave you with a set of meaningful reflection questions from Rhodes & Schmidt’s 2018 article, “Culturally responsive Teaching in the Online Classroom” which may prove helpful as you ponder the design of your own learning environments and experiences, now and into the future.


  • How do I acknowledge the cultural identities, such as racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and gender identities, of my students?
  • How do I learn about my students and what they feel is important about the learning experience?
  • How do I encourage my students to connect with their classmates?
  • How do I ensure that students feel free to point out class policies that they feel are discriminatory or biased?


  • How do I help learners feel positively about content and the learning process, in addition to incorporating learner autonomy into curricular planning?
  • How do I encourage students to communicate with each other and with me on a deep and meaningful level?
  • How do I incorporate materials and resources that represent the diverse backgrounds of my students?


  • How do I help students connect to the material in ways that are based in critical reflection and critical inquiry?
  • How do I incorporate a variety of learning activities and instructional practices?
  • How do I integrate practical applications into learning activities
  • How do I require students to examine the curriculum from multiple perspectives?


  • How do I use authentic and effective assessment that allows them to demonstrate mastery in a variety of ways?
  • How do I encourage students to take ownership of the learning process?
  • How do I create space for students to assess their own learning?


Ferlazzo, L. (2020, November 8). 10 favorite online teaching tools used by educators this year. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-10-favorite-online-teaching-tools-used-by-educators-this-year/2020/11

Frederick, R., Donnor, J., & Hatley, L. (2009). Culturally responsive applications of computer technologies in education: Examples of best practice. Educational Technology, 49(6), 9-13. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44429734

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. Teachers College Press.

Rhodes, C. & Schmidt, S., (2018, November). Culturally responsive teaching in the online classroom. E-Learn Magazine. https://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=3274756

Woodley, X., Hernandez, C., Parra, J., & Negasj, B., (2017). Celebrating difference: Best practices in culturally responsive teaching online. TechTrends 61, 470–478. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0207-z 

Professional Development & Technology in Higher Education: What’s Working?

As a former classroom teacher, I am deeply aware of the potential professional development (PD) activities have to positively improve teaching practice; it’s the same potential that PD has to overwhelm instructors and use up valuable time, energy, and resources that might have been used elsewhere in jam-packed school schedules.

When it comes to effective use of educational technology and online teaching in particular, thoughtful, engaging, and practical PD is essential.  Of course, with the onset of COVID-19, schools and instructors at every level were required to make rapid, comprehensive pivots to online teaching and learning, and ed tech specialists, coaches, and instructional designers found their hands full with the overwhelming need for support and training teachers needed in a condensed time frame. There’s no doubt that the emergency shift to online teaching and learning necessitated by the pandemic was immensely challenging for both students and educators, but it’s also fair to say that there has been more than a few success stories related to online teaching and learning, some of them because of effective PD efforts that were made well in advance of the pandemic.  Considering this, I am curious to explore some recent exemplars of professional development activities in higher education related to pivots to online teaching/learning, COVID-related or otherwise.

To frame this exploration, it’s helpful to first examine some of the research shaping current approaches to PD in education. In 2014, the Boston Consulting Group working on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 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.  Reasons cited included a disconnect between classroom observations by administrators and meaningful coaching interactions, a lack of trust or authority from those leading the PD initiatives, PD presented as an exercise in compliance instead of a meaningful opportunity for growth, lack of opportunity for collaboration with peers, lack of choice, and lack of relevance to immediate needs (BCG, 2014). 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). 

Image Source, BCG (2014)

These findings were also supported by Cho & Rathburn’s 2013 case study on PD in higher education. Similar to the findings of the Boston Consulting Group, Cho & Rathburn (2013) found that a traditional workshop format for higher education PD constrained active participation, collaboration, and the creation of usable knowledge for teaching.  Cho & Rathburn (2013) proposed a problem-based learning framework for PD in higher education which:

  1. Lets relevant problems guide the learning activities
  2. Has participants self-direct their learning and take responsibility for knowledge acquisition
  3. Encourages social interaction and collaborative knowledge construction among instructors. 

Data from this particular case study supported a teacher-centered approach to PD. It was favored by university instructors and facilitated the creation of usable knowledge which could be immediately applicable in their own teaching contexts.  In this case study, the PD opportunities were provided online and asynchronously in order to counteract constraints of time and place and allow instructors to engage with the PD as it was fitting for their individual departments (Cho & Rathburn, 2013).

In another look at PD initiatives in higher education, Schildkamp et al. (2020) make note of the presence of certain “building blocks” which made for effective professional development and use of educational technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In this research, the two PD initiatives examined by Shildkamp et al. (2020) were effective because they prioritized:

  1. The effective use of technology and ways it might need to be customizable to specific content area needs
  2. Active learning activities supported by experts
  3. Clearly defined goals focused on the instructor’s own practice and use of technology with attention to long-term sustainability
Image Source: https://www.eventbrite.com/blog/eventbrite-academy-create-better-events-ds00/

In an effort to highlight and streamline some of the similarities and standouts of the research initiatives mentioned above, I find it helpful to reference Vicki Davis’s list of tips for highly effective PD activities that can serve as a meaningful guide for PD facilitators and coaches in any academic environment (Davis, 2015):

1. Use What You Are Teaching: don’t just lecture about a helpful strategy or tool, model it and have participants actively engage with it

2. Develop Something That You’ll Use Right Away: if it’s relevant, instructors should be able to implement a takeaway within a few weeks

3. Receive Feedback: create opportunity for feedback on the PD “session” as well as peer-to-peer feedback on implementation of the takeaway

4. Improve and Level Up: create opportunities to workshop the initial takeaway with ongoing PD and support; effective PD isn’t “one and done” 

5. Local Responsibility and Buy-In: institutional/school-wide support is needed, it’s not just the responsibility of teachers/instructors to internalize and implement PD initiatives

6. Long-Term Focus: avoid the temptation to chase fads or take a “flavor of the week” approach to PD (especially in regards to technology) which can make takeaways feel disconnected, erratic, and short-lived; make sure PD aligns meaningfully with long-term goals of the school/district/institution 

7. Good Timing: consider the larger ebb and flow of the academic calendar and when instructors will be in the best position to be fully present for a PD initiative

8. Empower Peer Collaboration: give teachers/instructors the time and opportunity to learn from one another.

Finally, I’d like to highlight a comprehensive example of effective PD for online learning sourced from a community college in Hawaii.  This approach to PD places professors in the seat of the student in an online learning context, and it puts many of the tips listed above into action.  At Kapi’olani Community College on the island of Oahu, Instructional Designer Helen Torigoe was charged with training faculty in the process of converting courses for online delivery (this was prior to the onset of the pandemic).   In response, Torigoe created the Teaching Online Prep Program (TOPP) (Schauffhauser, 2019). In TOPP, faculty participate in an online course model as a student, using their own first-hand experience in the program to inform their course creation.  As they participate in the course, faculty are able to use the technology that they will be in charge of as an instructor (which include programs like Zoom, Padlet, Flipgrid, Adobe Spark, Loom, and Screencast-O-Matic), gaining comfort and ease with the tools and increasing their overall digital literacy.  Faculty also get a comprehensive sense for the student experience while concurrently creating an actual course template that they will use in the near future.  Instructors receive guidance, feedback, and support from the TOPP course coordinator and their peers in the course. Such training is mandatory for anybody teaching online for the first time at Kapi’olani Community College. A “Recharge” workshop has also been created to help faculty engage in continued learning for best practice in digital education.  This ensures that faculty do not become static in their teaching methods as they are consistently exposed to new tools and strategies, while also gleaning reminders and refresh opportunities in support of long-term sustainability (Schauffhauser, 2019).  Institutions that participate in online education need to provide adequate training in both pedagogical issues and technology-related skills for their faculty, not only when developing and teaching online courses for the first time, but as an ongoing priority in faculty professional development (Bolliger et al., 2014).

I am curious to know how Kapi’olani Community College fared during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and how faculty and students dealt with the switch to fully remote learning, especially those who weren’t previously involved with distance learning initiatives.  Was TOPP used to onboard instructors who previously only taught face to face?  Did faculty feel like they had the resources and training they needed to make the switch more effectively than colleagues at other institutions?  These aren’t questions I have answers to, but I venture to guess that faculty and instructional designers at Kapi’olani Community College did indeed have a leg up because of the prior investments the institution had already made in timely, meaningful, applicable, teacher-driven, problem-based, technology-rich, and sustainable PD.


Bolliger, D. U., Inan, F. A., & Wasilik, O. (2014). Development and Validation of the Online Instructor Satisfaction Measure (OISM). Educational Technology Society, 17(2), 183–195.

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

Cho, M. & Rathbun, G. (2013). Implementing teacher-centred online teacher professional development (oTPD) programme in higher education: a case study. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 50(2), 144-156. 10.1080/14703297.2012.760868

Davis, V. (2015, April 15). 8 Top Tips for Highly Effective PD. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/top-tips-highly-effective-pd-vicki-davis

Schaffhauser, Dian. (2019, October 30). Improving online teaching through training and support. Campus Technology. https://campustechnology.com/articles/2019/10/30/improving-online-teaching-through-training-and-support.aspx

Schildkamp, K., Wopereis, I., Kat-De Jong, M., Peet, A. & Hoetjes, I. (2020). Building blocks of instructor professional development for innovative ICT use during a pandemic. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3/4), pp. 281-293. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPCC-06-2020-0034

Resilient pedagogy: The professional development opportunity educators need now more than ever

Resilient pedagogy is an emerging instructional philosophy with extremely timely implications for this current moment in education and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Though facets of resilient pedagogy 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” (Quintana & DeVaney, 2020, para. 8). 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” (Quintana & DeVaney, 2020, para. 8), 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).  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 (Hart-Davidson, 2020). 

“Teachers often plan carefully for delivering content…but when it comes to planning interactions, we can easily take this very important component of learning for granted.”

(Hart-Davidson, 2020, para. 5)

In 2020, Rebecca Quintana and the University of Michigan released a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) via Coursera titled “Resilient Teaching Through Times of Crisis & Change.”  The MOOC is available in a free, open access format and offers a flexible learning structure which makes it accessible to any educator wanting to engage with the topic. The registration process is simple, and as an asynchronous online learning experience, there are no time constraints on when a participant must register or when a participant must complete the course.  Though the course is aimed at educators who may need to rethink how they teach in the immediate or near future due to the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic, the course creators “…expect it will remain relevant to instructors who are faced with disruptions and change to their teaching for any number of reasons and must quickly adapt their course designs” (Quintana, 2020). Furthermore, though this MOOC course is especially relevant to the higher education environment, the principles of resilient pedagogy can absolutely be applied in any type of classroom by any type of educator.

Interested educators may engage with the course casually by reviewing videos (thoughtfully ‘chunked’ into appropriately consumable lengths) and reading materials in whatever order and pacing–and to whatever depth–feels pertinent to their needs.  They can choose to purchase the full course and engage in all aspects of the learning experience, including submitting assignments and completing checks for understanding.  In this format, participants can receive a course completion certificate at the end.  This type of engagement may be especially helpful if participating in the course alongside colleagues in a more formal professional development venture.  My personal engagement has been decidedly less formal.

The course content focuses on three key components of resilient pedagogy: designing for extensibility, designing for flexibility, and designing for redundancy.  This three-principle framework helps flesh out the meaning and potential of resilient pedagogy while also serving as a practical guide to course design.

  1. Designing for Extensibility means that a course is designed in such a way that it has a clearly defined purpose and essential, unaltered learning goals, and yet the basic essence of the course content can be extended with new capabilities and functionality as needed.  This may involve the introduction of new tools or a change in format, moving fluidly from synchronous to asynchronous modalities, etc.  
  2. Designing for Flexibility means that a course is designed to respond to the individual needs of learners within a changing learning environment.  In a nod to the UDL framework, designing for flexibility means that a course is structured to meet a variety of student needs and learning styles, even before knowing specific individuals in a given class.  Flexibility will require a learner-centered approach with multiple means of engagement/expression and considerations for student needs which may arise within variable class sizes and modalities.  A course designed for flexibility will also allow instructor expectations and assessments to flex in response to these needs.
  3. Designing for Redundancy, simply put, means having contingency plans in place. Designing for redundancy asks instructors to analyze a course design for possible vulnerabilities.  For example, how will students accustomed to synchronous virtual meetings be given the opportunity to engage in course activities if their internet access becomes unpredictable?  In this design approach, instructors look for alternative ways of accomplishing goals with the hope of eliminating “single points of failure.” This is, of course, incredibly important when learning is situated in a time of crisis or emergency.

These three principles of resilient pedagogy do not stand alone. Rather, they inform one another and will naturally overlap in the instructional design process.  The MOOC contains excellent examples and practical applications of extensibility, flexibility, and redundancy throughout, but Rebecca Quintana and her team aren’t the only academics talking about resilient pedagogy, and examples of resilient pedagogy implemented during the pandemic can be found outside the MOOC.  For the reader who might be thinking about resilient pedagogy for the first time, here are a few examples of what resilient pedagogy may look like in practice:

  • Educators on a staggered schedule or a hybrid return-to-school plan may put together an in-person and virtual lesson plan that can be running at the same time on the same day with students engaging with the same content in two different modalities (Watson, 2020).
  • Instructors may create a spreadsheet for a course which helps track various contingencies and needed adjustments for various modalities: in person, hybrid or hyflex, and fully remote (Quintana, 2020).
  • Resilient pedagogy involves reducing complexity in any way possible.  This can look like establishing a predictable weekly pattern for remote students, having fewer due dates, simplifying assignments, etc. (Tange, 2020). Resilient pedagogy in practice means educators can scale up or down as needed according to student needs, understanding that crisis situations almost always call for some sort of scaling down. It’s OK to pair a course down to its most essential elements.
  • Resilient pedagogy requires an emphasis on feedback and interactions vs. assignments and grading.  Grading fewer assignments while also providing more opportunities for ongoing feedback increases the opportunity for interactions between instructors and students while also lowering the stakes for all parties (Watson, 2020).  It also keeps educators from getting stuck trying to stick a “square-pegged” assignment or assessment into a “round hole” of a specific digital tool, modality, or crisis context, simply because this assignment has always been done as part of the course in the past. 
  • As another way to emphasize the importance of interactions within a course, resilient pedagogy prioritizes small group interactions over and above large group instruction (Watson, 2020).  This can take many forms in both synchronous and asynchronous, online and in-person formats.
  • Resilient pedagogy requires educators to consider the use of digital tools carefully within their course design. If, for example, they are using a particular tool on which the success of their students rests, instructors may dedicate time within their learning activities to help students learn how to use that technology and not make assumptions about their students’ digital literacy (Gardiner, 2020).

Though the application of resilient pedagogy may feel particularly prescient in this current moment of crisis, resilient teaching will benefit students and instructors in all circumstances in the long run, regardless of the circumstance.  At the end of the day, resilient teaching forces instructors to examine student engagement carefully and intentionally and develop a student-centered mindset.  It also helps instructors design a dynamic course once, so that they’re using their time and efforts efficiently and making their courses as resistant to disruption as possible (Gardiner, 2020).  Resilience has been an oft-discussed trait that ‘successful’ students possess, but perhaps it’s time to shift that focus on to educators.  Successful educators must be resilient themselves.  It’s not only necessary for this moment, it’s the right thing to do for students in all contexts moving forward, and the “Resilient Teaching Through Times of Crisis & Change MOOC is a great place to start.

“If it seems like resilient pedagogy is in line with calls for us all to be making learning more inclusive and accessible, it certainly is.”

(Hart-Davidson, 2020, para. 17) 


Gardiner, E. (2020, June 25). Resilient Pedagogy for the Age of Disruption: A Conversation with Josh Eyler. Top Hat. https://tophat.com/blog/resilient-pedagogy-for-the-age-of-disruption-a-conversation-with-josh-eyler/

Hart-Davidson, B. (2020, April 6). Imagining a resilient pedagogy. Medium. https://cal.msu.edu/news/imagining-a-resilient-pedagogy/

Kaston Tange, A. (2020, June 8). Thinking about the humanities. https://andreakastontange.com/teaching/resilient-design-for-remote-teaching-and-learning/

Quintana, R. (2020).  Resilient teaching through times of crisis and change [MOOC]. Coursera. https://www.coursera.org/learn/resilient-teaching-through-times-of-crisis 

Quintana, R., & DeVaney, J. (2020, May 27). Laying the foundation for a resilient teaching community. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/learning-innovation/laying-foundation-resilient-teaching-community 

Watson, A. (2020). Flexible, resilient pedagogy: How to plan activities that work for in-person, remote, AND hybrid instruction.  Truth for Teachers. https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/truth-for-teachers-podcast/resilient-pedagogy-hybrid-instruction-remote-learning-activities/

Diigo as a tool for collaborative learning and research in higher education

There is significant opportunity within higher education environments–indeed, all education environments–to lean into a constructivist educational philosophy and approach knowledge as something co-created by both instructors and students.  Furthermore, as higher education courses and programs are increasingly offered in hybrid and fully online modalities, finding authentic ways for students to increase their social presence and overall engagement-level in coursework is essential (Baran, 2013). Digital tools can greatly assist in the act of socially constructing knowledge by helping to eliminate learning boundaries and extend opportunities for both formal and informal learning in a myriad of ways (Baran, 2013).  

Within higher education, one of the more important realms of knowledge construction between students and instructors, especially at the graduate level, takes place in the academic research process and in the conversations that, quite literally, take place in the margins within that research process (Farber, 2019).  As a graduate student who currently does not use any specific annotation or research collaboration tools for research outside of Microsoft Teams or Google Suite, I am curious to explore the ways in which the social bookmarking tool Diigo (which allows learners to collect, annotate, organize, and share online resources) supports efficient, collaborative research among instructors, students, and their peers in higher education.  Furthermore, I am interested in anecdotally comparing my exploration of this tool with the functionalities of more recently-released (and decidedly more expansive) digital collaboration tools like Teams and Google+.  Does Diigo hold its own in the digital collaboration tool market in 2021?

According to the product website (Diigo Inc., 2021), Diigo supports collaborative learning endeavors in four key ways.  It allows users to:

  • Collect: save and tag online resources to public or private curated libraries for easy access
  • Annotate: annotate web pages, PDFs, and other digital content directly while browsing online
  • Organize: organize links, references and personal input to create a structured research base
  • Share: share research with friends, classmates, colleagues or associates

Originally released in 2011, Diigo (Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff) quickly found a dedicated user-base and distinguished itself from other types of bookmarking applications (most notably its 2003 bookmarking predecessor, Delicious) due to its user-friendly interface, emphasis on social engagement, and extensions specific to use in education, combined with more traditional bookmarking functionalities (Ruffini, 2011).  The table below shows a helpful comparison between Diigo, its initial competitor and predecessor Delicious (now defunct), and the typical bookmarking capabilities of a web browser.

Table 1. Social Bookmarking Comparison Chart (updated by Ruffini, 2011)

Organize bookmarks automatically with tagsxxx
Popular bookmarksXXX
Anytime, anywhere access to bookmarksXX 
Share bookmarks with othersXX 
Powerful, customizable search toolsXX 
Groups of people with similar interestsXX 
Post automatically to blogXX 
Tools and browser extensions for bookmarkingXX 
Lists of grouped bookmarksXX 
Free iPhone and Android appsXThird party 
iPad Safari browser bookmarkletX  
Add and share sticky notesX  
Capture, mark up, share images and textX  
Collect web pictures into albumsX  
Sync bookmarksX  
Tools for educatorsX  
Original table by: Schmidt, Jason. (2010, July 30). Diigo and Delicious. Interactive Inquiry. https://iisquared.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/diigo-and-delicious/

As the table indicates, Diigo offers much more functionality in several categories, but most notably (pun intended) in the realm of annotation.  When installed as a browser extension, Diigo can be integrated fairly seamlessly into existing research habits, and perhaps most importantly, most Diigo tools can be accessed for free.

Since Delicious left the scene, new social learning/annotation tools have surfaced such as Hypothesis.is and Mendeley, both of which deliver many of the same features as Diigo, and both of which are largely open access.  Though a detailed direct comparison of these tools is beyond the scope of this post, a brief exploration seems to suggest that Hypothesis might be most appealing for educators who would like to incorporate the application into their Learning Management System (LMS).  Hypothesis can integrate nicely into all of the major LMS platforms and it offers many resources and training videos for educators so that they can truly maximize their use of the tool within their planned learning activities (Guhlin, 2020). Mendeley, a tool primarily intended for use in higher education, has a handy “cite as you write” plugin that prioritizes the streamlining of the reference process, automatically capturing author, title, and publisher information as needed (Guhlin, 2020).

Though it’s now been a decade since its release, Diigo seems to maintain its relevance and dedicated user base for several reasons:

  1. It is a bit simpler and more user-friendly than its competitors such that it is more easily adapted for use in a variety of learning environments and contexts, including both K-12 and higher education (Guhlin, 2020).
  2. Diigo seems to be the tool with the strongest integrated support for educators independent of an LMS.  Since its early stages, special accounts are available for educators that empower registered teachers with a variety of extra tools and features, leveraging the tool for use and collaboration with an entire class if desired (Education Technology, 2015).
  3. Individual features like Diigo Outliner, which lets you create and share digital outlines within a document, add sustaining value to the tool; these features are more nuanced than the general commenting features or Track Changes available in so many other types of collaboration tools (Guhlin, 2020).
  4. Because of its longevity, Diigo has had time to collect a large, lasting user base and dynamic Interest Groups (i.e. K-12 teachers, higher education instructors, researchers, etc.) which offer grassroots professional development tips and organic user insights accessible to the whole community (Ruffini, 2011).  
  5. Diigo’s longevity is also a testament to the creators’ ability to update the tool to best fit user needs over time, and there continue to be product and app updates on a regular basis. Diigo has evolved over the years, and today it is used more frequently for its collaboration/annotation capabilities than the social bookmarking services it was originally focused on (Guhlin, 2020).

Having recently worked on a collaborative research publication using Microsoft Teams, and as a frequent user of collaborative Google products for both academic and personal endeavors, I was curious if this exploration would support Diigo as a stand-alone tool to be considered for use in collaborative research endeavors, or whether its offerings were more or less synonymous with tools embedded within these larger platforms.  Anecdotally, I think the answer is yes, Diigo does stand alone, at least for specific use cases.

Both Teams and Google have many strengths when it comes to video conferencing, and cloud-based word processing and document sharing, but I do not find that these tools go quite so far to aid in the initial research phase. According to Educational Technology and Mobile Learning (2015), with Diigo, student and faculty researchers may:

  • Search for online content relevant to their project, bookmark the websites and then add them to a shared ‘class’ or group
  • Organize bookmarks by tags and date to organize content around a particular topic and to make it easy to search for it later
  • Highlight specific segments of a webpage or add sticky notes to annotate them for others to read 
  • Take screenshots of useful online content and annotate them for use as well

In these cases, Diigo essentially cuts out a step (or multiple steps) for an instructor or student trying to share research. In the initial research phase, a researcher using Diigo would not need to save and download a PDF or copy the link for a website of interest, only to reupload it or paste it later to a general repository, not having the same ability to annotate the resource or organize it as efficiently as Diigo would allow.  However, I do think Diigo finds its strongest value in working for a specific research purpose with a specific group of people.  Its value is inherently collaborative and is best used when trying to co-construct knowledge.  Consequently, it isn’t a tool I’ll be using regularly in my daily academic activities for just myself, but it is a tool I’ll be reaching for when it comes time to spearhead my next research project.


Baran, E. (2013). Connect, participate and learn: Transforming pedagogies in higher education. Bulletin of the IEEE Technical Committee on Learning Technology, 15(1), p. 9-12. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Diigo Inc. (2021). Diigo. https://www.diigo.com/

Education Technology and Mobile Learning. (2015, January 14). 7 ways students use Diigo to do research and collaborative project work. https://www.educatorstechnology.com/2015/01/7-ways-students-use-diigo-to-do-research.html

Farber, M. (2019, July 22). Social Annotation in the Digital Age. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/social-annotation-digital-age

Guhlin, M. (2020, April 13). Note-taking and outlining: Five digital helpers. TechNotes. https://blog.tcea.org/note-taking-and-outlining/

Ruffini, M. (2011, September 27). Classroom collaboration using social bookmarking service Diigo. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2011/9/classroom-collaboration-using-social-bookmarking-service-diigo

Schmidt, Jason. (2010, July 30). Diigo and Delicious. Interactive Inquiry. https://iisquared.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/diigo-and-delicious/

Leveraging Digital Tools for Instruction Outside the Classroom: Community Engagement Project, EDTC 6102

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to invest time and energy into a project which ultimately helps me do my job better.  Though I am not currently a classroom teacher and do not have typical instructional responsibilities in my day to day work, I do constantly convey important information about the WA State teacher certification process to prospective educators, a process which can often feel overwhelming and convoluted to many would-be career changers. I feel confident that I’ve put together a blueprint for a meaningful, engaging informational session which will help students navigate the first steps of the certification process with confidence and clarity, ultimately helping them discern for themselves if becoming a teacher is the right step for them professionally at this time, and if so, how to make that a reality. Not only that, I’ve been able to think creatively about how to leverage digital tools to make the session interactive, student-centered, and practically useful to those who attend.

Lesson Plan for 60 Minute Information Session

This lesson plan is intended for a Group of 10-20 prospective graduate students using a virtual teleconference platform like Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, etc.

Note: some hyperlinks may not be accessible to all due to permissions settings

10 min.
Students will be notified of my intention to record the session and their associated rights (turning off video, etc.).

Introduce Self and Learning Objectives of Info Session:
Objective 1: learn how someone becomes a teacher in WA State and determine personal readiness to begin the process.
Objective 2: learn what program options are available at SPU and which program is best-fit for personal context
Objective 3: learn what steps to take next with an application to a teacher certification program

10 Signs That You Should Become a Teacher, opening reflection video
Interactive Presentation
20 min.
Google Slide Deck
Students will be provided with access to the Google Slide Deck in advance of the information session so that they may conduct research ahead of time or follow along independently, clicking on hyperlinks, etc. in their own browser window. I will also use it to structure the presentation of information in the session.  For those who do not choose to follow along independently, hyperlinks for interactive elements will be provided directly in the session chat.

Within the slide deck, students will be introduced to SPU’s various graduate teacher certification program options.Students will be given the opportunity to stop and reflect on what feels like their best-fit program halfway through, before new information about the application process is introduced.  They will also be given the opportunity to ask clarifying questions at this point via Jamboard.

Students will then be given detailed information about application requirements and due dates, including specific information about the endorsement verification process.  This is also a time where I intend to help students understand and navigate the various information systems which they will have to engage with throughout the certification and application process (online application, standardized tests, etc), and to what extent they’ll be expected to provide personal data in digital spaces.
Formative Assessment 10 min.Prospective students will then have the opportunity to review and test their understanding of the material via a brief, 15-question Kahoot Quiz.  This will also serve as a formative assessment tool for me, the instructor, and may help point out areas that need further clarification. There will be time to pause and address these areas while going through the Kahoot Quiz.
Performance Task 
10 min.
Students will then have the opportunity to curate a personal To Do List outlining their next steps towards an application (and thus, towards becoming a teacher).  This is a performance task that helps students indicate their understanding of the material covered in the information session, but it is also meant to be a practical, relevant takeaway for each attendee.

Students will be able to make a copy of this Google Doc Template which contains a scaffolded “word bank” of application requirements.  Students will be able to copy/paste from the word bank in order to create their own, personalized To Do List, paying special attention to their specific program needs, endorsement requirements, and chronological order (i.e. which items need attention first). I will also provide the Google Doc Template in an alternate format (i.e. Word document) for any students that need it after the session. 
Self-Assessment & Reflection
10+ min.
Shortly after providing students with the Google Doc Link, I will provide a link to the final Sticky Note Q & A w/ Jamboard so that students may ask any needed questions while they construct without interrupting the thought processes of others in the session.  They may also choose to drop questions privately to me in the chat depending on the immediacy of the need and/or group appeal of their question. 

After the allotted 10 minutes passes for list construction, I’ll also offer a final few minutes for students to review their lists and ask final questions that need resolving on the Jamboard, OR live in the video conference, time permitting. The session will be recorded and the recording will be provided to students after the information session via email. This allows students to go back and review as needed.

Throughout this session, students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding through application and self-knowledge.

  • Application: as students create their own, personally curated “To Do List” they will be able to apply their understanding of the session material by creating a useful tool that will guide them moving forward.  This includes discerning which information is most relevant to their particular context.  Students will be able to effectively navigate the various information systems which they will have to engage with throughout the certification and application process, especially in regards to the information they provide during the application process.  This also brings to mind the fact that students will literally apply to a program as part of their next steps towards becoming a teacher.
  • Self-Knowledge: students will be invited to reflect on their motivations to become a teacher, whether now is the time to take steps towards becoming a teacher, as well as what kind of program would be best suited for their needs. There will also be ample time for students to grapple with what they do not know, or what is confusing for them in this process.  The decisions they make moving forward will be rooted in the self-knowledge acquired from this session.

I do believe that the most helpful reflections on this “lesson plan” will come after I’ve had the opportunity to put it into action for the first time in a professional setting, likely in Fall of 2021. That said, One area for potential improvement that I can already identify is the curated “To Do List” platform.  Though I found some potential tools that I was interested in which might be a bit sleeker/less cumbersome than using a Google Doc, the ones I came across were not open access or would require a full account set-up in order to use them. This wouldn’t translate well to the timing and context of this particular lesson, nor the student audience (i.e. prospective students attending an information session, not students enrolled in a class).  Thus, for now, I have the Google Doc format as a bit of a place-holder.  I’m quite open to tweaking this section of my lesson in favor of a better tool later on.

In summary, this particular project was a wonderful exercise in thinking about learning and instruction on a macro level and the many ways they take place outside of a formal classroom environment. Digital tools may be leveraged in a myriad of ways to help us do our jobs better, and this was an opportunity for me to think creatively about how to bring that home in my own context. I look forward to using this session format in the next recruiting cycle!