BLOG - Designing Professional Learning for These Times

2021 learning professional May 03, 2021

We began our April 2021 blog post with these sentences, “It has been an unbelievable past twelve months...and that’s an understatement! Each of us could create a list to precisely describe the reasons why these past twelve months have been unprecedented.” Like our colleagues in the classroom, we, at connect2learning, have also had to pivot in significant ways. We have been connecting with teachers and leaders from across the globe online, rather than in their classrooms, schools, and conference facilities. Like you, we understand the importance of keeping a thread of professional learning alive for others and ourselves.

 

So, we have sought to harness the power of technology and draw on our decades of experience in education to meet the new challenges we have all faced by creating accessible courses that appeal to the needs of teachers, leaders, and parents alike. Actually, the truth is that, at connect2learning, we were ready with our C2L Academy – an online digital learning space with more than 20 online courses for schools and districts. More recently, we created the C2L Insider, a community for leaders in education to access courses and connect with one another. Both the C2L Academy and the C2L Insider are extremely relevant in these times and help to support educators right now.

And as more and more teachers and leaders access the online courses, we have had two questions come up over and over again

  • Why would a district/system choose to use these resources?
  • How might district coordinators, superintendents, principals, learning coaches, department heads, district consultants…use these resources?

We sure appreciate these questions; they indicate a deep desire to design professional learning for these exact times in which we find ourselves. Let us share our thinking with you:

What would a district/system choose to use these resources?

Connect2learning’s online resources for professional learning across a system/district can be leveraged both synchronously and asynchronously for a variety of learning formats and structures  – a PD day, ongoing professional learning, learning in relation to school/personal professional goals and so on.

The connect2learning online courses support the following purposes:

  • Onboarding for new teachers (or teachers new to the district), as part of the district-wide new teacher induction program
  • Professional learning materials for district initiatives relate to district priorities
  • Core resources used to provide micro-credentials for changes in pay scales
  • Support to emerging learning groups of teachers gathered from multiple schools in small groups related to questions of practice/inquiry
  • Opportunity to engage School Trustees in conversations about learning and teaching, for example, the Parent Course
  • Professional learning and course learning can serve as evidence related 
  • to professional growth plans

 

How would district coordinators, superintendents, principals, learning coaches, department heads, district consultants…use these resources?

The connect2learning online courses are being used (or could be used) in the following ways: 

  • Jigsaw Strategy - Divide your staff into groups of four or five colleagues. Each group engages in learning about one module/topic/video/reading in the course. Then reconstitute the groups, so that there is one person in each group who has completed one different module/topic/video/reading. Teachers share what they learned, by responding to these three questions:
    • What is the collective impact of the videos and readings on your thinking?
    • What is really resonating for you?
    • What questions continue to surface for you?
  • As an entire staff, take one module/topic/video/reading each month during a PLC or a staff meeting. Select the module/topic/video/reading that fits best with the emerging questions that you hear from them.
  • Use the journal as described in the courses. Come together in groups to share what was recorded or create a shared document wherein participants post some highlights of what they recorded in their journals.
  • Create a shared document (e.g., google doc) for each course and post sections that will be populated by the participants. Potential headings could include:
    • Essential or through-line questions
    • Connections between the course content and practice
    • Ways that the course validates current practice
    • Ways that the course invites future opportunities
  • When grouping teachers for jigsaw and other small-group structures, consider a variety of approaches (an optimal number of people per team ranges between three to six):
    • Vertical teams
    • Horizontal teams
    • Role-alike teams
    • Role-different teams
    • Departments
    • By interest/choice
    • By experience 
  • Explore a blending between synchronous and asynchronous learning options. For example: 
    • Learners might view a video asynchronously prior to a synchronous online/in-person discussion. 
    • Learners might read a selection asynchronously prior to a synchronous break-out room online discussion.
    • Learners might watch the videos synchronously and then move to small groups or break-out rooms for their follow-up discussion. (Use the video-viewing prompts to drive the conversations.) Subsequently,  learners post, asynchronously, a synthesis of what they learned in a shared document.
  • Create a shared document with three sections. Each section is collectively completed based on the following headings:
    • What do we already know before I begin the module/topic/video/reading?
    • What’s our thinking part way through the module/topic/video/reading?
    • What’s our thinking at the end of the module/topic/video/reading?
  • Teachers can select a module/chunk/topic that supports their professional growth plan and use it as a resource for further inquiry.

Each of us has experienced the past twelve months in incredibly different ways. Regardless of the circumstance, teachers and leaders have had to very quickly shift teaching, instruction, assessment, evaluation, and leading. However, learning platforms notwithstanding, we continue to recognize that engaging in professional learning provides necessary support.

The ideas that we share with you are ones that can assist you to maintain hope and generate optimism – requisites to fuel our work in the upcoming days, weeks, and months.