Professional Learning Facilitator

Design by Jan White

Professional learning Facilitator 5a

Design Professional learning

When I investigated indicator 5a, I was drawn to the idea of supporting the cultural, social-emotional, and learning needs of my colleagues, especially in the light of the heaviness induced by Covid-19 and the stressful socio-political environment of 2020. As 2020 turned into 2021 teachers continued to provide excellent nurturing, safe, and sanitized classroom environments and well-conceived hybrid learning experiences, but at some personal cost.  What could coaches do to support teachers in these circumstances?

The indicator calls for coaches to understand and incorporate adult learning frameworks when working with their peers. I had fun reading about adult learning frameworks because I could see a bit of me in all of them. I really enjoyed writing the post Teachers are Learners, too!, because it fits so well in my paradigm of learning as a lifelong journey and the need to cultivate learning environments to suit learners of all ages and stages of life.

In that same post, I refer to a video produced by the Learning Policy Institute titled, Empowering Teacher Learning.  The segment I specifically refer to is really interesting.  It is a segment by Maria Hyler in which she suggests a paradigm change (a transformation) from the type of professional development which is sit-and-get, drive-by, one size fits all, disconnected from teachers’ classroom and students to professional learning that speaks to all the attributes of Adult Learning Theory: *Content-focused *Active *Collaborative *Using models & modeling *Incorporating Coaching *Feedback and reflection *Sustained over time.

I also managed to find a great quote by Tom Whitby which I think also sums up an adult learner:
If an educator controls his or her learning through self-direction, that learning becomes more meaningful. Authentic self-directed learning becomes self-motivating. That does more than translate to a better-educated educator — it also creates a teacher advocate for collaborative learning. A teacher who benefits from collaboration tends to appreciate its effect and will use it in his or her own methodology. The Connected Educator: It Begins with Collaboration by Tom Whitby

Indicator 5a also recognizes that teachers, as well as students, need support for their personal cultural, social-emotional, and learning needs.  Just as teachers tend to these needs for their students in the classroom, it is incumbent on coaches to look out for the well-being of their teachers.

I created the image you see in the right banner for the post, Supporting Teacher Wellness, August 2020. I wanted to show how much teachers were juggling to prepare for the new school year.  I also discuss 5 ways coaches can support teacher wellness:

  1. Recognize the emotional labor of teachers.  I had never heard of the term ’emotional labor’ until I read Ashley Previte’s post. I urge you to read it too.
  2. Coach teachers through adversity to find resilience. In their article Coaching for Teacher Resilience during COVID-19: Coaching for Resilience, Catherine Hart and Fredrica Nash explains the process developed by RTI’s (Research Triangle Institute) Center for Education Services to build teacher resilience.
  3. Have a toolbox of strategies ready to share with others. In an introduction to the teacher wellness blog series, Sarah Rosenthal illustrates the importance of self-care for teachers.
  4. Encourage teachers to discuss or write about their emotions. Coaches shouldn’t be afraid to ‘go there’, gently encouraging teachers to share their feelings of anxiety or emotional state. I highlighted Tip #3 (Write alongside your students,) from Student Journaling During Corona Virus Pandemic, on the Facing History and Ourselves website.
  5. Find the funny. This is my suggestion.  Mark Twain said that humor is mankind’s greatest blessing, and although I don’t think it’s the greatest blessing, humor is one of the ways I deal with difficult times.

Even though I have not directly addressed cultural needs for teachers, I did explore how teachers can support their students (ISTE Coaching Standard 3b) in the post Culturally Relevant Teaching. This post is dense with information from my investigation.  Creating a culturally sensitive learning environment is dear to my heart and I found a ton of helpful websites to encourage my own practice as a teacher.

One of the first personal checks I needed to make was to follow Peggy Mcintosh’s advice to check my own ‘knapsack’ of implicit and explicit bias.  I urge you to read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh. Here’s a link to an excerpted essay version. McIntosh lists 50 statements that reveal white privilege. Another self-check as I prepared for a culturally sensitive learning environment was the 8 Competencies for Culturally Responsive Teaching from New America: Culturally Responsive Teaching.

I remember that at the same time as writing that post, I was in a Summer book club reading Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0, by SPU Associate Professor Brenda Salter McNeil.  I wrote: Although the book is primarily about reconciliation, there is no way it can be read without reflecting on how we personally deal with all cultural diversity (race, ethnicity, gender, age, social standing, religion, etc.) Each chapter ends with a section called Getting Practical. This section challenges readers to think about their own journey, their own responses, or as at the end of Chapter 4, gives readers practical ideas to give their cultural responsiveness ‘feet.’ (Culturally Relevant Teaching.) This book is a really good practical read for teachers who want to transform their practice and create a culturally relevant teaching environment.

Coaches design profesional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, social-emotional and learning needs.

Coaching Standard 5a
New America: Culturally Responsive Teaching

Professional learning Facilitator 5b

Building Capacity to Incorporate ISTE Standards

I hope that teachers are all taking a well-earned break this Summer. I think it’s true to say that teachers have had their ‘capacity cups’ filled to overflowing this past year. So, is it fair to add one more thing? The answer depends on how valuable that one more thing is.  What about the ISTE standards? It is the job of a coach to demonstrate the value of incorporating ISTE standards into the curriculum and the best way to do that is by modeling them.

I’ve written quite a bit about Active Learning concerning the Learning Designer standard, in particular, indicators 4a & 4b. For this indicator, I’ll focus on the feedback loop and how it provides meaningful feedback that builds better solutions.

I’ve done quite a bit of reading about the design process and use design thinking in my own teaching. Each aspect of design thinking is valuable, however, for me, the feedback loop is the most beneficial and meaningful for the following reasons:

  • It implies that there is more than one way to reach a solution.
  • There maybe be more than one correct solution.
  • We learn valuable lessons through multiple iterations.
  • Feedback loops are motivational because they lead to a better solution.
  • Failure is not a judgment. Failure is inevitable, to be expected. ‘Failing fast’ builds resilience. Read this great post by Tom Waterton from IBM Design about

    Failing fast, using feedback loops, and the benefits of iterative design.

In my post, Professional Development for Teachers as Professional Learners, I investigated inquiry-based professional development.  I remember being really taken by the work of Carla Meyrink, founder of a small school in the Dominican Republic. She writes about her learning and leading journey in her blog post, How to Set Up Inquiry-Based Professional Development for Teachers. Meyrink drew my attention to the aspect of inquiry-based professional development that really appeals to me: Teachers need to be given the time and space to explore, experiment (create iterations), and reflect on new ideas, which I think is part of the feedback loop.

In my post Teachers Coaching Teachers, I created an image to summarize Diane Sweeney’s 10 Take-aways from Feedback Literature which I found while reading Student-centered Coaching: The Moves, her book co-authored with Leanna Harris. In this post, I also reference how coach and teacher partner to design learning which is based on a specific learning outcome for the student and reinforce that the relationship between teacher and coach needs to be trusting and respectful so that feedback can be meaningful.

I’ve placed the quote by Todd Blake Finley in the right banner because I think it is so important to remember that successful teachers continually grow, develop, and deepen their practice by sharing (receiving and giving) and using feedback in a community of learners and leaders.

Coaches build the capacity of educators, leaders and instructional teams to put the ISTE standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback.

Coaching Standard 5b

"Nobody becomes a transformational teacher on their own. That achievement can occur only when schools commit to the process of giving (and receiving) meaningful feedback. When feedback occurs frequently, supports educators’ improvement goals, and engages them in the process, only then do teachers value the process enough to integrate it into their daily practice."

Professional learning Facilitator 5c

Partner with educators to evaluate digital learning content and tools


Evaluating the impact of professional learning. Well, this is a tall order and cannot be assessed with a quick survey exit ticket at the end of a PD experience. The important questions to ask are: Has the particular professional development 1) increased student learning? or 2) enhanced teacher competency and skill?

While I was investigating this standard I came to realize that evaluating the impact of professional development is a many-faceted process and ongoing process; much like the design thinking process. The post, Using the Design Thinking Paradigm to Evaluate Professional Development is my exploration of this very idea. My notes show me that I spent a lot of time trying to devise just the right question to frame my thinking.  Eventually, I settled on How can use a design thinking framework to create a professional learning program that leads to more focused and ongoing evaluations which result in steady improvements which enhance teaching and learning?

In hindsight, it is a wordy question and I would probably have a clearer solution if the question was broken into two or three pieces. However, I can see that my focus was really on the iterative process which requires sustained feedback and reflection. I suggest that formative evaluations carried out in the feedback loop and done by coaches or mentors as well as the teacher and students are sustainable, ongoing, and effective ways that measure the impact of professional development.  I also say that the iterative process of tweaking and refining in the feedback loop provides effective and ongoing evaluation which in turn leads to a successful implementation of innovative teaching practices and student success. I invite you to read the post to find resources for low-key to formal and personal to inter-collegial evaluations.

The other post I have included in this reflection is The Times: They are A-ChangED. Although the post was initially written to support Educator Standard 6b, it contains many resources for professional learning; plus a bonus: Bob Dylan singing The Times They Are A-changing. The times are a-changing for traditional professional development, too.  I hear of many schools moving to more personalized professional development and it is becoming essential for schools to have coaches and mentors or teacher-tutors to help support each educators learning journey. Since reflection and feedback are essential to the coaching cycle, it seems inevitable that a coach who understands the vision of the school’s use of technology will frequently assess the efficacy of the educator’s chosen professional development.

Coaches evaluate impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet schoolwide vision for using technology for high impact teaching and learning

Coaching Standard 5c

Just as teachers plan carefully and make ongoing assessments of student learning as an integral part of the instructional process, they need to make evaluation and integral part of their own professional development process.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ 
or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Bob Dylan

Blog Posts to Support ISTE Standard 5