Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Applying 21CLD in Teacher Professional Learning

Yesterday I went to the GEG Gold Coast Meet-up - loved being amongst a small group of like-minded people! +Greg O'Connor presented to supporting Literacy with Chrome - ultimately UDL though he didn't use the term - and while I knew a lot of the tools he mentioned, I learnt quite a bit, too. +Michael Mathews talked about how he using using Google Sites at his school as a way for teachers and students to be involved in sharing what is going on which was very cool, too. I got talking with Greg briefly, about how I have been thinking about applying what we tell teachers to do in their classrooms in our working with them. He made a good point when he mentioned how he was trying to incorporate the UDL approaches into his work with teachers, and I was mulling this over on the way back.

I think I have incorporated more UDL approaches in my work with teachers than I used to but still I have the niggling feeling that I could improve my facilitation. I keep on thinking, too often we do to teachers what we don't want them to do in class ("sit down, be quiet, eyes to the front" etc.). Does this help or hinder our teachers from applying their learning in their classrooms? Also, is it really UDL I'm thinking about, or is it something else?

Through taking up my ELH role I am in the fortunate position to facilitate workshops on 21CLD. While I had often talked about collaboration, about creating new knowledge, real-world problem solving etc., what that exactly looks like in practise and how to develop these skills to a high degree had sometimes remained a bit vague. Through the ITL research and the 21CLD programme I have gained much greater clarity of what the skills are that we belief our learners need to be successful in the future. Whatever you might call it, 21C or Future Focussed Learning, many of us share the believe that education has to change to prepare young people for their future. At the same time I believe that we learn a lot by modelling, so if I want my teachers to support the development of 21C skills in their students, it would be helpful for me to model this and support them to develop these skills themselves.

All of the above has led to my decision to inquire into my practise: How can I support teachers to develop 21C skills and apply these in their classrooms by utilising the 21CLD approach in my own practise?

I am using this model for my professional inquiry, if you would like to follow and inquire into your practise, I will describe the steps I intend on taking below:
Inquiry learning and action spiral for networks (Timperley, Kaser and Halbert, 2012)
I have been informally scanning for a little while: What's going on for the teachers I am working with?

  • They are busy professionals.
  • Some though not all teachers agree with the need to change the way we teach our students.
  • There are many sometimes seemingly conflicting ideas, initiatives, tools they get bombarded with.
  • Student achievement is often seen as a measurement of their effectiveness as teachers.
  • Some teachers feel overwhelmed by technology, struggle with it themselves; other teachers are more confident users of technology but are yet to figure out how technology use fits into the bigger picture. There are some teachers who have got it all 'sussed' and integrate technology effectively into their 21C classrooms -> there is obviously huge variability!
(Looks awfully familiar to a regular classroom and no, I did not write it intentionally that way! However, different to a regular classroom, I do not get to see them every day, every week or even every month, sometimes I meet them once only.)

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My focus will be on applying 21CLD: How can we design our learning activities so learner are required to develop and apply 21C skills?
I chose to focus on this because I believe this is really vital to set our young people up for success. As I am relatively new to this particular programme, this will also help me understand it better.
While it would be tempting to just apply this in 21CLD sessions, I want to make sure I consider this for sessions outside this course, also. I would prefer not to narrow this down to just a particular group; however, the need to use some sort of data to understand if I have made a difference will require me to select 1-3 groups of teachers who will be invited to complete a survey before and after. While I endeavour to not limit my use of 21CLD approaches to these teachers, I will measure the effect for working with them.

My hunch is that teachers would benefit from having the 21CLD approach modelled in the way I work with them. If I set it up well, they should be required to develop and apply 21C skills themselves. At the same time I could make this process very transparent so that they can see by my modelling how they could apply this in their own context.

My learning will start with going back through my course resources and background information so I feel confident I clearly understand what the individual capabilities are and how tasks need to be designed to require development of these skills to a high level. I am sure there will be much more learning to come over this year.

What I will do differently: At this point I'm thinking I will focus on one of the skills at a time, starting with Collaboration, and examine my activities / sessions / workshops to what degree they require collaboration. I will set up some kind of document to monitor this. Given we are talking about 6 skills (Collaboration, Knowledge Construction, Self-regulation, Real-world Problem-solving and Innovation, ICT for Learning, Skilful Communication), of which some require more or less time, and some will combine more easily, I will aim at a very rough 6 weeks for each.

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If this will make a difference is the big question; for this I need pre- and post-data. In most cases I don't have the opportunity to visit classrooms and have discussions with teachers about their practise before I meet them in a workshop. Therefore I will look at developing a questionnaire that I will share with selected groups of teachers and follow it up with a questionnaire some time later this year to compare results. I'm still thinking about what exactly I will be looking for; a greater understanding? a shift in confidence? application in the classroom? All of these seem relevant.

Is there anything I'm missing? Do I approach this logically? Any comments and ideas would be much appreciated!

Are you inquiring into your practise? Would you mind sharing some of it? If not, why don't you join me and share your inquiry?

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