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Is it time to do blended learning PD the right way?

As this is blended learning rather than individual online learning, much of the PD still occurs in a learning space (sometimes even a traditional classroom). However, the traditional lecture theater and traditional classroom layout are shunned. Staff are not lined up in rows; they are often in a collaborative seating format. Instructors are present at all times, providing guidance and feedback, answering any questions that may arise, etc. Of course, many aspects of the courses could be used in a largely online format.

Some PD courses have a linear structure, while others branch to review concepts. Conditional release is used regularly, so that an activity, whether it be a series of learning resources, a survey, etc. must be completed before the next resource can be accessed.

Feedback, such as surveys, quizzes and activities to demonstrate understanding, is regularly spaced between learning activities to ensure that participants are engaged and have an understanding of the concepts discussed (in exactly the way we would design a course for students).

Courses sometimes contain rubrics to provide feedback for activities that reflect levels of mastery. The rubric is visible to participants before the course is undertaken.

Conclusion

We need to change the way professional development is delivered. If we want teachers to design and use courses to teach effectively using blended learning, we need to design effective PD programs that use this approach.

We must lead by modelling rather than by simply telling teachers how education needs to change.

Peter West is Director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College in Australia. He has over 15 years experience leading K-12 schools in technology enhanced education, particularly Blended Learning using Online Learning Environments. He can be contacted at pwest@ssc.qld.edu.au.

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