If we want teachers to use courses to teach effectively using blended learning, we need to design PD programs that use this approach

blended-learning-professional-development

How often have we heard that education is changing, and that flipped learning/blended learning/integrated learning/hybrid learning/(enter the latest term here) is the future and needs to be embraced now?

Yet how many times do schools train their staff in blended learning by having professional development (PD) presented in the form of a lecture or a traditional lesson–exactly the type of learning that they are trying to replace in the classroom?

Teachers, as well as students, learn better by doing, and learn better by participating in models that work rather than simply discussing models of learning. Professional development delivery must change. It is time to “walk the walk” rather than just “talk the talk.”

The author has done this in a number of successful training courses in a K-12 school. The programs use a range of online materials, such as text, audio, video, surveys, feedback and embedded interactive and collaborative specialist resources such as VoiceThread. The courses also use features of the Online Learning Environment (LMS), such as conditional release of resources and activities, rubrics and quizzes.

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.