Another post in our ongoing series on pedagogies and the use of technology for tecahing and learning.
Over the last few years there has been a considerable emphasis placed on Continuing Professional Development for teachers and trainers to support them in using technology. At least in the UK, there seems to be a tension between an approach based on raising the personal Information and Communication skills of teachers and encouraging teachers to explore new pedagogic approaches to using technology for teaching and learning.
There has been a great many different models and processes in Continuing Professional Development. It seems fair to say that research has not yet caught up with the explosion in activity. Based on a literature review we are undertaking, in this blog we explore what we believe are the key factors critical to effective CPD in the use of technology for tecahing and learning.
- Peer learning / skill sharing
Teachers who have more experience are given structured opportunities to share with those who have less and there are no hierarchical divisions between ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’. Most importantly, this sharing process is valued and legitimated. This depends on the institution having a strong sense of community and a shared ethos of peer learning. This has to be built rather than imposed.
There has been a trend away from mass ‘Inset’ sessions towards group work as a valid form of CPD activity. Groups may be based around skill levels, different software interests, subject specialities or different target groups (e.g Women returners, Special Educational Needs etc). There are many positive reports on the effectiveness of this approach as a vehicle for discussing practice and planning new approaches.
Informal leaning may be more important than formal courses.
“Informal conversations are vital, as is dedicated time to allow teachers to talk together and plan for new approaches in terms of their use of ICT in learning and teaching.” (Daly, Pachler and Pelletier, 2009)
Informal learning, by definition, cannot be planned but can be facillitated by creating time and space for networking, inclusive leadership styles, democratic staff relationships and the development of staff as a learning community.
- Clear links between CPD and practice
The additional benefits of using ICT must be very clear. CPD activities have to be immediately relevant to the individual teacher and applicable in the classroom.
As teachers become more familiar with the technology, there is an increasing demand for subject specialist CPD, an area which is not well developed and frequently not a priority. It is also likely to be one in which there is least in-house expertise available.
- A sound pedagogic base and reflexivit
There should be a shared of understanding of how learning occurs, how it can be planned and facilitated and what constitutes effective teaching and learning. This may be stating the obvious but there criticisms of some commercial providers who were perceived as having a different baseline.
The design of the ICT CPD should incorporate effective use of ICT for learning. That is, it should practice what it preaches. Teachers need to experience and participate in e-learning activities as part of their professional developmen
“The incorporation of group work, collaborative problem-solving, independent thinking, articulation of thought and creative presentation of ideas are examples of the ways in which teachers’ CPD might focus on pedagogy, with a view to how technologies can support these processes.” (Daly, Pachler and Pelletier, 2009).
A clear vision for ICT CPD focused on pedagogy and teacher development was seen as a prime factor by staff and providers.
If the overall objectives and a coherent strategy are in place this can help avoid or overcome operational problems of time and funding. Effective leaders can build capacity by maximising the range of expertise that staff already have and drawing them together as part of a co-ordinated approach to CPD. This could include, for example, identifying excellent practitioners who use creative approaches in the classroom (using traditional pedagogies), staff with ICT skills, staff with experience of facilitating peer learning groups, staff with staff training and communication skills.
- Working with newly qualified and trainee teachers
New teachers, particularly younger ones, may be able to make a valuable contribution to the ICT CPD of established staff and this should not be over-looked.
Teachers and lecturers need to feel that they can ‘play’ with their own kit in order to develop familiarity and confidence , that they can use it for learning outside working hours and that they can customise it in a way which reflects their particular needs. This was a big issue for teachers but often at odds with institutional policy despite the fact that the preparedness of teachers to use their own time for learning actually saves money!
Teachers resented time wasted on a lot of formal CPD, especially if it was not directly related to classroom practice, but valued time they could spend with colleagues to generate ideas and plan activities that could be implemented in the classroom.
“It has been shown that teachers need regular time during the standard working week in order to discuss Teaching and Learning. They need both knowledge of the research base and continuing ‘structured opportunities for new learning, practice, reflection and adjustment’ (Coffield, 2008)
- Involvement of non-teaching staff
Senior management felt that this was important but perceived as less so by teachers.
- Use of mentors or learning coaches
Apprenticeship and support are very important for in-service teachers in acquiring knowledge and adopting innovatory approaches in their classrooms.
According to Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009), watching colleagues use ICT in the classroom was seen by the majority of teachers as one of the most valuable forms of CPD. However, very few had had the opportunity to do so. Another strategy which was popular was chance to observe and work with external experts who visit classrooms to teach CPD by working with students.
- Networks and communities of practice
Kirsti Ala-Mutka et al (2008) recognise the usefulness of social software in ICT CPD. They argue that establishing and participating in teacher networks and following innovative practice development in the field is a crucial part of effective CPD
“Initial and in-service teacher training should disseminate insights and best practices with new innovative approaches, encouraging teachers to experiment with digital and media technologies and to reflect on the learning impacts of their own teaching practices.”
- The use of E-portfolios as a tool in ICT CPD
The OECD (2010) recommends that all teachers develop an e-portfolio to support, record and reflect their CPD. This serves three purposes. Firstly, it encourages teachers to use ICT regularly and systematically to support learning. Secondly, they will understand the potential of using e-portfolios with their students and will have first hand experiences of the issues, problems and benefits they offer. Thirdly, it will serve as a model to encourage student teachers to use ICT during their ITT.
iCatalyst from MirandaNet are CPD providers. In their publicity they describe key features of the programmes they provide. Many of these can be transferred and generalised across ICT CPD.
- a mixed-methods or blended learning programme which provides mentoring and resources to scaffold learning about subjects that are relevant to the challenges for teachers in schools
- [opportunities for] the learners to negotiate customised programmes based upon their own practice and the vision of their institution (these may be individual or based on small groups).
- the use of internet technologies to maximise flexibility of where and when the programme is accessed;
- the creation of mature sustainable e-communities of practice where views and knowledge both of teachers and of students, can be shared to the benefit of all.
- the development of Knowledge Hubs where all resources developed are made available to the community of practice and where new knowledge and evidence-based theory can be created as a result
- leadership development so that participants will eventually become field tutors and run the programme themselves
- an approach which is based on co-production of knowledge, a co-determination of meaning, collective problem solving and multiple perspectives among learners
- work-based accreditation techniques that motivate participants to continue to learn and contribute to the community of practice.