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One Best Thing: Engaging Higher Ed Faculty in Professional Learning
This year, I was charged by our College of Education Dean with relaunching our 1:1 Mobile Learning Initiative. Our College of Education has been 1:1 with iPad for seven years, and there are many examples of innovation teaching and learning across courses in our college. However, the emergency remote instruction of the pandemic necessitated shifts to more direct instruction and student-paced online instruction. Coming out of that experience, it felt important to our college leadership to refocus our efforts on modeling the innovative, student-centered, technology-enabled learning we hope our preservice teachers will take with them into the field.
If you’re an instructional coach, 1:1 program coordinator, or professional learning facilitator in your school or district, I hope our story of professional learning provides a few ideas that you can use in your context, too!
We started this “relaunch” process with a needs assessment. Faculty were invited to complete a needs assessment survey, and I conducted listening sessions with the three departments within our college that participate in the 1:1 initiative. By starting this process with open, active listening, I was able to better determine our faculty’s learning needs and interests and design a plan for professional learning that addressed those needs.
One of the primary needs faculty expressed was the need for time to reflect and consider new ways they could infuse innovative technology practices into their assigned courses. We also knew we wanted to build renewed excitement around the 1:1 initiative, both for those who have been in our college throughout the life of the program and for new faculty, many of whom were onboarded over the last three years as we navigated shifts in learning modality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, we decided to begin the new academic year with a “Relaunch Day.” Fellow Apple Distinguished Educator, Katie Gardner, was our amazing keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, and the afternoon was dedicated to collaborative planning. This day was designed to spark creativity and inspiration and provide that dedicated planning time that faculty identified as a core need.
After our big relaunch, it was important to provide a suite of professional learning options to meet the variety of needs among our faculty in different departments who teach across modalities (online, hybrid, and in-person). Monthly coaching circles for each department, whole college sessions focused on trending topics & student-centered, tech-enhanced pedagogies, and one-on-one coaching and co-teaching provide our faculty with flexibility to attend sessions that best fit their schedules and choose the topics that are most interesting and useful to them. A clickable PDF with hyperlinks to the topic schedules for each session type is attached at the bottom of this post. Please download it, and check it out!
Given the many constraints on faculty’s time and their work to balance their commitments across teaching, research, and service, it has also been important to find ways to incentivize engagement in professional learning. In collaboration with my college leadership, we decided to gamify professional learning. Faculty earn points for each type of professional learning they choose, and points are tracked through a reflective attendance form. Each semester, in addition to “spending” their points toward incentives, every faculty member receives a letter of recognition from the Dean’s office for their continued commitment to professional learning. These letters can be a great addition to tenure & promotion packets as faculty look for ways to showcase their innovative teaching practices and commitment to continuous course improvement.
While this relaunch is still in its first semester, we’ve seen excellent engagement and lots of positive feedback from our college faculty. Their engagement in the range of professional learning available to them this academic year has already changed the way teaching and learning look in their classes, and preservice teachers are responding positively to the increased focus on technology-enabled learning as part of their methods courses.
Starting with listening and continuing to actively listen to the needs of faculty has been a valuable focus in this relaunch initiative. Whether you’re a K-12 instructional coach, a higher ed faculty member tasked with planning professional learning for your colleagues, or an instructional designer helping faculty develop their courses, here are a few tips that may prove helpful as you build partnerships for professional learning with faculty:
Building and facilitating high quality, engaging professional learning is key in supporting continued innovation and transformation in our schools. I’m excited to continue to grow this initiative in the years ahead! How might the strategies we’re using in our college work for faculty at your institution? What else would you add to our work?
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