Archive for the ‘professional development’ Tag

The Semmelweis reflex

I’ll believe it when I see it!

This is our defensive response when we are asked to believe in something. Show me the visible evidence and only then will I believe you.

Evidence before belief.

Ingaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian doctor who noticed high incidences of infant deaths in Vienna’s maternity hospitals during the 1840’s. He was puzzled as to why there was a much lower incidence of infant death with women giving birth at home.

After conducting a controlled experiment, Semmelweis concluded that mortality rates would improve ten-fold if doctors would wash their hands with a chlorine solution between having contact with infected patients and non-infected patients.

Sounds like common sense, right?

But Semmelweis couldn’t convince other doctors that washing their hands with chlorine solution would dramatically reduce the incidence of death. The other doctors said that his theory lacked reasoning and evidence.

Two decades later Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory of disease – that microorganisms are the cause of diseases. Only then were Semmelweis’ findings accepted by the medical establishment.

The reason why doctors didn’t believe Semmelweis two decades earlier is because he challenged the established scientific and medical opinions of his time. He challenged their belief system. The doctors didn’t believe because they expected to see the evidence that fitted their own belief system.

This became known as the Semmelweis reflex – a metaphor for our reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence because it contradicts our beliefs.

School principals and eLearning Coordinators face a similar dilemma. They believe that using technology can add significant value to teaching and learning. They want to convince teachers. But some teachers first want to see the evidence. It is a natural reflex-like defensive response from teachers.

What principals and eLearning Coordinators need to do is start with existing belief systems. This means serious conversations with teachers about their existing beliefs as to what does effective teaching and learning look like. It means asking teachers to first explore and think beyond their own belief system. Challenge them to test and experiment with new ideas outside their own paradigm before passing judgement.

When teachers believe first that technology can add value to teaching and learning then they will proactively seek further possibilities. No more reflex-like defensive responses.

Belief before evidence.

I’ll see it when I believe it!

Connecting the dots…..

Connecting the dots!!

I’m just back from another two weeks on the road in Melbourne and Perth running professional development sessions for teachers.

There are many seen factors in a professional development session that help you to gauge its effectiveness. How do teachers react to your presentation? What does their body language tell you? What questions do they ask you?

However it is the unseen factors after your presentation that will determine whether you have really made an impact.

How much knowledge will teachers retain? To what extent will they process the information and skills you presented?  How motivated will they be to act on your great ideas? How will they behave after your presentation? Will they actually try to implement your ideas?

In other words, will teachers actively connect the dots between your presentation and the classroom?

Donald & James Kirkpatrick in their book Implementing the Four Levels: A Practical Guide for Effective Evaluation of Training Programs point out there are four levels that presenters (including eLearning Coordinators) need to evaluate when delivering professional development and training:

  1. Reaction – Did learners enjoy it? Did they think it was effective? Did they think it was a good use of their time?
  2. Learning – Did learners learn the knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes needed to close a performance gap?
  3. Behaviour – Did learners apply what was learned?
  4. Results – Was the performance gap closed? Was the investment of time and money in training teachers effective?

One simple but effective strategy that will help teachers to connect the dots is projects. In other words teachers are encouraged to initiate and design a project that puts their new found knowledge and skills into the real world context of the classroom.

Once your PD presentation is done and dusted, it is the context that teachers work in (not the content of your presentation) that will actually connect the dots and make a difference.

What strategies do you have in place to help teachers connect the dots?

What does ‘digital’ mean to you?

I have a problem with the word digital.

The word digital is used to describe technologies that digitise content e.g. digital cameras. No disagreement here.

Sometimes the word digital is bandied around to describe pedagogy. I have a problem here.

When schools promote a digital curriculum, are they referring to the technology being used? Or are schools referring to a pedagogy that facilities interactive learning?

A focus on technology as a means to distribute information is narrow and limits teaching and learning. PowerPoint is an easy way to sequence information into bullet points and distribute en masse – but a classroom as a place for bullet points is not teaching. A PDF is a convenient and easy way to distribute content – but it does not necessarily provide learning experiences which enable rich and engaging interaction.

The 21st century teacher advocates a wider view where technology is a tool that can be used to create conditions for interactive and collaborative learning. This teacher places a greater emphasis on the context – the learner (instead of the information) and the various ways he/she interacts with his/her learning and other learners.

This is when the word digital can used to describe and promote curriculum. No problem here.

Shiny new gadgets

There is an air of excitement in the various schools I have visited in the last few weeks.

The new technology has arrived. The boxes are now open and shiny new gadgets are in the hands of eager students and teachers. It almost feels like Christmas has been granted an extension until February.

Like any new gadget, our first inclination is to play and discover the realms of possibility. We press the all the buttons on our new toy and discover it’s cool features. Those of you using iPads for the first time will find an app for just about everything.

No matter how versatile your new technological devices are, it is the pedagogical thinking that will enhance the teaching and learning. As teachers we have to develop a very clear understanding of what we want learners to do with new technology, not what the technology can do.

We have to make new technology suit the learning, not make the learning suit the technology. Trying to make learning suit the technology is really a feeble attempt to justify why we purchased the shiny new gadgets in the first place.

Using student assessment for professional learning

assessON

assessON informs professional learning

How can student learning guide and inform your professional learning?

Formative assessment is widely used to improve learning outcomes for students. However a recent paper from the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development titled Using student assessment for professional learning: focusing on student outcomes to identify teachers’ needs suggests that the same principles of formative assessment can be used to inform professional learning for teachers.

This paper suggests that the learning of both students and teachers proceeds through ‘successive, cumulative stages, or dimensions’. In particular, these stages focus on three key questions:

‘Where am I going?’,
‘How am I doing?’
‘Where to next?’ (Hattie & Timperley, 2007)

While students answer these questions during their learning, teachers also use the answers to these questions to inform their knowledge of students and how to teach them.

Go to the latest edition of Curriculum Leadership to read more.

Jacaranda’s newly released online assessment tool assessON allows students to focus on these three key questions to navigate their learning. From a teacher’s perspective, the rich diagnostics in assessON enable teachers to be better informed of their students’ learning while interrogating the ways they teach.

assessON

The curiosity of the circus

Ladies and gentlemen
Boys and girls
Step right up, step right up
Come closer, you won’t believe your eyes.

Today I went to the circus.

What makes the circus engaging is the spectacle of others performing the seemingly impossible. Acrobats defy gravity, magicians enthrall us with mystery and illusion, clowns captivate us with sight gags.

The circus engages our senses and stimulates our curiosity.

While not intending to trivialise our lives as a circus, how will you engage others in 2012?

If you are a teacher, how will you engage your students’ curiosity?

If you are an ICT integrator, how will you engage your teaching colleagues’ curiosity?

What will your colleagues and students learn in 2012?

What ‘circus’ spectacle will they perform that is seemingly impossible?

Teacher’s ICT Toolkit

Thanks to follower Paul Chamberlain for his presentation delivered yesterday at The Science Teachers’ Association of Western Australia Future Science Conference 2011.

Some great ideas here for those of you who are ICT integrators in schools – tech brekkies, twenty-20, speed geeking!

A great definition of Personal Learning Network (PLN). Some more tips here on how teachers can get started with their own PLN.

Teaching ICT Toolkit – Future Science Conference 2011

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