CUE View: Collaborative Inquiry for
Professional Learning Leaders
By Dr. Lisa Gonzales and Randy Kolset
If you look around at the audience of administrators in our school districts, most have been around for a while. Or at least long enough to have seen the difference between what was known as “traditional” professional development and the newer trend toward a more effective approach of collaborative learning. Yet, many of the professional development programs for administrators still have that old school feel.
Professional development through collaborative inquiry offers learners a chance to investigate shared questions of practice as they relate to both student and adult learning. At the center of this type of learning are collaborative learning sessions, which eschew pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all solutions in favor of experiences that are grounded in the use of technology to communicate and collaborate. Professional learning is also based on a recurring cycle of planning, action and reflection, all while building professional knowledge and reflecting on the impacts of the actions of leaders.
In its most effective form, collaborative inquiry should include an emphasis on adult learning theory, design of presentations, and personal learning networks. Fortunately, all three areas are emphasized in a new educational technology and curriculum innovation training designed by Leading Edge Certification (LEC). Whether you’re interested in exploring the concepts of collaborative inquiry as a professional learning leader or want to become nationally certified, the research on adult learning paired with current emphases in public education will help educators better understand how technology changes teaching and learning.
Adult Learning Theory. One of the benefits of collaborative inquiry is the foundation that reinforces the key concepts of adult learning theory. In the 1980s, researcher Malcolm Knowles identified six characteristics of adult learning that should be considered in the design and facilitation of professional development, including connections to experience, readiness to learn, a problem-centered orientation, internal motivation, need to know, and the ability to be self-directed.
When it comes to using technology, particularly with the population of today’s administrators, experience and comfort levels vary greatly. Many will take technology in both professional use and as a learner and run with it. Still others may fall into that “technophobe” category, and may need some help in breaking down barriers and rebuilding that sense of control and “need to know” that is so important for adult learning. Some tips for combating adult learning blocks will help move toward self-direction and participatory learning include:
Identification of assumptions (what are the underlying feelings, attitudes and beliefs getting in the way of learning)
Analysis of assumptions (help the adult learner understand why she or he feels this way)
Development of alternative behaviors
Reflection on the learning
Presentation Design. Another perk of collaborative inquiry is that it helps expand learners’ skills in communication and presentation, since whenever an individual wants to deliver information to an audience, it is typically done in the form of a presentation. Understanding the fundamentals to presentation design gives leaders the opportunity to create efficient and engaging presentations, qualities imperative to engage audiences from parents to board and community members. Likewise, honing these skills is crucial in the design of an exceptional professional development program.
Adults need to see the importance and relations of the information to their work. A well designed presentation will make these connections. Focused professional development and coaching on presentations is important.
When designing a presentation, basic elements such as design, content, story and humor should be considered. But let’s face it. How many of us have been taught how to do this well? The design and flow of a training, meeting or workshop can make or break the message and time is never plentiful in our line of work. Getting it right the first time is the goal. With that in mind, learners should be willing to engage in collaborative inquiry with colleagues and to request feedback as they design and perfect their presentations. Rather than relying on the same old PowerPoint presentations, new approaches, such as PowToons, Voki, Prezi, Mindomo, SlideRocket, and more can be tried.
Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). PLNs are a less formal way for learners to engage in the learning process. A PLN is about sharing ideas and resources, collaboration, and learning in different ways, using different media and tools. However, the essence is the same: the PLN can be the best collective inquiry in which a learner can engage, and it’s available 24/7.
So how does a PLN take informal conversations and begin to solidify them into structure practice? It can often start with blogs. As people begin to recognize individuals that can construct ideas and organize programs through a written structure, they can begin implementing those ideas. Finding well-written and thoughtful blogs grows PLNs and improves educational practice as wells as professional development.
Learning for students and adults has shifted noticeably over the past few years. Today, there are opportunities to learn from a truly global audience. Professional Learning Leaders need to design their instruction for adults to take advantage of new learning models and create opportunities of demonstration for educators so they can visualize how this model can be used with students. Twitter is valuable way to engage in learning, particularly with many different people. Need help? Send out a tweet in a selected, focused #edchat and begin the exploration with others. During professional development sessions, look for back channels, or places to converse with others while engaging with the presentation.
Next Steps. One truly collaborative and engaging professional development model is provided by Leading Edge Certifications. Whether trainings for administrators, digital educators, or the new Professional Learning Leader (PLL) the perspective on training offers an alternative to the old-school one-size-fits-all approach to professional learning. The collaborative inquiry model changes the experience for the learner, reframing professional knowledge into one that is constructed and applied. The educator takes on the role of actively constructing professional knowledge and treating their classrooms, schools, and districts as sites for investigation.
If you have provided professional development for years or are interested in honing your skills, it is important to have a 21st century view on how to make your program effective for your clients, teachers, or staff. How we used to provide professional training is shifting, just as teaching and learning has shifted in the classroom. Working with adults has become even more complex since they have the power to decide when how and with whom they will work. The Leading Edge Certification for the PLL will provide an opportunity for anyone to learn how to navigate the new complexities in professional development and modify their instruction to make a lasting impact.
Interested in expanding your skills in professional learning via collaborative inquiry? Consider the Leading Edge Certification for Professional Learning Leaders. The PLL certification focuses on those who provide professional development to educators across all curricular areas and is comprised of multiple modules, including the design of learning environments, developing community, and building a vision for digital literacy.
The six to eight week course is delivered through a combination of face-to-face and online trainings. PLL Certification is now being offered by both Leading Edge Core and Stakeholder Alliance members, including CUE, TICAL, and the Orange County Department of Education. For more information, contact any of the organizations for dates or visit the LEC website at: http://www.leadingedgecertification.org/professional-learning-leader.html.