Chapter 7- Professional Learning Environments

Choose a comfortable method to observe a professional learning space at your school, district, or county office. Consider documenting observations in Google Docs, recording your observations with digital stills, and/or video. Take a look at the following list of possible items you may observe.

Consider the delivery method for instruction

  1. Identify a typical instructional practice
2.  Identify and define the problem with the learning space and how it inhibits or prohibits students from engaging in active learning in the instructional practice you identified above.

3.  Choose a design parameter from the list below that can serve as a solution for active learning in the professional learning environment.

4.  Research a solution around the design the design parameter you chose that would accommodate active collaboration from Section 6D or other resources of your choice. Provide a picture and explanation as to how or why this solution would convert the professional learning space into an active learning environment.

  1. I observed the traditional classroom environment at our high school that is currently being used as a professional development space. It has 20 tables and 80 chairs. The current arrangement is in double-table pods, which are sorted out by departments. It is the same arrangement that the school has used since I started working there 15 years ago. The presentation screen is off-center, and sometimes teachers do not sit with their departments. This PD space has the same challenges as a traditional classroom, and sometimes the teachers act like students when they are meeting.
  2. The problem with the learning space is that it only accommodates about half the staff comfortably, and it is hard for some of the staff to see the screen when someone is presenting. There is also the problem of the sub-par presenters, reading off slides and having a very sit-and-get presentation. This makes it difficult for teachers, and there is little to no differentiation going on.
  3. Technology was the design parameter I chose to address. Using tech can solve some of the problems that are inherent with the room. If delivering a presentation, the teachers could follow along on their own device, and that might keep the attention of the teachers longer. They could also put in another projector/touchscreen, as this could help ensure engagement of most, if not all, of the teachers.
  4. The technology piece can be worked on through habit and reminders. When emailing teachers about the topic of the meeting, we can also remind them to bring their device. They all have district-issued devices that they can bring, and they all have training on using them. We can leverage this training and devices by making sure we have content posted up on the LMS and using digital handouts, that way it forces the teachers to use and become a little more proficient at using them. Just a simple move like this can ensure more participation. Also, we could collect electronic exit tickets to help ensure participation at trainings. We have started to implement this at TOSA led trainings, and this would be an easy port over to the trainings at the high school.

Reflection

The whole concept of the physical space helping or hurting the trainings is something I have believed in for a long time. I have seen it in my own learning as well as the trainings I have given. I remember in college, some classes were just better places to learn than other. It was the desk arrangement, the proximity to the professor, the types of activities that were done in class, they all contributed to my ability to learn in class.

It was the same thing while I was in the classroom. I notices that certain room arrangements and interactive lessons were much better at engaging students than other. After my first year of teaching, I never had a traditional classroom setup (no rows and straight lines for me). The flow and manageability of class was better when the students were engaged.

Bringing that into my new responsibility of training teachers, it stands to reason that this would transfer. I arrange my spaces for training in a collaborative and flexible style. I use inquiry whenever possible, and stay away from the “sit and get” as much as I can. the more that teachers feel like they are exploring, and the more they are engaged, the better the content comes across. I have learned better ways to do this through this chapter though things like design thinking for educators, but the basic fundamentals of flexible and collaborative classrooms have always been there for me.