TEC-VARIETY in PD: Motivating Staff to Learn

It occurred to me late last night that my constant search for a model and way to motivate and deliver training sessions to all my colleagues could be informed by this instructional model.  The TEC-VARIETY model is one that is designed to inform decisions in the planning process that will help develop and increase participant motivation.  It was designed predominantly for the context of an online classroom, however, I believe it to be completely relevant for the face-to-face context as well and even for the professional development context in which staff engage.

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Tone and climate is all about establishing the right environment and learning culture for the individuals involved.  In staff development, I’ve found that this is about valuing the time that staff are giving to professional development and showing that I value every input they have into what happens in the training sessions.  Its also about acknowledging the differences in every KLA and the teaching and learning activities used by KLAs to achieve best student outcomes.  Tone and climate is about validating the amazing work colleagues do, and that I believe will build a great foundation for a positive professional learning environment.

Teachers are regularly giving formal and informal feedback to their students but giving staff feedback on their own professional development may also be very valuable to them.   I don’t want to ever do it in a patronising way but if I see a colleague demonstrating new knowledge and skills in integrating ICT within their teaching I want to acknowledge that an encourage them.  I also would pass along any feedback for ensuring a lesson went smoother next time if it had any hiccups.  I don’t always get the opportunity to observe these lessons but I try to and its always a valuable learning experience for all.

Motivating teacher is hard, they are sometimes so stuck in the routine of their day to day duties that anything beyond that is just not priority so motivating them to further develop themselves professionally is a tall ask.   Some schools have a policy that informs staff of PD expectations but it shouldn’t be forced, it should be something staff see as intrinsically valuable and very rewarding for them, necessary to maintain standards in their own teaching.  Curiosity might be hard to inspire in teachers but a short teaser video clip or a student sample of work might be enough to build curiosity and prompt staff to seek further learning.

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Variety is key in anything and even more so in PD activities.  I am constantly trying to think of new ways to teach technology to teachers and facilitate the development of new skills creatively.   PD sessions can’t simply be me talking at a group of people and then getting them to complete a task to demonstrate they have reached a desired outcome, any more so than when we as teachers teach a class of students.  Sometimes it might be a good idea if I got another colleague to run a session, or if the session was more of an immersive experience or role play rather than a more traditional ‘chalk and talk’/teacher-centred model.  Game-based learning ideas could really be the key to taking PD to the next level of fun, engaging and motivating.

Autonomy is an easy one but one I do struggle with I’ve realised.  Colleagues do not need to be treated like students and/or dictated to about what they should do and how.  I make the mistake sometimes of thinking that the way I believe it should be done would be best but in reality it may not be.  I need to be flexible and provide multiple opportunities and ideas for staff to facilitate the integration of new technologies in their classrooms.

I never encourage staff to use new technology for the sake of using it but to make learning experiences for students meaningful, authentic and interesting.  This is what makes the lesson relevant.  If I base my IT training sessions on the authentic experiences of my colleagues and their subject matter and contexts, I will be able to ensure that the learning is relevant for my colleagues.

Our school is one that does a lot of work using project-based learning and collaborative learning is a big focus of our teaching.  Having recently done more PBL training at the PBL World conference, I can see the values more than ever of using some of the scaffolds and activities involved in PBL within the professional development sessions that I facilitate.  The IT meeting groups I currently have allow me the perfect opportunity to facilitate collaborative learning.

Bonk and Khoo (2012) have put effort, involvement and investment under the concept of engagement but for me I’d like to add in my own definition, and thats ‘buy in’.  This relates to investment I guess but what I don’t know how to encourage colleagues to do that unless I do that.  I have to be completely invested in what I am encouraging my colleagues to do in order for them to feel that they can buy into the same.  I have to put the effort into integrating new technology if I want other colleagues to do the same.

Tension is my favourite concept in this model and one I seem to be able to accomplish this in my training sessions without any problems at all.  All I need to do is throw out a really controversial or problematic idea of how a technology could be integrated within the classroom and an intense discussion ensues.  I could probably achieve the same too if I intentionally threw out a scenario or lesson plan for a lesson that integrates a new technology and that would lead to similar discussion.  It can be very thought-provoking, and I find it to be quite productive, to have such discussions around lesson ideas.

Finally, and very importantly, yields are as significant to staff in PD as they are to students in classes.  All learning should be goal driven and have an end achievement in mind.  I need to be more explicit about the intended outcomes I have for IT training sessions and when it is a whole-staff session I am very intentional about identifying outcomes for the session but I should do it also for the smaller sessions.  Further to that, however, I should give staff the success criteria for what they should see and be able to do individually but also what they should see in the classroom to know that they successfully integrated the technology in a lesson.

These are all preliminary ideas but I’m keen to reflect on them more and develop the ideas further into something I could use more at school.


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