Why Reflection is Important

In reviewing my past blog posts, I notice that reflection is often found as an important step to a larger concept.  In general, reflection is needed to gather a baseline of current practices and informs either knowledge gained or next steps for improvement.

For educators, reflection can help guide instructional practice.  In the “Applying Formative Assessment in Professional Development” post, formative feedback  can be used a vehicle to promote both self- and peer-reflection in professional development which leads to a reduction in time, energy, and resources expended when compared to a formal, summative evaluation.  The researchers quoted in the “Peer Coaching Focus- For Teacher or Student Outcome” post, agree with the utility of reflection as one of the main indicators for continuing education success is time allotted for educators to reflect.

When reflection is offered as part of a process, an individual can also be better informed of their own learning and/or skill deficits which can help identify continued professional development needs. In “Instructional Coaching: Using Rubrics to Quantify Qualitative Data for Improved Teaching Outcomes” self-reflection occurs after reviewing compiled feedback from students on assignments and/or teaching practices. Under these circumstances, instructors can use self-reflection to gain insights in practices that are effective, define areas of improvement, understand how the students are learning, and address whether or not the instructor’s expectations of teaching and learning have been met. One of advantages of using this type of process is that the feedback is factual rather than emotional, or based off solely the educator’s experience.

Figure on Cox's Types of Self-Reflection
Figure 1.1 Cox’s Types of Self-Reflection.

Peer reflection can also be a helpful mechanism to gather insight into instructional practice. Because it is a collaborative event, it involves a social construct for learning. In the “Creating a Peer Coaching Culture” post, several key components of a successful peer coaching session identified by Dr. Gotteman involved both self and group reflection.  Reflection in this process helps to identify areas of improvement for the educator that is being coach and helps both peers establish a starting point for improvement.

Infographic summarizing the peer coaching process by Dr. Gotteman
Figure 1.1 Summary of Dr. Gotteman’s Peer Coaching Process

Les Foltos agrees with this idea as he identifies reflection as both a method to conduct peer coaching and as a part of the peer coaching cycle.  Reflection is crucial to understanding next steps when looking at the appropriate length of a peer coaching relationship. This introduces a cyclical nature to the coaching process.

Infographic describing the four steps to peer coaching facilitation.
Figure 1.1 Peer Coaching Facilitation

Students benefit from the reflection process similarly. Reflection can not only give students insights and help track progress of their own learning, but according to the “Co-learning, Co-Teaching, and Cogenerative Dialogues to Improve Learning and Teaching Outcomes” post, when students are empowered to share their voice for the entire teaching-learning dynamic, it becomes key in identifying areas where students still need help through cogenerative dialogues.

Figure 1.2 Summary of Cogenerative Dialogue Theory

One way to teach students how to give good constructive feedback is by using models that require reflection as part of the process. The RISE Model provide students the opportunity to reflect before any additional feedback can be given.  By reflecting first and commenting second, students can build a bigger picture and better understanding of the works that they are evaluating.  The RISE model can also be used to guide self-reflection of student’s own works to inform an improved process.

When implemented on a regular basis, reflection can help  both students and educators gain deeper understanding of the learning process.  Reflection brings to light crucial information that guides a process and builds a pathway for continued success.

Setting Departmental Goals for Digital Citizenship

As a technology coach, one of my responsibilities is to “Advocate for policies, procedures… to support implementation of the shared vision represented in…technology plans and guidelines,” according to the ISTE Coaching Standards, (ISTE, 2017).

I had an opportunity to contribute to the shared vision and future planning of my department during the second year of my masters studies. My department was undergoing a revision in departmental goals and program outcomes. Our director asked faculty to evaluate what was important for our students to learn and/or demonstrate prior to leaving the university.  Understanding that 21st century skills are an integral part of the future workforce, I suggested we included elements of digital citizenship.

This contribution was influenced by an informal assessment I had conducted of our department digital citizenship readiness where it was identified that digital communication was an area of improvement for our students.  Therefore, as part of new our digital citizenship goal, each program made a commitment to hold students accountable to digital etiquette.  Figure 1.1 highlights the outcome of that commitment.

Infographic on the departmental goals including digital citizenship
Figure 1.1 FCS Digital Citizenship Department Goal with Implementation Plan.

I worked with the instructor of the introductory FCS course to build the evidence of mastery for this departmental goal using posts from this learning portfolio and modules I have previously created in Canvas (learning management system). Implementation of these assignment are currently taking place. We will evaluate the assignments to compare outcomes to our benchmarks at the end of the quarter.

References

ISTE, 2017. ISTE standards for coaches. Available from:
https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches .

Classroom Technology Usage Pilot

In my continued exploration of professional development and evaluation, I partnered with the Educational Technology and Media department from my university to conduct a pilot survey on what types, and how faculty use current classroom technologies. The results of this pilot will inform necessary modifications to the data collection tool prior to faculty-wide administration at a later date. This is a summary of the project outcomes.

Purpose and Objectives

The aim of this pilot study was to assess current classroom technology usage at a private university in Seattle, Washington. A secondary purpose was to test the data collection tool

Five study objectives, including two related to data collection, were created:

  1. Assess current level and type of technology usage by faculty.
  2. Assess readiness for online teaching (through analysis of objective 1).
  3. Determine if current technology offered to faculty meets the needs of the faculty.
  4. Collect feedback from pilot participants on survey questions for improvement.
  5. Determine if pilot survey collects intended data.

Methodology

A survey was distributed to a convenience sample of 20 participants with the ability to recruit others. The participants were asked questions regarding areas of teaching where technology is incorporated, types of classroom technology use, student use of classroom technology, and self-identification of rate of technology adoption. Descriptive analysis was run to determine characteristic technology use of the sample along with correlation tests to beginning understanding use profiles.

Results

The results of this pilot study indicate that of the eleven (11) participants that completed the survey, most professors are fast to average technology adaptors indicating that they are open to technologies in the classroom and use technology in at least one area of their teaching/student learning. 

Bar graph describing self-identified rate of technology adoption"
Figure 1.1 “Self-identified rate of technology adoption”

Professors feel mostly comfortable with supported classroom technologies unless they do not have access to them.  If they do not feel comfortable with a technology, students will also not be exposed to these technologies which may include those that all professors have access to but are not part of every classroom such as mics and webcams. Professors also tended to rely more heavily on supported technologies as opposed to social media, which is true even when factoring into technology adoption identification. Professors used on average five (5) of the supported technologies where Canvas was the most commonly used. In comparison, professors only used one (1) social media platform on average, YouTube was the most preferred.

bar graph describing faculty use of supported classroom technology
Figure 1.2 Faculty Use of Supported Classroom Technology

V.S.

The faculty in this study were supportive of student use of technology in the classroom, allowing students to use all types of technologies only discriminating when in the classroom period technology may be used.

Recommendations

These findings cannot be generalized to the entire faculty demographic.  Recommendations to clarify survey items for better responses include definitions of major technology terminology and changes to the Likert scales for inclusion.

Full Report

Applying Formative Assessment in Professional Development

In these past few weeks, I have been exploring professional development (PD) models that optimize adult learning. The primary focus of these posts has been on the characteristics of adult learning and various professional development formats that honor these characteristics.  While understanding these models is important so that participants gain the most out of their professional development, in this post I’d like to focus on applying these concepts to incorporate content, exploring educational technology best practices described in the ISTE coaching standard 4b:  “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment,” (ISTE, 2017).

In investigating digital age best practices, formative assessment appeared as a reoccurring theme. Formative assessment as part of a feedback loops empowers learners to engage in the trial and error of learning safely and with minimal risk. Applying formative assessment to professional development could offer similar results. In applying this idea to the ISTE standard, I began wondering what digital tools could be implemented to teach teachers about the importance of formative feedback?

What is “Formative Assessment” and why is it a best practice?

Feedback loops are often used as a teaching best practice in aiding students build 21st century skills. As described in other posts in this blog, of the four different types of assessment, traditional, or summative, assessment measures learning after an assignment has been turned in.  Summative evaluation assumes that a student has “learned” after an intervention (such as teaching) and the educator evaluates the extent of that learning, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). While summative assessment is useful for formal evaluation, it may not be timely nor help students improve if only offered as one-time feedback, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Where summative assessment is formal and final, formative assessment is more casual and on-going as the evaluation occurs during the learning, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Formative assessment therefore provides a checkpoint for student understanding, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.)

I explore the benefits of feedback loops for students in this post, I’d like to expand the investigation to including formative feedback as a tool in adult learning.  The Office of Educational Technology found that formative feedback when coupled with technology tools may be more complete than traditional assessment and may “reduce time, resources, and disruption” to conduct the assessment, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.) These benefits help educators as formative assessment may provide an avenue for capturing teaching qualities that open opportunities for “self-reflection, peer reflection, feedback, and supervisor evaluation,” (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.). Extending these concepts further, formative assessment can be used in professional development as a means to inform instructional practice where participants track their own learning, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.). This means that meaningful evaluation can occur more rapidly and frequently, offer more insight, and help guide professional development needs.

Tech tools that can be used for formative assessment.

There are several educational technology tools that can be used for formative assessment. Common Sense Education created a list of the top 27 tools for formative assessment available here.  These formative feedback tools include the following features: student progress tracking, interactive and collaborative activities, student-paced learning, and instant feedback to both students and teacher. Formative feedback is given by utilizing interactive slideshow presentations, video responses, multi-multimedia platforms, content-mapping, quizzes (including clickers and polling), and backchannel chats. In creating the list, Common Sense Education agrees with the Office of Educational Technology stating that the best formative assessment tools help students (and participants in this case) self-reflect and assess so that they understand their current level of learning and self-identify areas of improvement, (Common Sense Education, n.d.).

Integrating formative assessment into professional development.

Incorporating formative assessment in adult learning must assume that participants are learners who are joining the professional development for a variety of different motives that are relevant to their work situations. Though are quite a few professional development resources available on the internet on formative feedback tools, I’d like to use this professional development video I found through YouTube entitled, “10Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology: Meaningful, Sustainable, & Scalable” as an example. In the video Dr. Monica Burns walks participants through her tips by highlighting main features and how to use some formative feedback tools.  A summary of her tips is provided in figure 1.1 below.

infographic on tips for incoporating technology tools with formative assessment.
Figure 1.1. Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology

Though the video is purely informational as Dr. Burns lectures for about 30 minutes on her ten tips, this could be a useful resource for participants that are highly motivated. The professional development model used assumes that the participants already have an awareness of formative assessment and simply need guidance or ideas on how to implement this in their teaching practice.

According to the ISTE standard, best practices for the effective PD includes modeling, (ISTE, 2017). While the workshop above may model ways to use each tool through verbal and visual description, it fails to include participant buy-in and interaction. Formative feedback could have been included into the professional development itself, allowing participants an opportunity to experience instant feedback through the lens of a learner. For example, demonstrating how to gauge comprehension to better understand the audience’s needs could have been accomplished by using a backchannel chat or using the polling/quizzes apps described in the video.  This tangible and experiential approach could help increase self-efficacy of technology tools for mixed audiences where the presenter modifies their role to facilitation at certain periods of the professional development.  When presenters start thinking about their participants as learners, professional development becomes stronger, more impactful which can yield better improvements in teaching and learning.

References

Common Sense Education, (n.d.) Top tech tools for formative assessment. Available from: https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/top-tech-tools-for-formative-assessment

Office of Educational Technology, (n.d.) Section 4: Measuring for Learning. Available from: https://tech.ed.gov/netp/assessment/

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Incorporating feedback loops to develop an empowered student [blog]. Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/incorporating-feedback-loops-to-develop-an-empowered-student/

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Instructional coaching: Using rubrics to quantify qualitative data for improved teaching outcomes.
Available from: http://professorvlad-ortiz.org/instructional-coaching-using-rubrics-to-quantify-qualitative-data-for-improved-teaching-outcomes/

Reflections on Peer Coaching

I embarked on a project where I undertook the role of peer coach. Using the communication skills and logistical training from class, I enhanced my coaching skills over a ten week period. I’m not a stranger to coaching, in a former career I counseled patients on therapeutic diets, diet change, and overcoming barriers to change, using very similar principles.  In fact, I became quite nostalgic all throughout this process. The strange and unfamiliar term of “peer coaching”became comfortable and familiar once concepts like “probing questions”, and “building rapport” came to light. With no billing hours and diagnosis to defend (mainly to insurance) peer coaching felt quite light and freeing in comparison to coaching in a medical application.

The project itself consisted of enlisting the help of a peer who would be willing to undergo a collaborative revision of an existing lesson plan. The idea was to spend time building rapport and establishing set roles for each peer prior to the collaborative process.  The collaboration would then focus on one major area of concern to be improved in the lesson plan.  Following this revision, both parties would reflect on the process to provide feedback.

The Coaching Process

To start the project, I partnered with a former supervisor, SK, who is very open-minded to incorporating technology in the classroom. She had been wanting to explore new ways to use technology in online and blended courses beyond simple course management.  She felt that online classes tended to be boring or isolating because most are designed to be “work at your own pace” and independent. Faced with planning a new blended course set to go live during the next academic year, SK sought me out for suggestions.  Throughout the peer coaching process, we had four face-to-face meetings (where the majority of the collaboration was performed) while also communicating follow-up items via email.  A summary of these encounters are provided below:

First Meeting. In our first meeting, SK shared more information about her new course intended to be a blended classroom with community engagement components.  Beyond the course description, the only other information established were the course objectives she had developed after reviewing textbooks with similar themes. 

After understanding more about the scope of the work, we established our roles, expectations for our time together, and ended our session by creating a SMART goal that would guide our future work. The expectations for me in the coaching role were clear, I was to facilitate the assessment- and course calendar- development process, keeptrack of our progress towards achieving our goal, and provide key resources needed to complete the work.  My peer would then complete all other work necessary to continue to the next phase.

infographic of SMART Goal for the peer coaching project.
Figure 1.1 SMART Goal for Peer Coaching Project

As part of this first phase of coaching, I also met with my direct supervisor to share the above information and ensure that our work aligns with departmental goals.  Interestingly, this discussion coincided with a revamp of the departmental goals unrelated to this project. Later in the quarter, technology incorporation and digital citizenship were included as new goals. With this new vision, our coaching work aligned with our departmental values.Our supervisor was very encouraging, supportive, and wanted feedback regarding the results of our collaboration at the end of the process.

Second Meeting. Prior to our second meeting, I began reflecting on SK’s goals and our previous conversations. Given that the course objectives were already established, I wondered if the “Backward Design” model would be a good starting point for our work.  I verbalized this intention to my peer via email which also included resources on “Backward Design”.  During our second meeting, we took a closer look at the established course objectives and began identifying thinking skills that would satisfy each objective.  We soon discovered that one objective in particular required both low order- and higher order- thinking skills to successfully complete.  SK expressed a desire use this objective as our starting point since it was the largest and most complicated.  We agreed that we would develop a unit around this objective that would then serve as a model for the subsequent objectives/units.

Third Meeting. At the end of our second meeting, SK expressed a concern about her choice of text, wondering if it was the best option available. I had suggested using multiple sources that would be updated more frequently including websites,journal articles, and open source textbooks. I promised to provide a few databases on open source materials so SKcould review prior to our third meeting.

SK made good use of the databases and had established a rough draft of the course calendar.  In the calendar she separated big topics into one-week units along with associated learning outcomes for each unit.  For the big unit we had decided to focus on,SK developed a three-week timeline with associated reading assignments and engagement activities.  For the reminder of our meeting, we discussed the engagement activities at length focusing on any potential technology integration that would allow for collaboration.

Fourth Meeting.  By this time, we had already met our SMART goal.  Prior to meeting, I used our loosely-defined definition of engagement (including active learning,collaboration, and participation) and made notes on the unit’s learning activities for future consideration. These suggestions were mainly to address prior concerns of isolation in traditional blended classrooms. We went through these suggestions.  My peer expressed a desire to stop our work for the time being as she was happy with our progress and wanted time to reflect upon the ideas explored in this last meeting.

Infographic on summary of engagement tasks of the big unit.
Figure 1.2 Summary of Engagement Tasks in Big Unit

Feedback and Reflections

At the end of our peer coaching relationship, SK provided positive feedback on our progress.  She was happy that we were able to remain on task to meet our SMART within our allotted time despite very busy schedules.She appreciated the ability to ask for suggestions and bounce ideas off of eachother.  Talking through ideas was helpful for understanding how each component could be more engaging in an onlinesetting.  Despite our momentum in organizing the blended classroom, SK noted that she will be taking sabbatical making our last meeting an excellent stopping point. 

Taking from an outside perspective, one of my colleagues, LB, reviewed the progress outlined above and agreed to provide feedback.  LB’s comments and reactions to the project were positive and focused on three aspects:

1) Coaching relationship; she noted that the relationship my peer and I had worked well to help us achieve our goals. Having established clear expectations early on ensured the accountability my peer wanted to gain a head start in course development. 

 2) Unit organization; though my peer and I didn’t plan and evaluate a lesson plan,which was the original scope of this project, LB commented on the process of developing the unit.  She noted that the assessment components of our chosen unit appeared fun, engaging, and meaningful for students.

3) Coaching skills; LB and I shared experiences during this project.LB commented on the fact that I performed my coaching skills well.  While I think my past experiences partially reflect this, I do also think that my success is rooted in the fact that my peer is also an experienced collaborator and understood what a collaborative partnership should look like.

Personal Reflections.

Things that went well. Taking LB’s comments into consideration and reflecting back on my performance, I had an overall positive experience. Mypeer and I were very appreciative of one another’s efforts towards the progression of our project. We stood by our established expectations and fulfilled our roles accordingly.  One aspect that was a little surprising for me was the fact that my peer saw me as a subject matter expert and expected this type of coaching style.  Interestingly, I did not see myself as the“expert”, opting instead for a more collaborative coaching style. In the end,my role/style morphed into a little of both. One delightful discovery my peer and I made through our brainstorming and collaborative efforts, we used our strengths to explore a creative way to use Pinterest as a visual timeline for a major project.  By using what knowledge I had about existing technologies, and collaborating by offering lots of options and suggestions for their use, my peer could choose the option that was right for the course or the one she felt most comfortable exploring.

In addition to responding to my peer’s expectations well, another strength of this project was our communication style. Because SK and I worked together previously, we had already established rapport and understood our working styles. SK knew that her preferences would be honored throughout this process and her decisions would be supported because she was encouraged to express herself open and honestly. Most of our communication was through face-to-face interaction with only supported our good communication. Email communication was limited to follow up emails.  These follow-ups were helpful to ensure accountability by both parties. Each email would review past conversations, action items to be completed prior to the next meeting, and any resolutions to concerns, such as the opensource databases. 

On a curious note, SK felt very motivated to complete her part in a timely manner because she was very respectful of the fact that this was an assignment for me and she didn’t want to “mess up” my project.

Things that could have been improved. LB mentioned several times that she enjoyed the layout and the organization of the assignments prepared for the big unit as a strong feature to the project.  However, I cannot take credit for the organization as my peer completed this work.  SK knew what she wanted and I served as resource to help her reach that goal. Because of this, I feel that I didn’t really do anything aside from give options and opinions of the information my peer brought forth.  I must recognize however that this is what my peer wanted and in this particular coaching scenario, it worked well. In the future, I would also like to improve my communication skills to be more in line with the prescribed communication methods learnt in this course.  Should I collaborate with a peer that isn’t as clear with what they want, the probing and clarifying questioning skills are going to prove crucial to success.

While the topics of our meetings were loosely set previously, I never created agendas or had any particular topics to review aside from the backwards design model. Keeping the meetings loose did allow for more open-ended exploration of our goals but I wonder what the outcome could have been if I had better defined our meetings? Again,this style worked well for this particular coaching scenario, but I’d like to keep this idea in mind for a future coaching partner who perhaps needs more structure or guidance.

Thoughts on coaching for the future. I would love to incorporate a coaching culture in my department. Working with SK was not only an opportunity to help her gain ideas and resources for her new class, but it was also an opportunity to get to know one another in a different environment. Our collaboration was meaningful and fruitful.  

Though we currently do not have a one-on-one coaching program in my department, we have classroom observations as one of our required professional development strategies.Therefore the basic idea and structure is already in place.  I’d like to expand upon that work to create a more constructive professional development environment where professors move away from work in isolation to work in collaboration. I’ve already begun exploring coaching culture in a previous blog post available here. Moving forward, I would need department input and an assessment of current thoughts and attitudes towards peer coaching. Should the department approve, more meaningful and fruitful interactions would allow 21st Century skills to thrive in our courses.