Developing Professional Development as Part of the Community Engagement Project.

The community engagement project challenges students to create a professional development session to be presented at a conference of the student’s choosing.  As part of building effective digital age environments, as prescribed by the ISTE Standards for Coaches #3, I chose to create an interactive session that focused on active learning and digital collaboration tools to improve current practices in nutrition education. Technology in nutrition education currently has limited uses but impactful potential. Despite the fact that nutrition information is plentiful in the digital world, the approach of dietitians and nutritionists has been to increase presence through blogs, social media, and videos (such as those on YouTube), while the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), the representative organization for all dietitians, set their efforts to instill a code of ethics and provide information on privacy in the digital workplace.  These efforts may help mitigate nutrition misinformation but are often one-sided or engage only limited populations. For example, blogs may allow comments but do not allow for active engagement with the blog topics nor takes into account implementation on a local level. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter allow for nutritionists’ voices to be heard but rarely offer collaborative engagement between other experts, or communities. The solution is relatively simple as the digital tools mentioned offered plenty room for continued collaboration among participants at any level, (local or global).

The Academy itself recognizes the potential of technology in nutrition and has published a practice paper on nutrition informatics.  Nutrition informatics is a relatively new field in dietetics that addresses technology’s role in health practices.  The Academy discusses the potential pros and cons for each of the various practice fields in dietetics (clinical, food services, education/research, community, consultation/business) and technology’s potential for growth in each of those areas. In education specifically, the Academy recognizes use in distance learning, student progress tracking, speciality testing for licensing and certification, and professional course development.  However, it does not mention need for collaboration or engaging various audiences requiring nutrition education.

In order to bridge this gap and address the ISTE Coaching Standard, the topic for this professional development proposal focuses on building better nutrition education through digital collaboration tools.   The goal of this session is to explore benefits of active learning through technology aides (EdTech) and implement tools into existing lesson plans with the following objectives in mind:

  • a) Understand and/or review importance of active learning (evidence-based practice)
  • b) Become familiarized with collaborative edtech tools
  • c) Engage with edtech tool selection criteria and best practices
  • d) Explore ways to incorporate digital tools in lesson plan scenarios.

Professional Development Session Elements

In this one-hour session, participants will be invited to explore the main topic through both face-to-face and online collaboration, as the entire group navigates through a website developed specifically for the presentation. Since all of major content is available to them online, there is no need for note-taking, allowing participants to remain engaged throughout the session. Elements of the session involve: a pre-session technology self-assessment, an online group discussion via Padlet, think pair share elements, and lastly self-reflection elements submitted during and after the session.  More details on these elements are provided below.

Length. The Academy hosts local sub-organizations in each state. I chose to develop this professional development session for local dietitians and nutrition educators with the opportunity to present at the local education conference held annually.  The requirements of this local organization state that all educational sessions must be a minimum length of one hour. This is to meet the CEU (continuing education unit) minimum for registering dietitians. Considering that through the DEL program we have taken entire classes dedicated to active learning and digital tools, the length will limit the depth of information presented.  However, the ability to continually collaborate with both participants and presenter will allow for continued resource sharing after the session has ended.

Active, engaged learning with collaborative participation. Participants will be encouraged to participate and collaborate before, during, and after the session for a full engagement experience. The audience will be asked to review certain elements of the presentation website available here intermittently as they discuss key elements with the participants next to them. See figure 1.1 for lesson plan details.

Building Better Nutrition Education Through Digital Collaboration Tools
Objectives

Session Goal: Introduce ways to incorporate digital collaboration tools into existing nutrition education lesson plans.

Learning Objectives: At the end of the session participants will:

  • a) Understand and/or review importance of active learning (evidence-based practice)
  • b) Become familiarized with collaborative edtech tools
  • c) Engage with edtech tool selection criteria and best practices
  • d) Explore ways to incorporate digital tools in lesson plan scenarios
Performance Tasks

  • Participants will complete self-assessment prior to the session
  • Participants will demonstrate understanding of active learning by submitting informal Google Form Quiz in session
  • Participants will engage in collaborative edtech tools by submitting responses during the session
  • Participants will create their own digital tool need by complete case scenario
  • They will submit self-reflection via flipgrid post session
Plan Outline

  • Session Introduction (5 mins)
    • Prompt and Participation: Padlet Q & A- Describe a time you attended a great education session, what made that session great?
    • Review of self-assessment (completed prior to session)
  • Importance of active learning- evidence-based practice (5-10 mins)
    • Review of evidence: Google form quiz (embedded in site)
    • How can digital tools help? (5-10 mins)
  • Choosing the right digital tool (10 mins)
    • Triple E Framework rubric
    • Criteria for choosing the right digital tool
  • Tips on incorporating tools into existing lesson plan (10 mins)
    • Video Tutorial (take home message/resource)
  • Active practice (10 mins)
    • Case scenarios-flipgrid response
    • Flipgrid self-reflection
  • Questions (5 mins)

Total session length: 60 mins.

Figure 1.1 “Building Better Nutrition Education through Digital Tools” Session Lesson Plan.

Before the presentation, the participants will be invited to a google form self-assessment poll addressing comfort and knowledge with technology tools as well as their current use of technology tools in practice. During the presentation, the audience will be prompted to participate in “think, pair, share” elements, as well as, respond to collaboration tools prompts on padlet, google forms, and embedded websites.  After the presentation, participants will be encouraged to summarize their learning by submitting a flipgrid video.  

Content knowledge needs. The session content begins with establishing the importance of active learning as evidence-based practice to meet objectives a) and b). Just as motivational interviewing and patient-centered practice is desirable in nutrition, active learning invoking 21st century skills is evidence-based and an education standard. The content will then shift into teacher-focused how-tos for digital tools including how digital tools can help, how to select the right digital tool, and how to incorporate that tool into an existing lesson plan to address objectives c) and d). My assumption is that participants who are not comfortable with technology may be fearful or lack of motivation to explore various tools.  Group collaboration, modelling and gentle encouragement through case studies may help mitigate these fears.

Teachers’ needs. While the majority of the session focuses on introductory content to active learning and digital tools, teacher’s needs in digital tool management can be addressed through coach/presenter modeling. Simple statements such as, “I created this flipgrid video to serve as a model for students.” or “This google form was hyperlinked to gauge students’ understanding so far,” can serve as a basis to explore class management and digital tool management within the limited time. The website itself offer a section on FAQs, exploring questions and misconceptions about active learning and digital tools. Even with all of these resources, the audience will be introduced to technology coaching and may choose to consult a coach at their current institution.

In addition to modeling, three tutorial videos are available on the website to help teachers begin creating their own active learning lesson plans using the backwards design model. Each of the tutorials features closed captioned created through TechSmith Relay for accessibility.  The Google Site was also chosen because content is made automatically accessible to viewers, all the website creator has to do is include the appropriate heading styles and use alt text for pictures, figures, and graphs.

Lessons Learned through the Development Process.

One of the major challenges to developing this project was understanding the needs of the target audience.  Because nutrition informatics is relatively new, technology use has not be standardized in the profession, therefore estimating the previous knowledge and use of digital tools by the audience was difficult. My assumption is that technology use and attitudes about technology will be varied. The website attempts to breakdown information to a semi-basic level.  The only assumption I made was that the audience has good background in standard nutrition education practices. I also chose to develop the Technology Self-Assessment for the audience to complete prior to the session as a way to gain some insight into current technology use and comfort so that I may better tailor the session to that particular audience’s needs.

I realized as I was developing the lesson plan for this session that I only have time to do a brief introduction to these very important topics. If I were to create a more comprehensive professional development, I could expand the content into three one-hour sessions including 1) introduction and theory to collaborative learning which would address the importance of digital tools in nutrition education and establish need for active learning, 2) selecting, evaluating, and curating tech tools allowing educators to become familiarized with available tools based on individual need, and 3) lesson plan development integrating collaboration tools, a “how-to” session where participants create their own plan to implement. I had not anticipated that length was going to be a barrier, however, if the audience truly has limited digital familiarity and comfort, perhaps beginning with an introduction to these topics is sufficient.

One positive lesson that I’ve learned is that trying new things, such as creating a Google Site, can be very rewarding.  I have never experimented with Google Sites prior to this project and I am quite happy with the final website, though the perfectionist in me wants to continue tweaking and editing content. I originally was aiming to create slides for this presentation but realized that I am attempting to convince a possibly skeptical audience on the benefits of digital tools so using the same old tool would not allow me to do the scope of modelling I desire.  

I must admit that before this project, I had a hard time placing myself into the role of a “tech coach” because I would continually see each concept through the lens of an educator and how to apply the concepts to my own teaching.  It has been difficult for me to take a step back and realize that I am teaching but just in a different context. Creating the step-by-step tutorials was the turning point where I envisioned the audience modeling their lesson plans to the example I had given.  I hope I have the opportunity to present this session at the educational conference and bring the ideals of active learning and digital tools to professionals working in various education settings.

Culturally Relevant Learning Environments- Examples in Nutrition

How you learn is built in to the larger part of who you are, embodies your collective experiences, norms, beliefs, and values; it is a part of your culture. Building community in the learning environment, whether on- or off-line, establishes safety, facilitates collaboration, and can help cultivate sense of self and role in the community. The ISTE standard for coaches calls coaches to “create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students… by model[ing] effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments”,(ISTE, 2017). In order to maximize these resources for learning, we need to establish a technology environment that engages students’ cultural background and understandings.

Building community can be particularly difficult in an online environment where social cues, particularly non-verbal ones, may be more challenging to interpret or oftentimes gets misinterpreted.  This becomes confounded when factoring in cultural languages and exchanges. These exchanges are not limited to ethnic cultures, but also generational cultures where task interpretations may take on different meanings.  For example, assigning students the task of investigating three community food resources may be interpreted and approached differently by students who are very familiar with technology, as opposed to non-traditional students or students that have limited access to technology.  Coaches can help instructors build understanding of the cultures present in a classroom, and implement successful learning strategies through culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP).

What is CRP and why is it important?

McCarther defines culture as an “amalgamation of human activity, production, thought, and belief systems,”(McCarther, 2017). “Culture is fundamental to learning,” (Pitsoe, 2014). Each student brings to the classroom a “fund of knowledge” shaped by their culture that influences who students are, what they believe, and how they think, (Cavalli, 2014). It is easy to understand that students bring all of themselves represented through culture in their learning, but does how they are taught represent them and their culture?  In 1995 researcher Gloria Ladson-Billings coined the termed “culturally relevant pedagogy” (CRP) in response to the fact that students learn best when their ideas and voice are shared and appreciated by the world, (McCarther, 2017). CRP invites educators to create socially just spaces and structure for students to share their voice by using teaching strategies that support the use of cultural knowledge, previous experiences, and unique performance styles that are familiar to diverse students in the classroom, (Cavalii, 2014 & McCather, 2017).  According to Ladson-Billings, student learning success encompasses academic success, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness. CRP is not prescriptive but rather flexible and ever-changing in response to the cultures unique to a particular classroom, (McCather, 2017). Good implementation of CRP in the classroom involve four key components as described by Pitsoe and summarized in Figure 1.1 below.

Infographic of CRP Components
Figure 1.1 Components of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Understanding how students learn, the reality of their world today, and what skills they need to challenge the existing systems is crucial to the implementation of CRP.

Need for CRP in Nutrition

The need for CRP in nutrition education is great. Nutrition is incredibly personal as we all eat certain foods for a variety of different reasons. Most reasons for eating are linked to social and cultural norms rather than a strong connection to health (though cultural eating is linked to maintenance of health).  Nutrition practitioners and educators need to be aware of the delicate interplay between culture and health as new foods and traditions are introduced to the diet. Presenting nutrition information in a culturally relevant manner helps engage individuals by giving them the appropriate context and tools to facilitate change. Below are two examples that help illustrate the need for CRP in nutrition counseling:

In the article, “Culturally tailored post secondary nutrition and health education curricula for indigenous populations”, the authors investigate the types and number of culturally relevant nutrition and health programs offered to students seeking to work with Alaskan natives and studying for an allied health degree.  There is a need for such training as Alaskan natives currently face a disproportionate rate of chronic disease development, particularly when Western diets substitute the traditional diet, (McConnell, 2013). After a brief review, the authors found very limited curriculum related to culturally appropriate/relevant nutrition counseling that included spirituality, respect of elders, and personal relationships with the land, waterways, and animals, (McConnell, 2013).  The information that they found was limited to stand-alone culturally tailored courses that the authors argued were considered “dead-end” trainings that were short term and only offered non-transferable skill-building, (McConnell, 2013). After a more comprehensive search, the authors found limited offerings of post-secondary training that resulted in a mainstream credential. Reasons for the limited availablity were hypothesized to be possibly related to funding, oral culture, researchers available for study, or a mix of the above, (McConnell, 2013).

The authors’ rationale for culturally tailored curriculum is very interesting, arguing that the more effective nutritional counseling approach was not to create courses for the indigenous patients themselves, but rather train future nutritionists/dietitians with additional credentials to tailor teachings that align with the food norms and beliefs of the target population. This correlates with the CRP theory principles in which states that is the role of the instructor to understand the culture of the class/client, not the client/student, as it is more effective to receive education in a context that is culturally familiar and resonates better with clients, (Pitsoe, 2014).  

When considering my own education options, to my knowledge, there isn’t post-secondary continuing education ending in credentials available for nutritionists/dietitians on culturally appropriate/relevant counseling. However, when implemented well, CRP can deliver results.  Another article, “Adaptation of a Culturally Relevant Nutrition and Physical Activity Program for Low-Income, Mexican-Origin Parents With Young Children”, described a community intervention nutrition program designed around the “Social Learning Theory” to help low-income hispanic families decrease rates of childhood obesity.  This 5-year program gave individuals in the intervention group $25 a month to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables while participating in family nutrition and physical activity nights.  As part of the model, the researchers used the “Anchor, Add, Apply, and Away” approach where participants would share food memories from childhood, share stories of life as an immigrant, problem solve by learning to make a new recipe with local foods, and share what was learned at the end of the process, (Kaiser, et. al., 2015). Parents were also asked to provide examples of what they did to promote nutrition and physical activity in their family. This served to give ideas and motivate others in the group.  At the end of the program, parents reported that children spent less time watching tv or playing video games, did more physical activity, and either maintained weight or lost weight, (Kaiser, et. al., 2015). This article explores a patient-centered approach to culturally relevant nutrition education where success was gained not only through cultural food norms and values, but also encouraged the exploration of new foods through the social learning theory.

Implementation of CRP in Nutrition Classes

There is a demonstrated need for more culturally relevant pedagogy in nutrition education, particularly considering that using the same teaching techniques on all students does not set up these individuals for sustainable success when cultural aspects to nutrition are not fully incorporated.  This begs the question: What are some approaches and examples of using culturally relevant pedagogy in nutrition classes?

According to Pitsoe, in order to maximize learning, teachers must first understand the cultures represented in their classrooms and use that understanding into their lessons, (Pitsoe, 2014).  To help with this, the Milwaukee Public Schools offers a list of questions to help teachers gain a better understanding of their students. Figure 1.2 examines these questions.

Infographic of questions building CRP
Figure 1.2 Questions for Building Culturally Relevant Practices from Milwaukee Public Schools

Once the class culture is understood, the next step is to select instruction strategies that effectively engage that culture. Some ways that teachers have successfully implemented this is by using cultural mythology to open discussions about a topic, conduct an environmental study of pollution in local community, or investigate the nutrition status of the local community, (Cavalli, 2014). These strategies could also be expanded to include discussions on the impacts of technology on food culture and generational culture.

A master’s thesis by A.C. Cavalii, provides an fuller example of CRP as implemented  in an urban science class setting. Her approach to CRP involved taking an eleven-lesson unit and blending strategies to incorporate not only direct teaching but also guided inquiry, and community investigation.  A summary of her approach can be found in Figure 1.3 below.

Figure depicts CRP Lesson Planning
Figure 1.3 A. Cavalli’s CRP Lesson Planning Example

By modeling and providing examples for instructors on building culturally relevant lessons, coaches can help teachers better develop online strategies that incorporates cultural relevance to enhance learning and build better online communities.

References

Cavalli, A. C., (2014). Teaching nutrition and health in the urban science classroom- A blended approach to culturally relevant and problem based learning. Education and Human Development Theses, The College at Brockport [website].  Available at: https://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1547&context=ehd_theses

ISTE, (2017). ISTE standards for coaches. Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kaiser, L., Martinez, J., Horowitz, M., Lamp, C., Johns, M., et al. (2015).  Adaptation of a culturally relevant nutrition and physical activity program for low-income, Mexican-origin parents with young children. Center for Disease Control [webpage]. Available at: (https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2015/14_0591.htm)

McConnell, S., (2013). Culturally tailored post secondary nutrition and health education curricula for indigenous populations. Int J Circumpolar Health. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3748461/)

Milwaukee Public Schools, (n.d.). Culturally responsive practices. Available at: http://mps.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/en/Families/Family-Services/Intervention—PBIS/Culturally-Responsive-Practices.htm