New opportunities; new ways of learning. Lets embrace the possibilities melded learning presents for teacher professional development. Confidence in using technology can be a barrier to colleagues engaging with online learning. Due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions many school colleagues who were previously nervous and reluctant to use online systems have faced their fears and found that technology has been surprisingly easy to use, such as zoom, a popular virtual meeting software, or online learning environments, such as google classroom. There has been an increase in the number of teachers engaging in educational conversations on twitter, watching video clips via platforms such as YouTube or engaging in live sessions online. We should capitalise on recent gains, particularly when seeking to deepen understanding of complex educational matters.
However, success with melded learning that actually brings about school improvement does not happen by magic; it requires a positive learning culture, a clear focus on goals to be achieved, a big picture plan, effective organisation, high-quality ongoing dialogue, careful monitoring and evaluation. Leaders need to approach melded learning strategically and have a genuine commitment to professional development. The rewards can be amazing - but to unlock potential takes skilful leadership. Melded learning particularly lends itself to the in-depth study of educational issues and provides a framework in which to maximise the impact of professional development.
This blog considers :
1) how to create a melded professional development programme;
2) factors leaders should consider to ensure melded learning yields excellent returns;
3) how participants can get the most from a melded learning programme;
4) the types of thinking that maximise the impact of professional development.
When designing adult learning:
It is particularly important to emphasise 'critical thinking' in adult learning programmes and require participants to draw conclusions, synthesise information and share knowledge with each other. Reflective discourse is important in enabling adults to assimilate new information and in helping them to make accommodations to their existing schema (e.g. changing their perceptions, addressing a misconception, correcting an error, changing a viewpoint, altering habits, changing procedures, engaging in new ways of working). It is harder to make accommodations than it is to acquire new information. As adults bring with them a great deal of existing knowledge, it is important to engage with any new material with an analytical and reflective lens. An open mind and a questioning approach also help to move adult learning forward.
Reflection and critical thinking are more likely to occur when group sessions are facilitated, i.e. by an senior leader, expert in the field, coach. Whoever facilitates group dialogue should aim to become skilled in aiding adult learners to engage with the materials and in reflective discourse. It should not simply be assumed that putting colleagues together in groups will automatically result in transformational discourse.
Moving from the inner to the outer layers of the circle - and moving between the layers.
Also see the work of Diep, Anh Nguyet. Adult learners' needs in online and blended learning, Australian Journal of Adult Learning, Vol 59, No 2, July 2019.
Each layer builds on from the last, but can also be returned to.
Circle 1 Readiness: It is important that participants are informed about what is expected of them as learners and are provided with optimal physical conditions to learn, e.g. space, time, equipment. At the lower end of the framework, we deal with physiology and safety aspects of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. For example, clarity of goals, success criteria, transparency of how progress / impact will be measured and assessed, time lines, programme structures all help to relieve uncertainty and enable colleagues to feel safe. In this circle, schools should address issues related to resources and equipment, technical support and confidence colleagues have in being able to engage with the learning, e.g. how use the online platform, confidence in using zoom technology for virtual meetings, ability to use brainstorming software; and confidence for actual learning, e.g. study buddy, allocation to a team/group, a lead facilitator or coach, dedicated time to talk about themselves as a learner and their progress towards the goal. Adult learners should continue advance their learning skills. For example, in university courses and A levels learning tends to focus on individual performance, whereas school improvement relies on collective performance. How do work effectively to ensure the whole team are competent and skilled? Prior to entering the teaching profession colleagues may have engaged in courses that have a very well defined curriculum to follow and an examination to work towards, whereas in schools it may be up to school colleagues to set out the content to be covered and the skills to be learned, and consider how performance will be measured! Investing time in readiness will reap rewards later.
The readiness circle also includes understanding WHY professional development is necessary. How does the training and learning link to school improvement? "it provides a raison d’etre for the investment of effort in both individual and collaborative learning activities, given the limited time adults can reserve for learning. This is significant because while the learning itself normally intrinsically motivates adult learners, they are also goal-oriented, viewing time as ‘left’ rather than ‘passed by’ (Knowles, 1984;)." Diep 2019.
Circle 2 Foundation stage: The second element of the framework provides opportunities for participants to build knowledge, understanding and skills, e.g. through online learning modules, video clips, instructor led sessions, lesson demonstrations. Switching between circles 2 and 3 allows participants to engage in a 'knowledge community'. In order for circle 3 to be successful, participants need knowledge. The programme should set out very clearly how knowledge levels will be raised.
Circle 3 Relatedness: The third elements acknowledges the importance of relationships and interactions in the knowledge building and learning process. Social inclusion and teamwork are essential ingredients in the participants having sustained motivation for learning. This dimension, therefore, embraces literature in knowledge construction and socio-constructivism. Metacognition and critical unpicking of materials should be ingredients in this circle. Usually, there needs to be a facilitator to help get the most from the activities, e.g. keeping discussion on topic, raising perceptive questions, scaffolding discussion, supporting colleagues to express their thinking, capturing group conclusions, documenting ideas, aiding synthesis.
Sharing knowledge is a reciprocal exchange and there is perceived enjoyment for supporting others in this way. Blended learning research has shown that social exchanges are extremely important to the motivation levels of participants and for increasing the pleasure of study. Reciprocal knowledge sharing among team members can enhance their problem-solving abilities and therefore team effectiveness.
Sharing knowledge with others requires participants to express their own understanding and as a result they may gain a better grasp of concept through the articulation of thoughts, feedback from others, questions raised by others and other's contributions. Sharing knowledge also helps participants to consider gaps in their own understanding or raise questions in their mind that they can then pursue through independent study, perhaps returning to the group with answers or a more thorough / clear expression of knowledge and ideas.
Circle 4 Growth and confidence: The other circles provide a firm foundation on which participants can then successfully engage in self-directed autonomous learning, becoming experts themselves. Having built a firm foundation, participants are better able to make more sense of wider contributions to the field of study, e.g. appreciating twitter comments, placing blog posts in contexts, linking theories together, engaging with the research community. Intrinsic motivation plays a part in achieving high-level knowledge and understanding. This circle allows participants more freedom to pursue study along their own motivational lines of enquiry. "The researchers insist that adult learners should be afforded the opportunities to take ownership of their studies, namely respect for learner autonomy or diverse talents and ways of learning (Bangert, 2004; Ross-Gordon, 2003; Walker, & Fraser, 2005)." Diep 2019. This circle also works towards competence and skill - for competence to be enhanced, learners need to have access to feedback that helps them improve their learning, experience a feeling of efficacy (Bandura, 1988). "Additionally, learners need to be cognitively challenged by learning activities that help them to test and go beyond their academic capacities. Thus, feedback and learning activities that have a formative nature are necessary to support learners’ competence." Diep, 2019.
An A3 audit can be downloaded at the end of this blog.
What is melded learning?
One of the most common definitions of the term 'blended Learning' is "combine face-to-face instruction with computer mediated instruction" (Graham, 2006, p.41). We can unpick this further to consider what elements might be included when we use blended learning in the workplace. In 2002, Margaret Driscoll writing for IBM said blended learning was:
1. To combine or mix modes of web-based technology (e.g., live virtual classroom, self-paced instruction, collaborative learning, streaming video, audio, and text) to accomplish an educational goal.
2. To combine various pedagogical approaches (e.g., constructivism, behaviourism, cognitivism) to produce an optimal learning outcome with or with out instructional technology.
3. To combine any form of instructional technology (e.g., videotape, CD-ROM, web-based training, film) with face-to-face instructor-led training.
4. To mix or combine instructional technology with actual job tasks in order to create a harmonious effect of learning and working.
Melded learning is the combination of learning methods to achieve one or more goals. Blended learning is usually considered to be online learning + face-to-face learning. Melded learning is the use of multiple ways of improving knowledge, understanding and skill to achieve a learning goal. For example, in seeking to improve the quality of reading comprehension teaching, colleagues may undertake the following:
complete an online learning course in order to build knowledge;
digest a range of research papers to challenge their thinking;
work with colleagues on collaborative planning of lessons to aid implementation of ideas;
watch live or recorded lessons to analyse impact of teaching methods;
participate in small group debate and discussion (face-to-face or virtually via videoconferencing) to tease out ideas and improve clarity of thinking ;
read professional texts on the subject or participate in jigsaw reading activities to gain more breadth and depth of learning;
attend instructor led sessions (live) / links with experts in the field to ensure understanding is deep enough, ask questions and seek clarity;
share findings with each other to promote good practice and ensure there is collective responsibility;
test out their ideas in the classroom;
action plan together;
access twitter, blogs, chat groups to gather a wider perspective and ask the wider education community questions;
communicate with each other key findings and conclusions;
The melded part is putting together the full programme in a structured and systematic way so that it yields high results.
Melded learning plots a route towards a professional learning goal and links this very closely to the desired school improvement goal. If it is a whole school priority: It would have some core elements that everyone would complete and some elements that would be allocated/chosen by individuals based on their needs, role, interest and career progression. If it was a personal goal: it would be a custom programme.
It focuses on deep learning that is connected and integrated with existing knowledge to build comprehensive schema on important issues. It should aim to build expertise and increase knowledge leading to empowerment of colleagues. A central principle is a commitment to creating a knowledgeable workforce that has the agility to respond to future demands in the profession.
It is tracked and monitored. A critical element is ongoing professional dialogue about how the learning is moving the person(s) closer towards the goal. It has a 'director' that is guiding colleagues towards desired outcomes. There are regular reviews and elements of coaching/mentoring that helps colleagues to take ownership of their learning and individual and collective responsibility for shifts in practice and processes.
Whilst research shows that self-directed learning can be motivating, researchers have also found that adult learners should be provided with structure to comfortably and effectively organise their learning (Cercone, 2008). Over time, adult learning should aim to foster independence and to do this professional dialogue 'about learning' and the 'learners effectiveness' are important, as is accountability and reflection on goals / success criteria. Melded learning allows the learner security and peace of mind of a central program (designed with a goal in mind) whilst also providing plenty of opportunities for self-directed learning as the learning unfolds.
It requires headteachers to commit senior leadership time (including their own) to leading melded learning. Strategic and ongoing leadership is essential for success.
Melded learning would include elements from all six of the areas listed in this diagram.
Richness, breadth, depth and specialisation
Online courses can offer teachers CPD that is more extensive than a twilight, a single day course or even a multi-day face-to-face course. Face-to-face training can be limited by time avilable and training can be prohibitively expensive. Online courses can offer a richness of materials, allowing colleagues to add greater depth and/or greater breadth to their learning. In menu driven online learning courses, there is often also the option to specialise - allowing colleagues to dig into materials that meet a specific need, match well to their role in school or follow a particular interest or line of enquiry. A mix of essential and optional components can ensure everyone's needs are met. For example, EYFS colleagues can feel frustrated as they sit through training sessions that don't relate well to their phase. The EYFS team often try very hard to interpret training session through an early years lens - some are very skilled at doing so, but it is always great to have the option to access more specialist materials and online learning can offer a broader range of materials for participants to choose from. Online learning environment can offer more pathways through materials to account for the differencing needs and roles of colleagues. It can also be frustrating in face-to-face courses if the materials is too basic or too advanced. Online learning offers more control over the pace of learning.
However, there can be drawbacks that need to be mitigated against. For example poor quality equipment, a requirement to be self-disciplined in studying, a feeling of isolation if not combined with other forms of learning, not having a comfortable work space to operate in, a lack of associated skills (e.g. ability to create notes online, brainstorming software, software to help organise thinking), an ill-defined work schedule, time not allocated to study. All of these can be addressed by leaders who are serious about improving teacher performance.
Who is in charge?
This will vary from school to school:
Ultimately governors are responsible for the development and well being of staff. There should be a governor linked to staff development. They can be particularly useful for interviewing staff representatives, e.g. NQTs, subject leaders, TAs, HLTAs, lunch time support staff, business manager, caretaker/estates manager - to get a rounded picture of professional development. They should support and challenge the headteacher regarding the quality, quantity, spending and impact of professional development and the extent to which it is supporting the school to achieve the school improvement objectives.
The headteacher needs the 'big picture' view. They should focus on the strategic elements. This would include setting out a vision, monitoring progress, supporting senior leaders to effectively lead professional development activities, appraisal arrangements, reviewing spending, reviewing the whole picture and spread / depth of CPD, ensuring CPD is quality assured, ensuring evaluation takes place, holding leaders and other colleagues to account, delegating. Some of the strategic & some operational elements might be delegated to a DHT depending on the size of school and the way workload is divided. As with everything, there will be operational elements, e.g. ordering books, timetabling, organising meetings, linking teachers to coaches. It is important to ensure there is clear strategic leadership and an effective and efficient organisational plan.
CPD lead - There are likely to be some professional development that meets a whole school improvement objective. Leadership of the training would usually therefore be allocated to a senior leader or a subject leader / teachers with a specific whole school responsibility (perhaps backed up by a member of SLT). For example, if the focus is 'exploring how mathematics progress can be enhanced through the use of manipulatives', then the mathematics leader would need to help steer the CPD offer; if the focus is 'distributed leadership' then it might be the DHT or member of SLT leading improvements in middle leadership.
Teams - in primary schools either phases or year groups (depending on the size of the school) are an ideal way to: support discussions and professional dialogue, encourage engagement, provide access to support and advice, assist in monitoring developments, assessing the impact of CPD on the pupils in their phase. Ultimately, the CPD needs to impact on ways of working and pupil outcomes. Phase leaders are well placed to see how the professional development is delivering results on the ground and help senior leaders to assess the ongoing needs of their team.
Other types of team: there might be other ways of grouping participants, e.g. a mix of phases, a mix of expertise, a mix of experience. Groups might be established of 'early adopters' or might specialise in a particular aspect, e.g. 'non-fiction reading and reading to learn across the curriculum' whilst another group specialise in 'book talk for fiction texts'.
Wider staff - don't forget to include your wider staff and governors. What training are they accessing, are they in a 'team' to aid professional dialogue, who is ensuring they are working towards goals?
Benefits of peer learning and shared goals
Whilst we want colleagues to pursue individual and personal goals - the school grows in collective strength if all colleagues are high performing - we also want to use learning to help address whole school issues or larger items on the school improvement agenda. There are benefits to be gained from shared goals and collaborative working. For example, a small group of colleagues might collaborate on using professional development to increase the impact of phonological awareness learning in nursery and reception classes. These colleagues may go on to work with a larger group of colleagues on using phonological awareness in older year groups to close the gap for struggling readers. The two CPD elements link together to help the school improve the percentage of pupils who are fluent readers (perhaps alongside a range of other measures led by different colleagues).
Studies of various kinds have found a positive relationship between peer learning and academic achievement. However, a key ingredient is the knowledge base of the participants. Too often in educational settings, peer learning is seen as getting a group together and working on an answer without proper investment in building the group's knowledge and expertise. To build initial personal knowledge, colleagues might, for example, compete online learning modules, watch video clips, engage with research articles, read chapters of relevant books, observe lessons. There may be specific pieces that everyone in the group has read / watched / reviewed. Some learning activities might be completed by the entire group, e.g. an instructor led face-to-face session.
In collaborative learning there would be:
strategies for increasing the groups' shared knowledge base;
investment by individuals to build specialist knowledge in order to increase breadth and depth of collective knowledge and understanding;
to have shared thinking responsibilities, e.g. reflect on what has been read, be open to consideration of new ideas expressed by external experts, be analytical about videos watched /practice seen, seek to understand the thoughts of others in the group, seek ways to improve group expertise, work towards shared schema.
to learn and share learning through dialogue, e.g. participate in meaningful debate and discussion; the requirement to ask questions and engage in thoughtful listening.
an agreement to work together to synthesise knowledge, e.g. build collective schema, draw conclusions, identify key points in the field of study, create models and diagrams to represent key concepts.
team effort to create tangible products from the learning, e.g. action planning, changing processes, updating policies, changing lesson structures, new ways of teaching.
support for each other in planning implementing and reflecting on ideas.
greater motivation for learning derived from the pleasure of working as part of a team (and improvements in team problem solving).
(These activities would be in circle 3 relatedness - you can download the prompts at the end of the blog). Ideally, there needs to be a 'group leader / facilitator' - which should be a member of the group who is learning alongside their peers.
Plus, collective accountability - the success of all colleagues working towards the goal rather than just individually accountability - and knowledge of this at the outset. Too little time is usually devoted to setting out clear objectives and an agreement as to how everyone will operate in order to achieve the goals. Time spent planning and thinking about learning before it takes place, particularly when the learning may take a full academic year (or more) needs a firm foundation on which to buil. There needs to be clear expectations and a solid timeline.
Building the Right Ethos
Learning, be that for adults or children, is more successful if the ethos of the learning environment is right. Creating a positive professional development ethos does not happen overnight. It is more likely to happen if leaders (particularly the headteacher) truly believes in the power of professional learning and see teachers as part of an educational landscape that goes well beyond the boundary of their school (or group of schools). They truly want colleagues to grow wings and they are prepared to set them free, even if it is painful to be parted. Headteachers who care about the people they work with, and their futures, usually have strong CPD offers.
At a very practical level what can leaders do to help create the right ethos?
An ethos is built through the million small things you do everyday. It is the print that runs through every section of a stick of rock. It is not created by token gestures. Saying it also doesn't make it true. It is embodied in every action and everything that is said. It is about the values you hold dear, the ethics you use to make decisions, your moral compass, your beliefs and your vision. Talking about what you want the school to be like can help to form a collective vision to work towards, but then you have to live the words and hold others to account who do not! Not challenging poor practice / misaligned actions can be as damaging, if not more so, than positive proactive steps to create the right ethos. Don't let others set the ethos by stealth!
Leadership enthusiasm - a genuine love of learning by senior leaders. Putting learning at the heart of the school for everyone. This should shine through decision making processes and every day interactions and be seen in what is valued.
An expectation that everyone will be committed to professional learning. This includes 'walking the walk' and senior leaders sharing their own reflective practice and professional learning. Enthusiasts of professional learning in the school can inspire everyone. I was recently watching Pritesh Raichura's session 'Planning Effective Teacher Led Lessons' as part of ResearcED 2020 (see YouTube) and it reminded me just how important enthusiasm for professional learning is in inspiring others. It is a great example of someone who has gained from professional learning and embodies reflective practice. Their approach would be likely to inspire others to commit time and resources to their own learning. Having people in school share how their learning has helped them to become better teachers / better leaders gets everyone talking about 'how' you learn as an adult and 'what' you learn as an adult.
Appreciation of different types of professional learning and differing levels of learning. Sometimes you need a quick fix, but at other times you need to acknowledge that expertise requires time and effort to achieve. Those leaders who are prepared to support colleagues in their pursuit of in-depth, long lasting learning are more likely to reap higher rewards in the long run.
A willingness to give people the time they need to train and undertake professional learning. Exhausted teachers do not make good learners! Neither do cold, hungry or stressed teachers. Leaders who really want to create an ethos of learning make sure the conditions are right and use Maslow's hierarchy of needs to help colleagues get the most from their learning.
Holding people to account - if we believe in the power of professional learning, then we should expect there to be impact. If we don't expect there to be impact, what does it say about how much we value professional learning? I don't mean superficial accountability either - I mean the type that recognises all the nuances of impact (look out for upcoming blog posts on this issue).
Options and choices - this might be via allocated funds that allow colleagues to purchase resources, books, courses, classroom materials, or the theoretical purchase of time (e.g. allocating some of the funds to classroom cover). Options might be about what we learn, how we learn, when we learn, who we learn with. This puts some of the power in the hands of those who will be held to account.
Making professional learning an important part of appraisals, including support and discussions around career development. A genuine interest in colleague's career progression in order to create a mix of learning that responds to school needs and personal needs.
Opportunities to celebrate and share findings.
Time to talk to senior leaders / headteacher. Time is a precious gift. If I give you time to talk to me about your learning, it tells you that I think it is important and has value. It also suggests that I might learn something from you, just as much as you might learn something from me. Sharing, talking, a rich dialogue that includes questioning and debate helps to build better schools.
Mary Myatt in her Researched 2020 session talked about reducing work that has limited impact in order to invest in things that do. It simply is not possible to constantly add more. An over stretched workforce do not make good learners.
I have been fortunate to work with colleagues who have been prepared to give me time - instructional, coaching, mentoring, support - many different types. I have benefited form working in schools who placed a premium on CPD. I have had access to funds that allowed me to participate in many different types of course, from single day to year long courses. I had the opportunity to work with experts within and beyond the local authority in my role as an adviser in Leeds. I have been able to attend many national events. Working for myself for six years has allowed me to pursue personal educational interests, direct my time to continued development of educational expertise and allocate funds to buying books and training materials - I don't have to negotiate with anyone! I have been welcomed by many schools in West Yorkshire and watched hundreds of lessons as part of school improvement activities and training for leaders. I have gained from different roles, such as being a Chair of Governors for a large primary school. There are so many CPD elements that I have accessed, I couldn't possibly list them all. It has been a mix of personal endeavour and support from others - I hope all colleagues are as lucky as I have been in having access to wide ranging and fulfilling professional development. What have you benefited from? What was the most useful to you? Who has helped you? What impact has CPD had on your teaching / leadership? How can you support others?
Helping participants to get the most from melded learning
There is no doubt in my mind that you only get out of training what you put in. Colleagues who come with an open mind and a willingness to work hard benefit the most. Some colleagues actively seek to squeeze every morsel from training opportunities and see advantages and opportunities everywhere they look. Teachers should consider of themselves - what would they want in an ideal 'student' or 'adult learner'.
An important factor is the degree to which colleagues are able to be self-regulated learners. To what degree are colleagues metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviourally active participants in the process of monitoring their own learning? Pintrich (2000) defines self regulated learners as those who actively construct their own learning process and are able to set their learning goals, while also making an effort to observe, adjust, and control their cognition, motivation, and behaviour in achieving those goals. There needs to be an ethos that openly and joyously talks about learning. Continuous learning, an openness to learn, a direct and conscious effort to learn therefore have to be valued and there should be an expectation that colleagues are working towards learning goals set by the organisation and their own goals.
"Students who engaged in more online self-regulatory learning behaviours generally had a more positive perception of blended courses. This is because during online instruction, students assume greater responsibility and autonomy for their learning. When they acquire the skills to regulate different learning strategies in their learning process, they will have greater satisfaction in learning, and hence higher chances of being successful in blended learning courses." Chee Leong Lim 2020.
It is likely that any professional development that will have a long term and sustained impact on school improvement is likely to be complex and take time to achieve. Colleagues may have more than one goal in a year. It is important to understand the goal for each individual strand of professional development and have a handle on what the big picture looks like for the year (or beyond).
1. GOAL Participants need to be clear on the goal. This might be a goal that has been set for them (e.g. related to whole school development plan) or a personal goal (related to their own development). The goal might relate to a subject or be specific to a year group or might focus on a pupil group. Participants need to understand why undertaking the professional development activity is important. Buy-in is essential for maintaining motivation. 'The more important I believe the goal is, the more motivated I will be to achieve it!' What does the school (or individual teacher) hope to achieve by completing the professional development? Why is change necessary?
2. CLARITY / SUCCESS CRITERIA What will participants know, understand and be able to do at the end of the professional development programme? How will teachers (and school leaders) judge the impact of the training undertaken. Knowing the success criteria helps participants to self-evaluate and judge their progress towards the criteria - enabling them to alter their learning accordingly. It also helps them to consider how close or far away they currently are from the goal. The distance needed to be travelled to achieve the goal might not be the same for everyone. Having a sense of this enables colleagues to adjust the amount of time and effort devoted to the learning, and helps them to consider what strategies and resources might be most useful to them in achieving the goal. For example, a novice teacher thinking they are a long way from the goal might need a mentor, a more experienced member of staff might have had feedback that indicates they are not far away from the goal and actually their focus might be on deepening their understanding, reading research and deconstructing their practice in order to be able to share it with others.
3. AN EMPHASIS ON KNOWLEDGE & UNDERSTANDING - Professional development that deepens / extends participants knowledge base is likely to reap rich rewards for the individual and the school. Deep knowledge empowers colleagues and will allow them to develop understanding of key concepts and ensure that they can build links between concepts. Being an effective teacher / being an effective leader requires a powerful interconnected web of knowledge and skills. We are more likely to be able to make sophisticated links between elements of our practice if we focus on achieving a full understanding of the issues. Learning which focus on a mixture of 'quick wins' and 'deep knowledge' are likely to make an impact on school improvement and will aid future learning undertaken by the individual. Deep learning is an investment in the person and leaders that favour deep learning for their school are likely to believe that a knowledgeable workforce will ultimately benefit the school (education sector) in many ways (achieving the goals set) and in currently undefined ways!
4. CORE ELEMENTS / FRAMEWORKS As a profession, there has been an emphasis on trying to create a 'painting by numbers', 'just add water', '5 minute summaries' approach. There is a benefit on trying to distil key messages to colleagues, particularly if consistency of approach is important. Visuals and graphics, lists and flow diagrams etc can all be helpful. Some colleagues may well need a framework on which to hang their new learning. A framework can help colleagues to engage in structured professional dialogue on key issues. Breaking complex issues into modules helps colleagues to specialise. However, in truth, this will not be enough to change practice or achieve ambitious goals. There needs to be a mixture of the simple and the complex - bringing us back to the previous point.
5. TIMELINE AND PLAN As melded learning may include multiple ways of learning, it becomes even more important that there is a clear timeline / time frame for learning. This can be a personal timeline for personal goals or if it is a group goal, then there needs to be some non-negotiable points. For example, by (date) everyone will have completed the online learning module 1, read and discussed (x article) with their study buddy, planned and trailed one idea in the classroom as these will all feed into the reflection group meeting planned for (x date). In group goals it is important that everyone understands and commits to the timeline and appreciates the work that must be undertaken before meetings / face-to-face sessions. It is useful if there is some negation or discussion about the timeline so that it is realistic and achievable (whilst still being ambitious!). Note: Try to think about when you want the goal to be achieved and work backwards as to what will need to be completed by when. If it appears too ambitious, think about how you might facilitate learning - e.g. release time from class, reducing other responsibilities or elements of work to free up more time for study.
6. MILESTONES Participants need to be aware of what progress over time is likely to look like. This is particularly important for professional development that will take a long time to complete and goal(s) that are ambitious and complex. It can be hard for colleagues to maintain motivation if the professional development is a long programme, and therefore they need to be able to celebrate and evaluate their progress in learning as it unfolds. Leaders also need to be able to respond to progress and support/challenge/adjust programmes as necessary to ensure participants make good progress.
7. FEEDBACK and REGULAR OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVALUATIVE DIALOGUE and ADJUSTMENT. Leaders and teachers need to talk about the professional development being undertaken. Participants need support in reflecting on their learning, considering the impact it is having, with consideration for any adjustments they may need to make to their approach to learning or the melded learning programme itself. For example, perhaps a teacher is struggling to implement the ideas and theories that they have read about. They may need to add to their melded programme a 'mentor' who can help them plan lessons and can provide advice and guidance, or perhaps they need to watch someone delivering a lesson using some of the techniques that they have read about. Another person may have had difficulty in completing modules and needs support with creating a structured timetable and clear deadlines, e.g. every Friday morning between 9.00 and 9.30am is online learning, by (date) chapters 3-6 will have been read, on (date) I will meet (name & name) to discuss the implications of module 1 on our teaching.
8. PRACTICAL WAYS TO ENGAGE WITH THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. For example: opportunities to try out ideas in the classroom, planning lessons that incorporate elements of new practice, working on the production of resources that will aid implementation of the new ideas, discussion groups, presenting to others the key points /conclusions, jigsaw groups - where each participant has studied the same theory but from different sources (e.g. four different research articles on phonological awareness) which they then meet to discuss and work on creating an action plan together, reviewing a process and making alterations to a policy, changing some routines, creating a case study of their work to share with others, creating their own set of reflection notes to aid their practice, meeting with a study buddy on a regular basis to discuss and debate the ideas.
9. STOP, REFLECT AND REPLAN - Some goals are not achieved in a single year. It may be necessary to stop, reflect and replan to consider how to move along the next leg of the journey. Sometimes we switch to something new when actually we needed to continue to develop our expertise on the area we were currently working on!
The above list with a participant expectation column can be downloaded at the end of the blog.
Removal of barriers
A significant factor in the success of online learning is the degree to which participants feel the infrastructure is robust enough to support their study. Participants need access to computing equipment, e.g. laptop and webcam, plus ideally an iPad for more flexible access to materials. It is also useful for colleagues to have access to a printer so that those who prefer to make notations by hand, or those who prefer to read more lengthy advice documents on paper can do so. Consider if the laptop currently issued to colleagues needs updating, or if an external webcam may be needed if an internal laptop webcam is poor quality or not working. It may be worth putting aside some funding for infrastructure, or provide allocate study time during the working day to ensure colleagues have access to equipment in school.
Discussing with colleagues a study plan, e.g. when will they study, for how long, how frequently, where, with what equipment and resources - may help to identify potential issues before they occur and ensure barriers to learning are removed.
There are wide range of systems avilable for tracking professional development. You may want to invest in a commercial or specially designed product that will allow colleagues in school to enter details of the training undertaken, e.g. one that produces reports and overviews automatically. Or, you might start with a simple spreadsheet and over time decide what additional functionality you require.
Melded learning requires someone to hold the overview of the learning taking place. This might include details of books / chapters / journal articles read - so that others who at some point have read the same materials know who they can have more detailed conversations with about the texts; completion dates or course milestones; subgroups - such as a whole school working on reading comprehension might have subgroups looking at specific issues, e.g. closing the gap, non-fiction, text selection. It can show the spread of learning and keep track of review dates. It can show (either via text, symbol, date or colour) professional development that is underway and training that has been completed / has concluded. It can help leaders to see who might need to attend a refresher course or missed an important session that requires repeating. It can run alongside other forms of tracking, such as google surveys and reflection sheets that might be used in coaching / mentoring sessions or to help the person leading the school improvement objective.
More information and supporting resources
Look out for future blog posts on assessing the impact of CPD and resources to aid group facilitators.
Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of adult learners with implications for online learning design. AACE journal, 16(2), 137–159.
Chun-Yu Lin; Chung-Kai Huang; Choa-Junk, Ko. The impact of perceived enjoyment on team effectiveness and individual learning in a blended learning business course: The mediating effect of knowledge sharing. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, v. 36, n. 1, p. 126–141, 2020
Diep, Anh Nguyet. Adult learners' needs in online and blended learning, Australian Journal of Adult Learning, Vol 59, No 2, July 2019.
Driscoll, M., 2002. Blended learning: Let's get beyond the hype. E-learning, 1(4), pp.1-4.
Lim. Chee Leong, Peer Learning, Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement in Blended Learning Courses: A Structural Equation Modelling Approach, International journal of emerging technologies, 2020.
Gomez, E. A., Wu, D., & Passerini, K. (2010). Computer-supported team-based learning: The impact of motivation, enjoyment and team contributions on learning outcomes. Computers & Education, 55(1), 378–390.
Graham, C.R., 2006. Blended learning systems. In C.J. Bonk and Graham, eds. 2012.The handbook of blended learning, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley E Sons. pp.3に21.
P. R. Pintrich, Multiple goals, multiple pathways: The role of goal orientation in learning and achievement, Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 92, pp. 544-555, 2000
Resources to download from this blog post
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