The Whole Teacher Enchilada

Twining, P., Raffaghelli, J., Albion, P., & Knezek, D. (2013). Moving education into the digital age: the contribution of teachers’ professional development. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(5), 426-437.

I chose that title today because I had no idea what I was getting myself into when it came to today’s article. Today’s title is a play on the more common phrase “the whole enchilada” meaning it’s the whole kit n kaboodle, everything, the kitchen sink, and the dish ran away with the spoon…you get the picture, right?
Well, the article I read pretty much summed up a lot of the major research surrounding teacher professional development (TPD) in general and as it pertained to the topic of Information and communication technology (ICT).

This journal article was particularly unique because it some respects it reminded me of a meta-analysis that combined large elements of information and distilled it down to some basic, general “truths”. And yet it also reminded me of a conference paper that appears a bit more loosey-goosey in its methodologies and formalities.

Let me explain. This article stemmed from a series of discussions at the 2011 EDUsummIT and from one particular group in general, the Technical Working Group on Teacher Professional Development (TWG3). This group consisted of twenty-one individuals from fourteen different nationalities and their discussion really centered on how could TPD ensure that teachers were prepared to use ICT to promote current skills and learning styles presently. As they began their conversation, they focused on what the current literature already stated about TPD in general and anything pertinent in regards to ICT.

Then the article delves deeper into the discussions as to what were the goals of the integration of ICT into TPD and what obstacles and layers of infrastructure must be considered when planning or working within this arena. Generally speaking, much the the goals centered around the idea that the effective and seamless use of ICT in the classroom would be a transformative element to the status quo.

The final portion of the article explores the topics that the group came to a consensus on, what discussion is to still be had and what conclusions this highly diverse group were able to agree upon. Some of the big conclusions were that most international, educational settings do not employ TPD best practices, the distance between practitioner and researcher must shrink and information must flow in both directions in that relationship, and that ICT must be modeled and expected of educators for it to truly have a transformative effect on education.

As I had stated previously, this article was similar to a conference paper in that it seemed less formal and more conversational in nature. As such, I think it was a very easy to read and follow textually. I also do believe that this one article, as I had mentioned before, is similar to a meta-analysis in that it covers a large, breadth of information and is able to distill it down to some very basic, compelling components. In doing so, this article has contributed much to the field of education and specifically to the branch of education dealing with teacher preparation and continued development. Any new district or site administrator could easily come to this article to see some highlighted best practices that are gleaned from strong, international research. And in having the references, you could specifically look further into what a particular author or article is saying about TPD and how they know they should say that.

I do think this article straddles the fence in a few places where parts of it are real strengths and contributions and the other is sure something could be improved upon. For example, the Literature Review wasn’t exactly a review. It did cover a breadth of established research but it didn’t really tease out all of the information for each of those articles. I also believe that the omission of some texts can be as intentional as the submission or use of other texts. To me personally, it didn’t seem like enough of a well-rounded picture was painted for this Literature Review for me to feel comfortable in saying it was comprehensive.

Springboarding off of that last thought, I arrive to a similar one in regards to Theoretical Frameworks. This article explored, very briefly, three frameworks and a bit as to how it generally applied to the present discussion of TWG3. But none of these frameworks were used extensively or explored thoroughly enough for me to really consider that a strength.

Finally, I would have to say that the “data collection” was completely absent. I understand that this article was not an empirical study but there was some ambiguity around some of the practices employed in creating it. For example, a few times the authors stated, “consensus in the discussion…” or even “ the group’s consensus….”. This term was not unpacked as to how a consensus was created and even who was or was not a part of the consensus and what the counter argument/point was to that dominant group. I believe some more clarification could have brought some more transparency to the article in general. There were also some value statements made about particular country’s educational systems or even proposed costs for TPD, that did not have any explanations or rationale tied to them. The findings were were interesting in that they were very broad and basic as to have to be applied internationally but I wonder in doing so, they lose their potency at the national or meso level.

As stated previously, I would recommend this article to others, like myself, who are researching into best practices in TPD because it is a great jumping off point. However, I do believe that in examining this issue at such a macro-international level some elements were overlooked. 1) the assumed bias that technology should be integrated into classrooms, 2) that it is imperative that all schools consider increasing the use of technology regardless of student/teacher access to initial and continued funding for such projects, and 3) the inherent complications and struggles that teacher preparation programs and districts face in regards to demands on their time, finances and attention. I think an article that examined these issues concretely and also clarified some more of the value or statements or even means of coming to a consensus by building more transparency into it, would prove to be an even more effective and powerful article that would truly offer some strong contributions to the field.

Online Learning as Professional Development?

Holmes, A., Singer, B., & MacLeod, A. Professional development at a distance: a mixed-method study exploring inservice teachers’ views on presence online. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, p76-85. Retrieved June 19, 2014, from


Professional Development, I’m finding, is being viewed as more and more essential for teacher preparedness to deal with diverse student populations and a teacher’s ability to respond to the ever-changing educational landscape that seemingly shifts its priorities quite often. This is a good thing, as it ensures that I’ll have a job for a long time to come. However, all joking aside, Professional Development, when implemented and facilitated correctly and effectively, can have significantly positive impacts on students’ achievement and outcomes (Holmes, Singer, & MacLeod, 2011). Yet, the challenges presented by this raise questions of access, impact, and excellence.

In their article, Holmes, Singer, and MacLeod (2011) seek to address two of the three aforementioned challenges, each of which I will discuss in turn, as well a missed opportunity to reflect upon the impact of their study, which I will also address in this post, by examining the role of online learning in Professional Development. Using a mixed methods approach, the authors looked at the outcomes of five different online Professional Development courses, as measured by participant course evaluations, which utilized 24 Likert-scale questions, as well as two long-answer responses. The teachers who participated in this study taught, exclusively, at private schools, with the majority working with students in grades 3-8 (Holmes, et al., 2011).

Upon an analysis of the data, they found several connections between teacher demographic information and satisfaction with online Professional Development; most notably, there was a strongly positive correlation between the number of online Professional Development modules a teacher had previously taken and their overall satisfaction with the course they were currently enrolled in. This suggests that teachers who have enjoyed Professional Development online in the past are the ones, who, by and large, are the ones who come back for further development in this medium, which, when one thinks about it, makes sense. If I’ve found value in something in the past, given its convenience, my ease and comfort in the medium, I will likely engage with it again.

Traditional teacher Professional Development, which occurs in person, through face-to-face interactions and facilitation, can be stymied as schools and/or educational agencies are concerned about cost effectiveness, something I can personally understand, given that I work in the field. This issue of access to content and facilitation is meant to be mitigated by the cheaper online modules, as suggested in Holmes, Singer, and Macleod’s (2011) discussion of the background of Professional Development and Online Learning.  However, the idea of access also presents an additional challenge when it comes to teachers who are not technologically proficient. Holmes, Singer, and Macleod (2011) suggested that teachers who self-assessed as being weak or uncomfortable with technology, or had only ever participated in in-person Professional Development, were unlikely to rate the course highly, and responded that they were also unlikely to take such courses again. If facilitators and providers of Professional Development seek to use this medium for large swaths of the teaching population, then they will also need to find ways to support those who lack the technological proficiency to be successful in such a program.

The idea of supporting educators who struggle to use technology has implications for me and for my community of practice, as I begin to think about my innovation. Participants, almost universally, see the role of the facilitator as crucial to the success or failure of a Professional Development session or module (Holmes, et al., 2011). For successful online learning and Professional Development, then, the person or persons in charge of facilitating the modules must ensure that the participants are comfortable with the medium, prior to engaging with the content, or that they have the support systems in place so those educators know where to turn, when they have questions, which they ultimately will.

The second issue raised by this research study is one of excellence, which I am operationally using to mean high quality, for the context of this post. Previous research has suggested that certain criteria must be met, in order to meet a threshold of quality: purposeful design, skillful facilitator(s), rich conversations and reflections centered on classroom instruction, and integration with powerful teaching methods (Holmes, et al., 2011). If online learning will be used to engage teachers and other educators in Professional Development, then the sessions, courses, or modules must meet the above requirements for quality Professional Development. If participants do not see connections to their daily teaching lives, and do not have meaningful opportunities to engage with their fellow colleagues, then the online learning and Professional Development will not meet the requirements of excellence, and will be a waste of teachers’ time.

This, to me, is one of the most important considerations for any innovation I seek to implement into my community of practice; if I cannot implement my innovation well, then it is not an innovation that is worth being implemented at all. This underscores the importance of being very purposeful and thoughtful in the design of any innovation, so as to make it an effective and useful experience for anyone who participates in it.

The last issue raised by this article that represents a missed opportunity on the part of the researchers was to study the impact that their Professional Development courses had on the outcomes of students in the classrooms of the teachers. The authors, by their own admission, suggest that effective Professional Development should better prepare teachers to work with their students in some capacity, for example, classroom management, differentiation, or instructional strategies, among others (Holmes, et al., 2011). The researchers did ask participants if they had implemented any changes in their classroom based on the online Professional Development, and, while 74.8% of them said that they had, there was no measure on the outcomes for students, and whether those changes led to an improvement in student achievement (Holmes, et al., 2011). Seeing this missed opportunity serves as a good example to learn from, in that I should always try, whenever possible to measure the impact that my innovation has on students and their achievement, as that is what really matters.

Do Educators Utilize PD?

Doherty, I. Evaluating the impact of professional development on teaching practice: research findings and future research directions. US-China Education Review, A, 703-714. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from


Professional Development (PD) that is centered on meaningful learning activities is professional development that is generally considered to be highly effective. In his article, Iain Doherty (2011) sought to address whether or not there is a correlation between satisfactory participant experience following a professional development session and educators actually implementing changes and utilizing skills and strategies learned in their teaching practice (Doherty, 2011). Previous research suggested that meaningful professional development focuses on several principles: 1) contextual realism that intimately connects with teaching practice, meaning PD modules are linked to challenges and practical teaching situations; 2) content that allows learners to connect new information with preexisting schematic frameworks; 3) the utilization of authentic activities that mimic how new information can and will be used in future activities; 4) offering multiple and diverse perspectives, and; 5) collaborative reflection that promotes articulation of new knowledge (Doherty, 2011).

Doherty (2011) utilized PD modules that were built with the aforementioned considerations firmly in mind. They gave University-level educators in New Zealand information regarding the implementation of various technological tools that could enhance the learning of their students. These tools included things like blogs, social networking sites, Wikis, among others (Doherty, 2011). Further, the PD sessions were not a sage-on-stage/sit-and-get style session; each educator in attendance had the opportunity create accounts and begin to use them during the session. To measure his results, Doherty (2011) gave the educators a “pretest,” that asked them to assess their own familiarity with the various web-based tools that they were about to learn about. Following the session, participants were, again, asked to self-assess their own knowledge, awareness, familiarity, and ability to implement the tool into instruction. Doherty (2011) found that participants were significantly more knowledgeable about the resources following the training, than they were before it.

To truly assess their own effectiveness, they came back to the educators three months after the PD modules had been completed and gave a survey designed to assess whether the participants had, in any fashion, begun to implement or use the knowledge gained in the PD sessions in their instruction.  Doherty (2011) found that the vast majority (91-96% depending on the technology) of participants had not utilized any of the technology showcased, despite very strong reviews immediately following the sessions. Doherty then sought to supplement his quantitative results with qualitative information, ascertained through interviews with willing participants. Doherty’s (2011) sample size had diminished from an initial 27 to only seven who agreed to the interview; only one of the seven had made use of one of the multiple technology tools in their instruction, and the others were unable to articulate the reasons as to why they had not begun to implement learned strategies.

Upon reflecting on Doherty’s (2011) methods and results, there are both connections and areas of strength and weakness, each of which I want to take a moment to address in turn. There are a number of connections of this research to my own community of practice. One of the things that we emphasize in my role is the follow up to ensure that educators 1) feel supported as they begin to utilize the methods discussed during the actual PD session and 2) actually implement the strategies and tools into their professional work. I think that had Doherty offered on-going implementation support to the educators, he may have seen significantly higher rates of tool utilization. I know when I have been a participant in professional development sessions, I’ve  left feeling very motivated by all that I am able to do with the new tools and strategies, but that if I don’t begin to utilize them almost immediately, that I begin to lose understanding of the capabilities and how to integrate them into instruction.

One of the strengths that Doherty’s methods offered was the manner through which he assessed his participants’ knowledge before the session, after the session, and gauged their implementation by following up with attendees three months after the modules had been completed. This gives a good understanding of, 1) at what comfort and familiarity levels those in attendance entered the session, 2) the effectiveness of the facilitator(s) in communicating the desired knowledge to the participants, and 3) how valuable the content was to the educators by assessing the rates at which they actually utilized the information conveyed. This approach was a strong one, as it assessed the participants are various, predetermined intervals, providing information that a short-term data collection period wouldn’t even come close to measuring.

Another particular strength offered by Doherty’s procedure is the application of interviews and qualitative methods to supplement the quantitative information. Doherty (2011) chose to interview participants to pinpoint why and how participants chose to, or in his case, chose not to utilize the information conveyed through the professional development sessions. Though they couldn’t self-identify the root causes for their inaction, the process of interviewing participants, in addition to a simple post assessment, offers invaluable insight that might not otherwise be communicated to the researcher. This research model definitely provides a framework that I can utilize as I begin to plan for my own innovation in the area of professional development, combining both short- and long-term quantitative data, as well as qualitative data to provide further information.

The last area I want to address regarding Doherty’s (2011) methods was a lens he lacked, through which he ought to have collected and analyzed data to understand an even more meaningful perspective on the role of professional development in education.  In the introductory paragraph, he writes, “[professional development] is important to improve and enhance student learning” (Doherty, 2011, p. 703). If educators are tasked with improving outcomes for students, and professional development is meant to play a role in that charge, then the improvement in student performance, either academically, socially, behaviorally, or otherwise, should be an essential consideration when measuring or assessing the effectiveness of any session, content, or implementation. Given that Doherty (2011) mentions that purpose of professional development, I thought the perspective that could be offered by looking at the change in student outcomes would have been a valuable lens through which he could have collected and analyzed data.


Subject Selection

Guzey, S. S., & Roehrig, G. H. (2009). Teaching science with technology: case studies of science teachers’ development of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9, 25–45. doi:10.1007/s10956-008-9140-4

This week I looked at an article called Teaching Science with Technology: Case Studies of Science Teachers’ Development of Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge. (Guzey & Roehrig, 2009)The study is looking at how a professional development program called Technology Enhanced Communities or TEC, enhanced science teachers’ TPACK.

TPACK is a theoretical framework which is derived from Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. TPACK is made up of three forms of knowledge: content, pedagogy and technology. The argument is that a teacher must have integration of all three knowledge areas in order to be effective. TEC is described in the article as “a yearlong, intensive program, which included a 2-week-long summer introductory course about inquiry teaching and technology tools.” In addition, there were group meetings throughout the year, which was associated with an online teacher action research course. During the two week course in the summer, the participating teachers learned about inquiry-based activities while learning several instructional technologies.

Guzey and Roehrig did qualitative research and collected data through observation, interviews and surveys. In this study, they chose four teachers, new to the field; all of whom had less than three years of experience.

The organization of the article is very easy follow and read. However, the order of the sections didn’t make sense to me. Guzey and Roehrig put the profiles of the teachers in between the results and the discussion. This caused it to feel disjointed, as it didn’t flow properly. The author clearly explains the theories and gives examples of the research they came from. However, the research is supposed to be looking at the impact of TEC, but I felt that there was a lot of focus on inquiry, which is a component of TEC; none the less, too much focus on it. Additionally, the author went into great length of what TPACK is, but, it wasn’t necessary to understand the theory at the depth provided in order to comprehend the research.

Guzey and Roehrig chose beginning teachers because they felt this would provide more commonalities: they had graduated from the same program, they were all going to be teaching their specialty …etc. However, I totally disagree with this approach to selection. Had veteran teachers been selected, there would have been more focus on the authors’ guiding question rather than on common rookie issues (e.g. classroom management, flexibility, lesson planning). Much of the article discusses these issues, which, while they play a role in being an effective teacher, doesn’t necessarily impact whether or not the TEC program is working. By selecting veteran teachers, much of this would have been avoided.

The analysis gives a pretty clear picture of their work and if the resources were available could be reproduced. In the results section, Guzey and Roehrig stated, “Teachers were each found to integrate technology into their teaching to various degrees.” However, their guiding question was how does TEC enhance TPACK? How can the depth of integration of technology be their result? In the decision section of the article they state that TEC was found to have a “varying impact on teacher development of TPACK.” That should have been in their results. Unfortunately, since new teachers are learning so much more at one time than veteran teachers, I don’t know how reliable these results are. It is doubtful that this research had a big impact within the field, as the findings were not significant.

The impact that this research had on my area of inquiry is a different story. I have been solely focused on how integrating technology will have an impact on student achievement and it never occurred to me to consider the teachers’ experience or effectiveness. If a teacher has poor classroom management, adding technology to the mix is not going to increase student achievement. In fact, it is likely to do the opposite. Managing technology in a classroom adds a degree of chaos. Most veteran teachers are adept at establishing new procedures and have enough forethought to know what those procedures should be. One has to be able to understand what problems may arise with students in order to establish procedures that would circumvent said problems. It is unlikely that most beginning teachers have this depth of knowledge. Additionally, veteran teachers have the ability to adjust at a moment’s notice when technology fails, which it does and will. This again, goes back to experience. It would be like giving a two-handed piano piece to a beginning piano student, who is only ready to play with one hand. Reading two lines of music at the same time, maintaining a steady tempo, including dynamics and phrasing is more than one can expect from a beginning musician, but after a few weeks or months of one-handed pieces, that student will be ready to add a level of difficulty. This is not to say that beginning teachers shouldn’t be using technology, the opposite is true; but, to utilize beginning teachers as research participants in how effective technology is, may not be the wisest decision.

Professional development is not a point I considered as a piece to my research. Often, professional development is a hit and run experience. We receive an hour or two of training and then we, the teachers, are expected to have it completely integrated the following day and we never speak of it again. This could be why so many teachers are so cynical about new programs. As a music teacher, very few of the professional developments I have attended have been catered to me specifically. Due to this, I have spent much time over the last twelve years, essentially providing my own professional development. On one hand I have become quit proficient at innovating within my classroom, but had I received more guidance from a veteran teacher, it would have taken me less time to achieve what I have. Technology is a tricky area, in that some people are very comfortable with daily technology interactions and some people struggle with turning on electronics. It may be necessary to include a professional development component within my action research in order to create support for the teachers I work with. It would need to be implemented in such a way that the teachers are able to reflect and discuss their experiences and brainstorm new ideas. This will create lessons that utilize technology to deepen the understanding of the concept, not just adding technology for the sake of technology. Overall, I enjoyed reading this article, it really got me reflecting on the presentation of my own work and the components I should or shouldn’t include.

Facebook as Professional Development?

Rutherford, C. (2010). Facebook as a source of informal teacher professional development. In Education. Retrieved from


For professional development (PD) to be considered effective, it must meet four criteria. These criteria characterize PD as: 1) Sustained, on-going, and intensive; 2) Practical and directly related to local classroom practice and student learning; 3) Collaborative and involving the sharing of knowledge, and; 4) Participant driven and constructivist in nature (Rutherford, 2010, p.62). In the journal article, Facebook as a Source of Informal Teacher Professional Development, author Camille Rutherford seeks to ascertain whether discussions that happen between teachers and other educational professionals on social media can be considered professional development and if such informal conversations meet the above four criteria for effective PD.

Rutherford (2010) begins her article by giving a historical context as to the seven different categories that form the knowledge base for teaching; such categorization serves to, “simplify the otherwise outrageously complex activity of teaching” (Rutherford, 2010, p. 61). These seven categories are not meant to be taken as a reduction of the teaching profession to a list of criteria, but rather form contextual categories that help synthesize the diverse areas that professional development can be offered. These seven categories, as first defined by Shulman (1987) are: 1) general pedagogical knowledge; 2) curriculum knowledge; 3) pedagogical content knowledge; 4) knowledge of learners and their characteristics; 5) knowledge of educational contexts [e.g. different styles of education], and; 7) knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values [e.g. historical perspectives] (Shulman, 1987, p.7).

In order to determine whether teachers’ conversations on social media met the criteria to be considered effective PD, Rutherford monitored the postings on a Facebook group for teachers in Ontario, Canada. She cites that Facebook has the perception of being an, “adolescent playground ripe with juvenile gossip and social bullying,” however, despite this reality, she notes that Facebook has become a space for professionals who seek opportunities to network and exchange ideas and resources to gather (Rutherford, 2010).  In her monitoring of the Ontario Teachers – Resource and Idea Sharing group, which, at the time (2010), had more than 8,000 members, she used both qualitative and quantitative examinations of the discussion topics.

Over the course of the 2007-08 school year, she found that 278 new and unique topics of discussion were created, generating 1,867 posts from 384 different Facebook users (Rutherford, 2010). Any post that didn’t garner more than 2 responses, were excluded from the study, as, without another’s input, it cannot be considered a discussion. Any post that was also deemed too sales-y, or geared toward promoting an item, product, or service was also excluded from the study. Next, two independent “coders” went through the posts and categorized them into one (or more) of the seven different categories of teacher knowledge (see above). The coders then eliminated any posts that were considered too sales-y, or geared toward promoting an item, product, or service for fee (Rutherford, 2010).

The study found that the majority of the posts were related to Pedagogical Content Knowledge (strategies, tips, and tricks to help out in the classroom), representing just more than a quarter of all total posts (Rutherford, 2010). The next category was a surprising one, as it didn’t fit into any of the categories in Shulman’s conceptual framework for teacher knowledge, so Rutherford created a new category: Employment (opportunities and/or related questions). Posts categorized in this area made up the 22.5% of all posts analyzed (Rutherford, 2010). The final category, representing greater than 10% of total posts (19.8%), included discussions of Curriculum Knowledge. All other categories were comprised of less than 10% of total posts (Rutherford, 2010).

One of the essential features of effective professional development is that it be collaborative, on-going, practical, and participant driven. Rutherford (2010) found that the average number of months that users were actively engaged in discussion was less than 2 months (1.79 months) and the average user made only 4.2 posts during that span. These data suggest that discussions happening on Facebook, while certainly constructivist, collaborative, and participant-driven in nature, were lacking the essential “on-going” feature necessary for effective professional development.

In my situational context, as a professional development provider to schools across the state, we’ve tried to integrate more online components into our professional development portfolio offerings, only to find that teachers generally have not utilized them to the extent we were hoping. I see this evidenced in my own practice as well. When I reflect on my own professional development, both as a teacher, and in my current role as a trainer, I’ve been asked to “continue the conversation” on Edmodo, a social media site similar in platform to Facebook, but dedicated to educators and education. I found the steps of creating a username and password, confirming my email, setting up a profile, requesting access to the page, and waiting to be granted access as very cumbersome steps that did streamline the continuation of learning. In my writing of this blog post, I went back to those pages, only to find that there had only been one post in the 8 months the group had been around.

In my own learning experiences, like my Master’s degree, for example, I found the process of online modules, classes, and activities to be an ineffective medium to facilitate true learning, as the “flow” of a conversation was very unnatural and not conducive to insightful reflections and discussions on practice and pedagogy. While I’m sure that some people may enjoy and find value in the convenience of the online style to meet their varying schedules and time constraints, there is, however, something incredibly valuable for me about having that in-person, face-to-face interactions when learning from and with other people. It becomes much easier, in person, to hear the other person’s tone, read their body language, and ask follow up questions in a meaningful and timely manner, things that are lost through virtual communication. Because of these sentiments, I generally agree with Rutherford’s assessment, when she said, “Facebook teacher groups and similar forms of social media should be seen as an effective supplement [emphasis added] to traditional teacher professional development” (Rutherford, 2010, p.69). The idea that online modules could ever replace in-person professional development is not one I could support, but it certainly has a role to play as a free, low-risk, and convenient medium for teachers to collaborate and learn from one another.


Additional works cited:

Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22

Creating Culturally Relevant Communities of Practice

I have to say…I love Etienne Wenger’s (2000) article, “Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems.”  Why?, you ask.  Because I have realized how broken our communities of practice are in my community…not only with the administration, teachers and other staff, but with our students and community members as well.

When I think about the various communities of practice that are visibly present, I come up with two very distinct ones, the tribal members (insiders) and the non-tribal members (outsiders).  I navigate between the two communities of practice on a regular basis.   As Wenger (2000) would call me, I am a “roamer” who has the ability to make connections with members of other communities of practice and bring to them the knowledge from other communities.  I can relate to the outsiders because I’m an urban Indian, meaning I grew up in the city.  And, I can relate to the insiders as I am a tribal member.  Wenger (2000) talks extensively about the boundaries that communities of practice create that are both positive and negative.  In this case, oftentimes, the boundaries established by the insiders create a great disconnect between itself and others.  More often than not, the outsiders’ personal experiences and their competence about Native American culture, in my case Tohono O’odham culture, is so disconnected that fostering learning can be very difficult.  The boundaries are not meant to spotlight what you do not know, but the very idea of communities of practice require it (Wenger, 2000).

Is it possible to create a community of practice that involves both the insiders and outsiders?  I am pretty sure we could.  Of course, both the insiders and outsiders would have to connect enterprise, mutuality and repertoire with engagement, imagination and alignment (Wenger, 2000).  This not only applies to the outsiders learning about the culture that they serve (the insider’s culture), but it will require the insiders to understand the different cultures the outsiders bring to the Nation.  I, unfortunately, have only been looking at this from an insider perspective…the outsiders must learn about our students and our community.  I really did not see a value in it being the other way around.  And, now that I have, I am intrigued by the idea of creating a community of practice that involves both sides who truly have an interest in becoming one cohesive group that all have the same goal in mind…providing the best education possible.

These very boundaries and the ability to access an educational community of practice may very well be as the cause of lack of parental support.  Education itself has its own set of boundaries.  Gregory Cajete’s chapter titled, “Seven Orientations for the Development of Indigenous Science Education” in Denzin, Lincoln and Smith’s (2008) book, Handbook of Critical Indigenous Methodologies, Cajete wrote “the sustained effort to ‘educate’ and assimilate American Indians as a way of dealing with the ‘Indian problem’ inevitably played a key role in how American Indians have historically responded to American ‘schooling.'”  He later writes, “early missionary and government teachers naively assumed that American Indians had no education at all and that their mission was to remedy this ‘great ignorance'” (Cajete, 2008).

Unfortunately, the assimilation process that many of our elders experienced in boarding schools has created a great dislike for the education system.  The way the American schools operated were very different than the way Native American’s education system operated.  Native Americans education was “characterized by observation, participation, assimilation, and experiential learning rather than by the low-context, formal instruction characteristic of Euro-American schooling” (Cajete, 2008).  Thus, many of our parents and grandparents (who may be legal guardians) do not care to participate in the communities of practice within the educational system.  They have no vested interest because of the disconnect between their personal experiences and competence in the modern educational system.

By possibly creating new communities of practice that do not initially have a focus on education may be a way to draw in our community members who do not see education positively.  These individuals would have to connect with other community members in the same way that the insiders and outsiders as mentioned above.  Communities of practice cannot make an impact if they do not have buy-in from all members.  As relationships continue to build and mutuality is strengthened by engagement, imagination and alignment, the direction of this new community of practice can begin to shift its focus on educating our youth.  This community should include administrators, teachers and staff (both tribal and non-tribal), parents/guardians, students and community members.  Much of what people learn about what is going on in the community comes by word of mouth.  If we can create a strong community of practice, the word will get out and we can then begin to expand it to reach and include more members.

Redefining communities of practice on our Nation will be critical to changing the mindsets of all administrators, teachers and staff members, as well as community members, in regards to the educational system present on the reservation.  In order for us to build a successful school system, all of us must meet in the middle to ensure that we are preparing our students for the best possible future.  And, who doesn’t want that?


Cajete, Gregory.  (2008).  Seven orientations for the development of indigenous science education.  In N. K. Denzin, Y. S. Lincoln, & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Handbook of critical indigenous methodologies (pp. 487- 496).  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications.

Wenger, Etienne.  (2000) Communities of practice and social learning systems.  Organization, (7)2, 225-246.

Professional Development: Independent or Social Mindset?

I was recently participating in a four-hour Strategic Enrollment Management meeting reviewing our college and district goals related to recruitment, outreach, enrollment, retention and persistence efforts.  During a break, one of my colleagues asked if I was aware of our sabbatical program.  The Maricopa Community Colleges, in an effort to value lifelong learning, is very generous with its policies regarding both managerial and faculty sabbaticals.  The program is for employees who have completed a designated number of years of consecutive service to our district to explore their own professional development and learning with the expressed intent to bring that learning back to our community college system.  Each year, numerous faculty and staff engage in sabbaticals, and the following year, each returns to his/her respective jobs hopefully refreshed and changed (for the better) in some manner.

In Etienne Wenger’s “Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems,” he explores the structure of social learning systems, articulating that the development of social learning systems is essential to the success of organizations.  Within this context, Wenger describes one critical element of social learning systems – boundary encounters.  Boundary encounters are “visits, discussions, sabbaticals [that] provide direct exposure to a practice” (Wenger, p. 236).  Boundary encounters can occur individually, when an employee immerses him or herself into a community of practice.  Or, an encounter can occur in a group, where a team from a given community immerses itself into another community of practice.  An individual boundary encounter may allow a person to become fully immersed in the practice; however, it may be challenging to bring the learning back to one’s organization (Wenger, p. 237).  A boundary encounter experienced as a team may not allow for one’s individual full immersion; however, it may prove more beneficial as a team may be better able to incorporate the learning within their respective practice (Wenger, p. 237).

This concept of individual versus social or team learning impacts my thinking profoundly in relation to faculty development within the developmental education community.  Teaching in higher education is primarily an autonomous experience.  Faculty, generally in isolation, develop and instruct their respective courses.  The same is true for much of the professional development and organizational learning within higher education.  Individual sabbaticals are supported.  Individual professional development is supported, but again, generally based on an individual’s needs or desires.  On occasion, teams may be sent to participate in a conference, but in my experience, that is not the norm, but the exception.

As I reflect on the most effective professional development experiences I have designed or attended, those that involved team participation have indeed had the most transformational effect for the organization.  This leads me to question what types of professional development opportunities are available for community college faculty, or even more specifically, community college faculty who primarily teach developmental education courses?  As Glendale Community College continues to focus its attention on our developmental coursework, I believe we also need to focus our attention on the professional development available to our instructors.  But, how should this professional development be designed?  Our current approach to professional development is to design and offer programs and workshops for faculty to attend individually, focusing on their individual skills and strategies within the college classroom.  Yes, they do attend as a general community of instructors.  However, much of the work is individually based.  Sharing with other participants occurs, but the focus is on individual devleopment.

But, what if this experience was designed differently? What if a team of professionals, working and learning together, supported our developmental students?  And, what if that team became its own defined community of practice, learning and growing together as described in this article?  Presently, I do not believe we have a well-defined community of practice supporting developmental education.  It is emerging at GCC, but it is not yet a defined community of practice.  I think we have an opportunity to create this community of practice, and make it one that incorporates the following elements espoused in this article: events (professional development in nature), leadership, connectivity, membership, projects, and artifacts.  If we take this approach, I believe  we can advance the learning of our faculty and staff, which will I have a positive impact on our students.   But, it is clear to me that we should not approach this in our traditional autonomous mindset; we need to design and create an environment that fosters and promotes social learning for our faculty and staff.


Wenger, Etienne. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.

Improving Management Education

Emiliani, M.L. (2006). Improving management education. Quality Assurance in Education, (14)4, 363-

Improving management education by Emiliani (2006) examines MBA business education from the perspective of current deficiencies within the model with suggested solutions to improve upon those deficiencies.  The goal of the article is to present an outsiders view of management education in the hopes that this outsiders view may offer up more relevant and unbiased opinions. Emiliani (2006) has a background in engineering, supply chain management and manufacturing while also being a professor of lean management. Through his experience, he proposes improvements that not only remove waste from the processes but creates a more reflective, problem-based experience model in which students are better exposed to business challenges.

Emiliani (2006) used an analysis of faculty and student experiences from MBA-level programs within his institution. Further, he matched this with data collected from a series of wall street journal reports about management behavior and deficiencies that managers lack in their leadership (p. 373). Through this analysis, he proposes 11 improvements that could be added to courses or degree programs with the goal of adding value to the experience (p. 373). Part of his analysis was the use of the Caux Round Table principles, which is a system that looks at business from a Human-Economic approach (p. 366).  The Caux Round Table approach is relevant in that it does not just look at systems from a business perspectives or the company perspective but takes into consideration all the stakeholders with a humanizing view.

Some of the 11 improvements addressed include creating a more focused but simplified curriculum, more top of mind education, more engaging and interesting content, more utility as well as life time relevance (p. 377-378).  Of most importance here would be the life time relevance of the lessons which builds a tool kit that the leader can refer back to throughout their career.

The approach to this article is done successfully through the analysis of professor and student experience while also utilizing business design principles tested in industry that show relevance to creating top of mind business education. Emiliani offers up a well-structured, deeply analytical and well-researched article that provides interesting, and relevant, insights into what can help improve an MBA program. What is interesting as well is that he does not necessarily offer up a complete argument for what an MBA program should do to improve but gives good foundations for what should be considered. He further poses that the biggest challenge will be whether the Deans of these schools will shift the programs in the way required to create this relevance or stick within the current paradigms (p. 379). If leadership is not supportive of the change or willing to recognize that change is needed, the models he presents will have no effect.

The impact on business education, in particular an MBA program, is significant. Business is always tasked with staying ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and success.  Business programs need to follow suit and demonstrate graduates who can add that innovation and success to the companies they will join. Business often recruits directly from programs that produce graduates with the most relevant and useful skills that match their organizational strategies and goals. Programs must consider this in the design and continuous improvement of their curriculum. Emiliani proposes an argument that is absolutely imperative to business school success.

What stands out the most here is not only the connection to industry but also the Caux Roundtable and the focus on including all stakeholders. Having worked for various educational institutions and through my role in corporate education, I have seen companies with processes or strategies that forget to take into consideration all the stakeholders. Within the Caux Roundtable, internal stakeholders (staff, leadership) and external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, and competitors) are considered in a way that adds a more holistic view of the opportunity or challenge. What becomes significant here is that the proposed change would produce graduates who can look laterally across those opportunities and challenges to solve problems in a far more dynamic way.

One piece that stuck out most here, and connects through to my area of study around the application of value chain principles to graduate business education, is the analytical frameworks that think of this improvement model similarly to a business model. Graduate business education is essentially a pre-cursor to working in industry and should think of itself much like a business. If you are producing graduates that are going to take on the business challenges of tomorrow, much of how the faculty, the curriculum and even the student support processes approach educating these individuals is developed and structured must consider this business perspective.  Taking on graduate business education from this approach has the opportunity to add value into the student experience while creating more efficient and effective processes.

At the same time, we need to consider the fact that this is not just a business process standing operating in a vacuum but a process that relies heavily on the acceptance and success of the student experiencing it. Like Emiliani (2006) presents, it is significant to think of the humanizing aspect within the process and not to forget that someone will be experiencing this. When I think of implementing a process, I try to think of the experience I would like to have and then try to match that experience to what the systems and structures of the institution can support, not just a process that makes sense for the institution. By coming at the process from the student, or customer, perspective, there is more opportunity to add value back into the process and match it to the efficiencies that you are aiming to create.

Overall, I can see the applicability of this article and can see where much of this will be relevant within my area of inquiry. By closely examining a graduate business program and looking at the ways that the curriculum and program can more directly tie to industry, the more opportunity there is for producing graduates who fill the needs of industry. In turn, if industry begins to target the graduates for recruitment, this will add value to the experiences that the programs can continue to create.

Quest for Effective Professional Development

Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M., & Beavis, A. (2005). Factors affecting the impact of professional development programs on teachers’ knowledge, practice, student outcomes & efficacy. Education Policy Analysis Archives. Retrieved May 28, 2014 from

Knight, J., & Learning Forward (2011). Unmistakable impact: A partnership approach for dramatically improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.

The journal article, Factors Affecting the Impact of Professional Development Programs on Teachers’ Knowledge, Practice, Student Outcomes & Efficacy by Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, A (2005) explores the influence of structural and process features of professional development on teachers’ knowledge, practice, and efficacy. The process structures that are explored in this article include content focus, active learning, examination of student work, feedback and follow-up. The data that was collected during this study was from 3,250 teachers in over eighty professional development programs through the use of a self-reporting survey. There was a wide variety of professional development programs that were analyzed. The professional development programs included job-embedded professional development through action research, coaching and mentoring, institutional learning to facilitate understanding of research findings and best practice, online learning, participation of formal award programs and conferences and seminars. (Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, 2005 p.3) The length of the professional development programs in the study varied from single session workshops to professional development that extended over multiple sessions.

Some of the major findings in this article were “The relationship between content focus and impact on knowledge is strong. The relationship between follow-up and reported impact on knowledge is also significant.” (Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, 2005 p.14) The authors also suggest that the level of school support has indirect effects on the extent to which program outcomes are achieved. I agree that follow-up has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the new learning that is applied in classrooms after a professional development. I have the opportunity to work with many schools where follow-up is an integral component of their professional development. The schools that see effective transfer of new learning into classrooms consistently relate it back to the frequency and quality of the follow-up to the new learning. The schools that struggle with transfer of new learning from professional development settings have not found a consistent and intentional way to follow-up with all teachers to ensure the new learning is transferred into classrooms.   One of the most significant findings from this article related to follow-up and feedback was “how rarely professional development program designers built in opportunities for feedback and coaching in the workplace despite the research on their centrality to learning new and complex skills.” (Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. & Beavis, 2005, p.14) This quote inspired me to look back at Jim Knight’s work Unmistakable Impact on coaching and follow-up support where he reminds us “Without coaches to provide precise instructions, to model in the classroom, to provide positive and motivating honest feedback, few new practices get implemented and those that get implemented are usually implemented poorly. (Cornett & Knight, 2009, p. 12)


The organization of the article was clear and in an easy to read format. The authors included helpful headings and subheadings that directed the readers’ attention to the important elements throughout the reading. The article was logically sequenced and segmented. The authors defined the process structures of content focus, active learning, examination of student work, feedback and follow-up. This supported the reader in having a common vocabulary for the processes they were referring to throughout the text.

Another strength is the contribution this study made to the field of professional development. I believe this is an important area of inquiry because teachers invest a lot of time in professional development. School districts invest financial and human resources and the question is does professional development make a positive impact on teacher effectiveness and student learning? This study highlights the processes that need to be in place for an effective professional development and what influence those processes have on teachers’ knowledge, practice and efficacy.


One way to improve this study is through data collection. This study used only one data collection method and that was a self-reporting survey by teachers collected at least three months after the professional development program. I believe they could have increased the consistency of their findings by using multiple methods to collect their data. In the article they discuss the importance of follow-up and student work to professional development. Another source of data could have been following teachers after the professional development and scripting the new learning to have observational data on the impact of the professional development on teacher instruction and student achievement. An additional source of data would be to collect and analyze the student work from the new learning to determine the impact of the professional development provided. In my opinion, the self-reporting survey completed by the teachers regarding the impact of the professional development may be bias. In addition, the survey responses by the teachers are dependent on how reflective the teacher is on how the professional development processes impacted their teaching and the student learning. I feel the data they chose to collect in this study impacted the quality of the findings.


I have the opportunity to provide professional development to schools on a regular basis. I have seen the effective transfer of new learning when I provide intentional follow-up and feedback to teachers. This article affirms my area of inquiry to further explore how intentional differentiated follow-up impacts the transfer of new learning. I also learned through this article that I want to make sure I have multiple methods to collect data so I have both quantitative and qualitative data to support my work.



Levels of PD and where we go from here.

Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3–15. doi:10.3102/0013189X033008003


In her article, Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain, Hilda Borko discusses the current state of educational research, specifically with regards to professional development for teachers in a Kindergarten through twelfth grade setting. She lays the legal and research-backed foundations as to why professional development is so critical in our education system, each of which I will discuss in turn. She starts off with a brief discussion of the idea that educational reform movements across the country are setting ambitious goals for the learning of their students, yet, these efforts, which are set by policy-makers, rely on teachers’ ability to implement the changes in classroom practice (Borko, 2004). Educational scholars and policy-makers have recognized this dynamic, which is why teachers are required, by statute, to have regular opportunities for “high quality” professional development (Borko, 2004, p.3). Researchers have argued that, “helping out teachers to succeed and enabling our children to learn is an investment in human potential, one that is essential to guaranteeing America’s future freedom and prosperity” (Borko, 2004, p.3). Despite these two mandates –one legal, the other moral – professional development opportunities for teachers are, “woefully inadequate,” even though various educational agencies spend, “millions, if not billions, of dollars” on it (Borko, 2004, p.3).

Further, Borko tells that professional development is the, “most serious unsolved problem for policy and practice in American education today” (Borko, 2004, p. 3). So, throughout the remainder of her article, she attempts to answer two fundamental questions about the state of professional development: 1) What do we know about professional development programs’ impact on teacher learning, and 2) what are the important directions and strategies for expanding our knowledge in this area? (Borko, 2004). She attempts to answer these two questions with the use of a multifocal lens in three distinct phases, each of which I will discuss in turn.

One of the particular strengths of Borko’s article was the methods she used to measure the effectiveness of professional development, specifically her use a multifocal lens.  She articulates a challenge she encountered as, “I have struggled to articulate how researchers can keep both the individual and the community in focus” (Borko, 2004, p.8); a problem she creatively solves with a metaphor of using a multifocal lens, which allows objects, both distant and near, to be in focus at the same time. In the context of professional development, on the ‘nearside,’ this allows for the analysis of data on questions regarding how a teacher can construct new knowledge and instructional practices, whereas, ‘distant focus’ allows for analysis of questions on norms of communications and patterns of participation (Borko, 2004, p.8). The idea that multiple aspects can be viewed at the same time in the course of the same study, is a novel one to me and, given that I think my line of inquiry will relate to professional development, this study provides a framework that I can use to view and interpret my results, focusing on the impact on individual teachers’, as well as the effectiveness of the program in terms of improving students’ achievement.

Borko’s uses of the three-phase model provide different levels of questions to be viewed through her multifocal approach. The Phase I approach allows for research questions and activities committed to investigating the results of an individual professional development program at a single site (Borko, 2004). The second Phase allows researchers to study a single professional development program implemented more than one facilitator at multiple school sites; these questions explore the how the facilitator, the professional development program, and the role that teachers play as learners.  The third and final phase is the sum of the previous two and explores relationships between multiple professional development programs, enacted at multiple sites, by multiple facilitators.

There were several components of this study that surprised me. First, I was interested to learn that there have been no Phase III research studies, for several reasons: the large-scale, multi-method field studies will require new ways to collect and analyze data (Borko, 2004). Such studies will require substantial funds to complete. Next, on a more personal and professional thought, I was surprised to learn that the professional development program that I work to implement through my work falls into the Phase II level of Borko’s study. This will provide me a framework that will allow for a more complete analysis when I implement my innovation.  The final area of surprise for me was the idea of “willing participants” (Borko, 2004, p.5). Now that I have seen this phrase, it makes perfect sense, but was not something I had previously considered; if people volunteer for a study, they are likely people with an open mind, who are willing to implement changes and try new things in their work and professional life. This is another area that I will need to take into consideration when I start to plan for my innovation. I will want to explore further research to better understand how mandated participation versus optional participation can affect the results of a study.

Having experienced professional development sessions, both as a facilitator and participant, I was not at all surprised to learn that the role of facilitator is of incredible importance to the overall success of the professional development program (Borko, 2004). I’ve sat in a significant number of professional development sessions that have completely failed because the presenter used outdated instructional delivery methods that did not actively engage those in the audience. I want to explore research that delves into what methods are most effective for implementing professional development as an external provider.

Despite all of this, I think that this research provides a lot of particular situative context that I can consider as I seek to design and implement my innovation at my worksite. Yet, it was heartening to learn that research supports the need for professional development in schools, as it does have a significant and substantial impact on students’ outcomes.