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The Interconnected Model – Part 3 April 1, 2015

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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In preceding posts, I introduced the Interconnected Model as a mechanism through which to explore teacher growth, then discussed how that might provide one way by which to consider our recent RiskIT project. Here I’ll briefly reflect on the ways the Interconnected Model has informed my thinking and perhaps more importantly, what it has to say for our professional development agenda.

It’s perhaps important to state from the outset that this has been no more than my mental exercise; the examples referred to in the previous post used nothing more than imaginary personas. As I mentioned, it would be far more powerful and informative if we could gather the experiences of all our RiskIT participants and analyse the growth sequences they felt they undertook. Clarke and Hollingworth observed:

The non-linear structure of the model provides recognition of the situated and personal nature, not just of teacher practice, but of teacher growth: an individual amalgam of practice, meanings, and context.

By synthesising messages in the models contributed by whole community, we might be better placed to adjust our provision to better meet the needs of our participants and better allow for varied and individual growth.

Although the two examples in the previous post are fictional, they mirror reality in one sense; neither has any arrows which indicate flow to the external domain. Although we gather and share the outcomes of our Risks, the successes and failures (yes, I dare use the word!) within our community, it goes no further than that. We don’t formally reflect on the process, as we might if we were using the Interconnected Model as an interpretative tool. This means that our individual learning experiences can’t help inform each other’s knowledge and practice in anything other than a surface way. The brief information we share is decontextualised, making it harder for colleagues to see whether someone else’s journey through a particular Risk can help guide their own development. With adequate preparation, we could doubtless include a reflective element using the IM, but even if we did share those reflections within our community, would colleagues have the time (or inclination) to learn from the experiences of others? If we are to move beyond a simple surface approach, perhaps we need to commit more deeply? But to do that, colleagues will need the time and space. As Dylan Wiliam2 exhorts:

(School leaders) …should create a culture for the continuous improvement of practice, and to keep the focus on a small number of things that are likely to improve outcomes for students. In addition, they need to create the time within the existing teachers’ contracts to do this, and to encourage the taking of sensible risks.

1Clarke, D., Hollingsworth, H., 2002. Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and teacher education 18, 947–967.

2Wiliam, D., 2010. Teacher quality: why it matters, and how to get more of it. Paper given at Spectator ‘Schools Revolution’ conference http://www.dylanwiliam.org/Dylan_Wiliams_website/Papers.html

The Interconnected Model – Part 2 March 28, 2015

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, research.
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As I mentioned in the preceding post, I wanted a way to explore the RiskIT Week programme we recently undertook in school. This is our third year of RiskIT and I felt it was time to focus in a little more closely on how it works, so wondered whether the Interconnected Model might provide a useful lens. Let’s consider how the Model might look for a particular individual then.

During the preliminary week of RiskIT, colleagues offer brief sessions sharing interesting practice where they enjoyed some measure of success. Let’s imagine Sarah attended a session where Paul was showing how he’d used Google Slides to on a collaborative group project with his Y10 class.

riskit1Sarah was sufficiently inspired to try it out in one of her Y9 lessons (1) and could then add that technique into her professional repertoire (2), becoming slightly more capable as a user of learning technology and having a new way through which to undertake collaborative work. Subsequently whilst reviewing a project she had done with the same Y9 group, she found that several of the students had transferred what they had learned in the RiskIT lesson to help them complete their project (3). This caused Sarah to reflect on the consequences of the lesson in a deeper way and helped to further embed what she had learned about collaborative work and Google Slides (4).
Of course different participants might have completely different models.

riskit2James was recently at a subject co-ordinator’s meeting where someone had demonstrated using Socrative as a lesson exit ticket system (1). Having been concerned for a while that he wanted a quicker way of scanning his classes for how much they had understood during lessons, he decided to try it with his Y11’s to establish how well the group had understood the introduction of difficult concept (2). The intention was to use the feedback from the class to prepare the follow-up lesson. Unfortunately, he hadn’t allowed sufficient time at the end of the lesson for the students to power up the laptops, log on, access his exit ticket, then log off and put the laptops away. He got very little usable information. Following a rethink (3), in preparation for a repeat with his next group, he asked if those who had them would use their smartphones (4). This time everything was completed in a few short moments (5) and he had the feedback he needed (6).

Although reflecting on the activities in this way is useful for me, it would be so much more powerful for colleagues to reflect on their own undertakings with a view to exploring what went well and what might need further attention (and how to go about that).

As I’ve started to look at our RiskIT in this way, I can see where our emphasis might need to shift for next year. Although the project closes when we share our Risks amongst each other, what we don’t do so well is to share our reflections on the outcomes. But then again, would people be able to find the time to read or hear about their colleagues’ experiences? Perhaps the most important bit of all?

In the concluding post of this series, I’ll consider some of the implications that taking a perspective using the Interconnected Model has revealed.

The Interconnected Model – Part 1 March 24, 2015

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, research.
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I recently came across an interesting paper1 on teacher professional growth in which the authors propose a model to examine and explain teacher change as a complex, interwoven learning process. Where professional development programs based on a deficit-training-mastery model have largely failed to effect teacher change, those initiatives which enable greater agency and which allow (encourage?) teachers to become active learners who reflect and act on their learning have proven more effective.

Clarke and Hollingsworth developed the Interconnected Model (IM) to describe how this might happen, locating change in any of four connected domains:

  • Personal domain (teacher knowledge, beliefs and attitudes),
  • Domain of practice (professional experimentation),
  • Domain of consequence (salient outcomes),
  • External domain (sources of information, stimulus or support).
the interconnected model of professional growth

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/16710551680

The mediating processes of ‘reflection’ and ‘enactment’ can translate changes from one domain into another, so for example, undertaking a new practice in the classroom might cause one to reflect in such a way as to change one’s attitude to a particular approach. By using the IM as a lens through which to view different professional learning experiences, we can perhaps gain insights to help inform our approach to professional development or professional learning.

Let’s explore this further with a simple example from personal experience, but perhaps common across teaching practice:


In developing a new activity, or simply modifying an old one, we might use our current knowledge to plan then try out the activity with a class. Reflecting on how effective the activity was, we might then readjust our knowledge-base to accommodate that new learning for future use. Or if the outcomes were not quite as we might have hoped, we might draw further on our knowledge-base to readjust the activity to undertake a further iteration of the loop. Don’t we regularly do this if we have two or more classes running parallel through the same scheme of work? Whether the activity works first time or not, we often take another lap or two around the loop to accommodate the different learning needs of subsequent classes.

Try as we might, sometimes the activity just doesn’t seem to be successful, so here we might draw on the external domain, by perhaps discussing things with a colleague or searching for potential solutions on the Web. You might like to consider how we should adapt the diagram to reflect that.

In the next post, I’ll attempt to use the Interconnected Model to explore a recent initiative in school – RiskIT.

1Clarke, D., Hollingsworth, H., 2002. Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and teacher education 18, 947–967.

Definitely HandsOn … December 2, 2014

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hands on

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Building Unity 1000 Families: http://flickr.com/photos/buildingunity/303497031

This post might go some way towards explaining why (once again!) posts have lost their regularity recently. For the last five weeks I’ve been participating in the 3rd edition of the HandsOnICT MOOC and it’s rather sucked up my time. I’m not a ‘serial MOOC dropout‘ who visits to get a flavour of the content, the practice or the community; if the topic being covered will address a need for me, then I’m in and will do my utmost to see it through. And so it proved with HandsOn – Design Studio for ICT-based Learning Activities (DS4ICTL); I committed to the full five weeks … and full-on it proved!

This was no gentle stroll through a few interesting creative exercises or discursive mental conundrums. No watching a few talking heads, then answering a few auto-marked questions or writing a reflective post or two. DS4ICTL is delivered through a Moodle implementation, (supported by ILDE) consists of five modules of study, each with several activities including peer mentoring, facilitated by a group of experienced online tutors, in seven language streams and using Open Badges to credential the learning. Phew! I was attracted to learning about the design-based approach when creating online/elearning activities. There seemed to be plenty in there that might prove both fresh and useful in supporting me in my role in school. Additionally I’d be working on a project I needed to undertake as part of my work schedule. Good authentic, grounded learning then.

During the first week, the activities sought to familiarise us with the work environments, discussion and reflection areas and introduce us to our peers. Then over subsequent weeks we chose a project, explored the context within which it would be developed and brought some of the principles of design into realising our resource. Many of these principles were new to me and required some degree of persistence to become more comfortable with them. Perhaps that’s what contributed to the time it required each week to work through the activities? I’d decided I was prepared to allow five-ish hours a week, but actually it often transpired to be more. This was a MOOC; there was no compunction for me to do that, but somehow this was different. It mattered. It felt … professional. (And I mean that in several ways)

Given the amount of time it required, one would hope I gained something from the experience and of that, I have no doubt:

  • It extended my learning – I became more familiar with how to use design principles in creating learning activities; about using personas, scenarios and prototyping; heuristic evaluation; andragogy and heutagogy.
  • It extended my personal learning network – despite the large numbers in the MOOC, there were fewer in the English language stream and only a handful who were clearly out to complete in the scheduled time. Since we were often exchanging views and ideas with the same people, it allowed a greater degree of familiarity than we might usually expect in a MOOC.
  • It developed my skills – we worked in several environments for different aspects of the course, thereby gaining a breadth, if not depth, of experience in new workspaces.

I was impressed by how quickly issues were resolved, either by the tutors who were clearly committed to the course, or by peers, who were clearly switched on. As a result, I now have the framework within which to build a resource I’ve been meaning to produce for some while. It’s sufficiently developed (and hopefully robustly designed!) and ready to deploy, so that colleagues will hopefully be enjoying the benefits in the very near future.

In addition to the demanding time commitment, there were other aspects of the course I found tough:

  • Maintaining station within the course timeline. I found that when I slipped slightly behind, despite the notion that participants could work at their own pace, I floundered. This was because I felt out of place; uncomfortable commenting on the posts of those further forward and less in touch with those following behind. Furthermore, committing to supporting and learning from those at the same point in the course with you meant you had less time to devote to those further back on the timeline; those who might in fact benefit from a little extra encouragement.
  • Peer mentoring. Commenting on people’s posts in discussions is fine; I’m used to that, but providing the formal feedback using a scoring rubric was much harder. Applying the rubrics were fine, but trying to offer supportive feedback when criteria hadn’t been met, especially when you’re dealing with fellow professionals who you don’t know, isn’t easy. There’s the temptation to be more lenient than perhaps we might with our students; after all it’s only a MOOC that someone’s taking part in out of interest. It’s hardly a high-stakes environment. On one shoulder I had the hard-nut angel that was my professional integrity and on the other the sweet angel who sees no value in upsetting someone for no reason. Who won? Well you’ll have ask those whose contributions I evaluated. I’d also add here the frustration I’d sometimes feel if an assessment had asked the learner to provide links to ‘a’ and ‘b,’ but the learner only provided ‘b’ with no explanation why ‘a’ was missing. Obviously there’s no compulsion to complete everything or even anything within the MOOC, but when a peer is relying on you being clear in order to fulfil their own obligations … well, like I said, frustrating.
  • Pitching responses appropriately. Linked with feedback I also found it harder than usual knowing how to pitch responses to people’s comments. When someone participates in a course in a language which is not their first, I have nothing but admiration, though that naturally demands more thought when responding to their contributions, so as not to offend. (Good experience and useful practice though, given the increasing number of students we’re welcoming from overseas).
  • Navigating the different environments. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cope with this, so much as finding it frustrating flipping from one back to the other … especially when the navigation didn’t ease those transfers (due to technical reasons arising caused by having to have different language streams). Although I managed, I suspect a MOOC novice, or someone less confident with online learning could find it rather overwhelming or intimidating.

In summary then, DS4ICTL proved to be a valuable experience; perhaps the most useful MOOC I’ve had the pleasure of participating in. It was well designed, well organised and well supported. All credit to the designers and facilitators; it must have been a mammoth undertaking. I’d suggest either reducing the content slightly, or spreading it out over an extra week, just to reduce the weekly demand. If the demographic of potential participants is those who are reasonably well along the digital literacy continuum, then it’s probably pitched well, but it’s a little too complex for novice learners I’d argue. If there was another HandsOn MOOC on a different topic, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up.

The badges earned through the course can be viewed here. As with all digital badges, they have metadata attached enabling a viewer to establish who the issuer was and under what circumstances. Might have been helpful if the learning outcomes for each award could also be listed and even some of the evidence? Most of the badges also transferred across to my Backpack.

It’s been a while … September 15, 2014

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portfolio image

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Phew! That took a while!
Just completed and submitted my application for CMALT (Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology) status. Developed and administered by ALT, the scheme seeks to enable those working with learning technologies to:

  • have their experience and capabilities certified by peers;
  • demonstrate that they are taking a committed and serious approach to their professional development.

This involves assembling a portfolio of evidence illustrating capability and experience across a range of ‘Core areas’ like ‘Operational issues’ and ‘Learning, teaching and assessment.’ This is then submitted for assessment by other holders of CMALT who will judge the portfolio against the assessment criteria. This is a process I’ve not experienced before, where you’re producing a body of work to fulfil a set of criteria which will be judged by people you’ve never met.  Unlike traditional assessments where you’re responding to specific prompts, here you’re submitting evidence of your own choosing. You have the choice of which aspects of your work to focus upon and which examples to use. There’s plenty of guidance available through the CMALT support site and as a member, you have access to the members forum where you can seek advice from the community. I was also grateful for those members who submitted their portfolios openly online, thereby providing examples of the kinds of standards to aim for. In particular I’m grateful to David Hopkins for curating this list of CMALT members who have done just that and to Sarah Horrigan for posting a Google site template, structured for assembling the portfolio.

Time consuming though it may be, I rather perversely enjoy activities like this. Reflecting on previous experiences and projects with which you were involved, often benefits from a little time and distance, so undertaking a review in this way sometimes brings fresh insights. Caught up in the day-to-day business of the current workload, we perhaps don’t reflect back as often as we might like.

Assembling illustrative examples of my practice and the outcomes of various endeavours brought to light a shortcoming in my online presence. I have this reflective blog, Practically In the pICTure where I share more practical ideas and 366Web2.0 where I explore the affordances of Web 2.0 tools. (And a bunch of other creation and curation accounts of course) What I don’t have is an online portfolio of examples of resources I develop. No self-respecting artist, designer, architect, coder(?) would fail to maintain a portfolio of their work; why should educators be any different? In these days of performance management and professional development planning, keeping a portfolio of evidence seems a smart thing to do, alongside the benefits mentioned previously. There’s also the notion that publishing your portfolio (like the CMALT members mentioned previously) might provide inspiration or support for colleagues in similar positions to you. It requires no extra effort and you might just make a difference to someone … or the students with whom they work. It’s got to be worth it, surely?

If it’s of any interest, my portfolio can be found here, but should carry the health warning that it has yet to be assessed. Maybe you have a comment or two to offer?