Going 1:1? What About Professional Development?


Continuing my series of posts on reflections from CUE Rock Star Admin one of the real connections lots of attendees seemed to make during my Building the Foundation for 1:1 session was the significance of using a four-tier model for professional development. All too often schools only focus on tool-based professional learning, but this model pushes leaders into expanding professional development beyond tech skills. As an organization you’ve likely invested thousands (if not millions) of dollars into student and teacher devices and no one wants basic tool use to be a stumbling block. However, tool-based professional development isn’t enough. We must also spend time showing teachers how to effectively use these tools within the common language of instruction for a school site. These four tiers provide a framework for developing professional learning within your organization.

This graphic shows how the four tiers are linked together in my mind.

This graphic shows how the four tiers are linked together in my mind.

Tier 1: Turning it On & Basic Troubleshooting

Don’t ever underestimate Tier 1. Some staff members need to know the basics – Where do I plug it in? How do I turn it on? What is the process for rebooting? Tier 1 workshops often occur the first day you roll out devices.

Tier 2: Hardware & Software Basics

More technical staff might breeze right through Tier 1 and will quickly find themselves in Tier 2 with a focus on using the tool. Workshops in this level might include Google Docs basics, using a Google Form to collect data, iMovie 101. While educational strategies might be mentioned the real focus here is on how to use the tool.

Tier 3: Linking Instructional Practice

Tier 3 workshops build upon the technical knowledge of teachers and strategically link digital tools to instructional practice. Using technology to create a digital writing workshop or digital media creation as part of PBL would be a perfect examples of Tier 3. The intent of this professional learning is to thoughtfully combine technical, pedagogical, and content knowledge. Often this means these workshops must occur at a school site level.

Tier 4: Innovation & Next Practices

The innovators on your campus are your classroom teachers, but they will never create “next practices” without the time to try new strategies and reflect on what’s working. Tier 4 tends to be less about workshops and more about providing teachers time and space. For example, at my school we have monthly PIP (professional inquiry project) meetings where teachers work in small teams to research something about their instructional practice over the course of a year. Topics vary from year to year but often include questions about technology use or new instructional practices. At the end of the year the teacher teams discuss their work in 20 minute sessions for their colleagues at a mini conference. Tier 4 content will often inform many of the future Tier 3 workshops.

Links to TPACK and SAMR

There are lots of models which highlight different aspects of combining technology and pedagogy, however Puentedura’s SAMR model and the TPACK framework are the two I have found the most powerful for planning professional learning and really are the basis for this four-tiered model.

What I love about TPACK is the importance it places on all three domains of teaching – technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. A teacher must possess all three of these skill sets to have effective instructional practice. As a teacher it is a great lens to look at your own practice. Where am I strong? Where do I need to grow? As an instructional leader when I am in a classroom collecting observable feedback I like to focus in these three areas because it provides a clear framework for coaching. Where is my teacher strong? Where does he or she need support? When planning professional development Tiers 1 and 2 help teachers build their technology knowledge, while Tiers 3 and 4 link pedagogy and content knowledge to the newly acquired technology skills.

When combined with TPACK the SAMR model provides a nice reflective tool for identifying where teachers are on their technology integration journey. There is nothing wrong with being in the substation phase, especially at the beginning of any technology project. However, we have to help teachers make progress towards redefinition. From my experience the latter phases of SAMR (modification and redefinition) only occur if a teacher possess strong pedagogical skills. SAMR graphics often show the four phases in a linear sequence but in my mind they are more on a continuum where teachers progress through each level as they build technology and pedagogical experience.

As you develop your own 1:1 or other large-scale technology project consider a professional learning model that incorporates both instructional and technical knowledge. As I mentioned in my earlier post don’t assume that teachers need only technical professional development. All of us need to continually refine our instructional practice by engaging in meaningful professional inquiry using a common language of instruction with our colleagues. An effective technology professional learning plan provides opportunities for teachers to grow their skill set in multiple professional domains. This four-tiered model, along with TPACK and SAMR are a great place to begin.


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One Response to Going 1:1? What About Professional Development?

  1. David Kimball February 12, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    I really like this 4 Tier Training Model and will use it to help shape my own training program. Thanks!

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