An Agile K-12 Approach: Teacher PD for New Learning Ecosystems

An Agile K-12 Approach: Teacher PD for New Learning Ecosystems

Jacqueline M. Mumford (Walsh University, USA), Laci Fiala (Walsh University, USA) and Marietta Daulton (Walsh University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1067-3.ch020


Several schools in the United States are adapting to incorporate 21st century skills, active learning pedagogical approaches, and new technological innovation to advance student learning. Creating physical and virtual spaces and support for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and innovation is vital. Yet, designing and offering meaningful professional development to teachers in these new learning ecosystems is a challenge. This chapter explores the application of Agile methodologies to professional development planning, design, and facilitation in a school district that implemented a new learning ecosystem. The Agile approach resulted in customized professional development opportunities that were rigorous, relevant, iterative, and flexible enough to meet district needs. Data were collected on teacher technology efficacy, and initial results indicated success. This has generated an agenda for further research.
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The Need For Meaningful Professional Development

What is effective professional development for teachers? It has traditionally consisted of an administration-planned in-service on one topic that will meet the needs of all teachers. Guskey (2014) states that these training sessions are often planned without knowing what teachers need to accomplish with the training. Christesen and Turner (2014) report that to gain teacher commitment to professional development, the teacher’s desire to be involved in the process is essential. Teachers weigh the cost-factors of professional development to the benefit of a new practice and the relevance to the teacher’s classroom practice (Christesen & Turner, 2014, p. 233). Many professional development opportunities planned for teachers may not meet the needs of all the teachers, their school, or the district (Roseler & Dentzau, 2013). In 2012, Valeria shared that biggest problem with professional development for teachers wass that it wass usually an isolated event with little or no teacher input or connection to daily teaching.

Valeria (2012) suggested that teacher professional development should be an on-going process, imbedded in daily classroom practices with clear knowledge of expectations in their classrooms. Soine and Lumpe (2014) recommended that teachers should have professional development designed in a way they can take control of their own learning (p. 303). DuFour (2014) states five factors important to the best environment for professional development which builds staff capacity to function as high-performing: sustained and on-going; collective; job-embedded; results-oriented; and functions as a professional learning community (Agile Innovation, 2015). Professional development for teachers to include teacher input, be an organizational change process, and a mechanism for continuous school improvement must also embrace the mastery of innovation.

Innovation, collaboration, and improvisations have become the essential forces shaping modern life and have become important for all of society (Morris, Ma, & Wu, 2014). Schools are not exempt from this rapid change. Morris, Ma, and Wu describe as enormous and accelerating challenges that every organization faces today. The questions they ask of business organization can be applied specifically to educational organizations:

  • How well can your faculty and school prevailing in the current environment of accelerating change?

  • Is your faculty/school positioned to benefit from the countless new opportunities that change is bringing?

  • Can your school become agile to succeed?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Instructional Innovation: New processes, products, or approaches to learning experience design, delivery, or assessment.

Professional Development: Training for K-12 teachers on specific topics with goals of improving the teaching and learning paradigm.

Technological Efficacy: Teachers self-reported skill and comfort level with utilizing new and innovative instructional technologies.

Midwest: A geographic and cultural region situated in the central section of the United States.

Learning Ecosystem: The physical and virtual learning space, as well as the technology and academic support structures within a school building or district.

Agile Methodologies: An approach to planning, project management, or software development that focuses on iterative, responsive approaches in an uncertain environment while meeting a fixed deadline.

Community Of Practice: A group of teachers who come together to share ideas, discuss best practices, and collaborate on new methods, activities, and research (action or empirical).

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