GUEST POST: Personalizing Professional Learning
An interview with Dr. Andrea Ray
Andrea Ray is a teacher who has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school level. In real life, she has attended 25 years of professional development. She knows if teachers cannot use the information in their classroom, they consider the learning experience a poor use of their time. Andrea’s goal is to create a design process that produces relevant learning activities. Her website contains information about topics that relate to the learning design.
Dr. Andrea L. Ray has an earned PhD in Education with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning. For the past 10 years, her research interests have focused on topics that relate to the design of professional learning. Her published works include: Changed by Design: Using Instructional Strategies to Influence Teachers’ Attitudes (2008), and Creating Professional Development that Works: What Every Teacher Educator Needs to Know (2015).
1) Can you tell us more about your work?
I divide my work into seasons and transitions. The first season (spring) I taught in a K-12 environment for 25 years. Near the transition to the second season (summer), I knew I had one thing left to do. I wanted to create a level playing field for children, who enter school without a fair and equal chance of succeeding.
My desire to help students led to my second season of work. I spent four years earning a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in instructional design for online learning. Then I spent the next 6 years researching and developing the “Intentional Design Process.”
During the transition between my second work season (summer), and third work season (fall) I wrote my first book, Creating Professional Development that Works (1). It is a scholarly book containing in-depth theoretical and conceptual explanations of the design process.
I am currently in my third work season (fall) and I spend my time trying to help teachers who develop professional learning activities for other teachers. My second book, Fulfilling the Needs of Teachers (2018) is a practical guide for teachers who develop professional learning activities.
2) What made you decide to create this learning design?
To be honest, I did not want anything to do with professional development because I had sat through 25 years of it and most of it was not useful to me as a teacher. However, on the way to earning a doctorate all paths led to professional development (see Photo 2).
3) How have you incorporated research into this design?
I started with a single question, “Why are the majority of professional learning activities perceived by teachers as irrelevant?” What I found was shocking: if a learning design uses what research indicates works, it will align with what teachers want.
My second question was, “Then why doesn’t it work?” It doesn’t work because the research originates from three different topical areas:
· Professional development (2, 3)
· Educational change strategies (4, 5)
· Instructional design theories and models (6,7)
It doesn’t work because the frameworks of the majority of current learning designs originate from research about professional development. This makes them one-dimensional in nature.
Fulfilling Teachers’ Needs
You can probably guess what the third question was, “How do you design professional learning activities that fulfill teachers’ needs?” First, you need a three-dimensional framework that uses change strategies to meet teachers’ needs as adult learners (1, 8). The design of the framework must enable teacher educators to consistently create relevant learning activities that lead to lasting improvement in teachers’ instruction (Photo 3).
The framework works like a matrix to incorporate research into the learning design. Research elements are place into three categories (types of connections) on the matrix (see Figure 1):
· Content connections embed knowledge and intellectual skills
· Processing connections manage attention, assess motivation, increase teachers’ awareness of and ability to control his or her thinking processes, and use knowledge or skill to solve problems
· Classroom ecosystem connections identify aspects of internal dialogue teachers must have with the content in order to accept that content as their own
4) How do you hope people use your book?
I hope they try the process out and then compare the results with the method they have been using. I know teachers are busy and have more things to do, than time to do them. I really would like them to try the process out with a topic of their choosing. There is a Course Site set up for readers to try the design out with a topic of their choice. Readers who select this option will create the first learning activity from the framework
5) Where can people find your book, “Fulfilling the Needs of Teachers: Five Stepping Stones to Professional Learning?”
1. Ray, A. L. (2015). Creating professional development that works: What every teacher educator needs to know. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
2. Desimone, L. M. (2011). A primer on effective professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, (92)6, 68-71.
3. Marzano, R. J., & Kendall, J. S. (2007). A new taxonomy of educational objectives (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
4. Knowles, M. S. (1973). The adult learner: A neglected species (2nd ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company.
5. Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusion of innovations. New York, NY: Free Press of Glencoe.
6. Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professional think in action. New York, NY: Basic Books
7. Clark, R. C. (2008). Building expertise: Cognitive methods for training and performance improvement (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
8. Ray, A. L. (2018). Fulfilling the needs of teachers: Five stepping stones to professional learning. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.