I was listening to a Child Care Bar and Grill podcast about direct instruction the other day, and it got me to wondering.
When it comes to adult learners, what do direct instruction, transformative professional development, and you, the expert, have in common?
Let’s start with “you.” What is your role in delivering quality professional development (PD)? Well, many of us would say, “It depends.” It depends upon the purpose, the size of the group, the length, the format, the content, etc., etc.
Click HERE for the elements of quality PD.
I agree, there are many factors to consider when delivering quality PD. However, when it comes down to it, if you are delivering inservice or preservice PD, more than likely, you are an expert.
Ok…maybe you aren’t comfortable with the expert label, but you are, hopefully, half a step ahead of the participants in terms of the latest and greatest regarding to content being covered.
That said, even as an expert, you likely devote considerable time to designing and facilitating cooperative (and hopefully engaging) small group activities. Maybe you’ve begun to transform how you design PD by asking, “How can the professional development and learning, I offer, engage a teacher’s mind, body, and heart?”
Click HERE to read my manifesto, detailing how to transform PD.
You do these things instead of directly leading activities, instead of offering highly sequenced and specific content, and instead of providing immediate feedback to the learner. All of which are hallmarks of direct instruction.
This means, that despite being the expert in the room, you have become a guide and a facilitator, and have empowered the adult learner to take the lead.
That’s what we want right?
Now don’t worry, I haven’t started drinking the direct instruction Kool-aid…I still believe and know the research supports my role, as a guide, and the adult learner, as the one who plays an active role, by interacting with others and with the content in ways that make sense to them.
However, might we be missing something? Missing an opportunity for the adult learner to interact with you, the expert, which is also necessary for growth and learning.
Creating opportunities to interact with me (aka the expert), however, particularly when learners are engaged in cooperative learning activities, is a hard one for me. I often shy away from joining groups because one of a few things ends up happening:
- The conversation shifts to me versus active dialogue among learners
- Learners may feel I’m checking up on them and that they can’t lead the direction of their learning (feels like they are “off task”)
- The rest of the “audience” is left to their own device because I get fully engaged with a single group
Have you had similar experiences?
So what is a guide to do?
Well, what if we still served as the proverbial “guide on the side” but also “embedded” a bit of direct instruction?
For example, what if I embedded opportunities to demonstrate a technique or practice? What if I were to give specific and timely feedback, even in a large group setting? And, what if I was able to correct and adjust learning in real time?
I see at least two ways this might take ply out, particularly in a large group PD offering.
First, I could alert participants that my role during small group activities is to join select tables/groups. Who I join could be a product of an invitation (them inviting me), some random selection, or even formed by those who share a question or want to ask how something would apply to their setting. Thus, while other small groups of learners are working through a case, searching for information, having a discussion, I would join a small group, perhaps at an extra table (separate virtual room for those online). This separate space would allow me to intentionally engage in conversations with smaller groups of learners and to deliver direct instruction as needed.
By clearly articulating my role and sharing the “rules of engagement”, I can bypass some of my worries noted above in terms of joining small cooperative learning groups.
A second idea would be to identify a time during the PD when further instruction is needed by the whole. During this time, I would utilize one group to talk through the issues, the concerns, and to demonstrate a particular practice. In this instance, other participants would leave their original spots/groups and, like any fishbowl activity, learn by watching and listening to the discussion taking place at an inner circle.
This would allow everyone to remain engaged, and for me to embed more direct instruction around a given practice.
Fill out the form below to access two images that depict the strategies shared here, for embedding direct instruction into learner-led professional development.
What do you think?
Possible to use what we know to be effective about direct instruction and embed it into learner-led professional development?
Have a look at the images, think it over, try it out, and then come on over to FB and share your success stories.