Problem of Practice: Empathize

As you might be aware, I am in a class at Michigan State in which I am going to attempt to design a Technology Professional Development Plan for my school, Roxboro Community School.  We are a 6-12 public charter school with roughly 40 teachers of diverse backgrounds, educations, experience, and of course subjects.  One of the most heard complaints is about professional development, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to address those complaints.  We are going to be going through the

We are going to be going through the Stanford Model of Design Thinking in my course on step at a time.  The time we are in the first step:  empathize.

Henriksen, Good, Mishra, and the Deep-Play Research group (2015) explain that “Empathizing involves putting oneself into the shoes of another, to feel what they feel and experience the world through their eyes. It is described as being able to ‘put oneself in the shoes of another'” (p.7).  This stage is very much about looking at the experiences of the target audience.  In this case, that target audience is teachers.  I was given a plethora of options for how to do this, and I decided to use two:  surveys and interviews.

I began by sending this email:


I went into this process with the expectation that I knew what people would say, since I was a teacher up until July 1.  Instead, I discovered this is even more of a sticky wicket to deal with than I thought.  While much of what I found was what I expected, there were just as many things that I did not.

The first surprise for me came right from the first question:


I expected online to be the overwhelming majority, but as you can see even if you include blended it just creeps over 50%.  As an aside, one person put conferences as their response.  My original thought on this project was to create an online delivery method that would be easily accessed and simple to keep up with CEUs.  Obviously, I will need to rethink that to a certain extent.

Next, in response to the best PD question, I received several themes that ran through most of them.  The one that appeared the most was demonstration of the method and then opportunity to practice it.  Next was training that was directly related to their area of expertise.  The third major reoccurring theme was training that was online and self-paced.

For the next question (what don’t you like about PD), there were no surprises.  The majority mentioned professional development that does not relate to them and does not provide hands-on nuts and bolts explanation of how to do something.  They also mentioned PD that lacks choice as to what to go to.

When asked what they would keep, teachers reiterated some of the things from above, particularly focusing on choice, hands-on training, and keeping it short.

Next, teachers were asked what they would like to see done differently.  A few said nothing.  Several mentioned more choice, having teachers share what they are doing, avoid theory and focus more on doing, and wanting to do it online.

The last two questions yielded the following results (1 definitely 6 the opposite):


Armed with this information, I then went and talked to two teachers (I plan on doing more before I get too far into developing this).  I had three questions I wanted to ask, and then I wanted them to just dream for me what a perfect plan would look like.

The questions were:

  • What is the purpose of professional development?
  • What do you want out of professional development?
  • How can professional development help you grow as a teacher?

The teachers explained that professional development is a requirement that the state has to keep your teaching license.  One noted that it is a good way to learn new tools they can try out in their classroom.  They both said they wanted it to not waste their time with things that won’t exist next year or aren’t remotely related to their curriculum.  Finally, one teacher said that everything just repeats, and it has been a long time since something truly new came around that they could use.  While the other said that professional development could help them in areas like differentiation where they want to improve.

When I asked them to dream big, one rolled his eyes and said that he just wants something that will not be a burden and that he can do quickly and easily.  The other teacher said:  “I would like to see strategically planned blended learning that address a specific year-long goal that has adaptive elements in it so as to be customizable depending on each individual participant. Small order, eh?”

It would appear that I have my work cut out for me.

Works Cited

Henriksen, D., Good, J., & Mishra, P. (2014). Embodied Thinking as a Trans-disciplinary Habit of Mind. TechTrends,59(1), 6-11. doi:10.1007/s11528-014-0812-z



One thought on “Problem of Practice: Empathize

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s