In this post, I am going to be walking through the entire design process that I worked through in the development of this Professional Development Plan for CEP 817. You can find the actual Final Design Report here.
As part of CEP 817, I chose a problem of practice that I saw in my school that I felt needed energies thrown at and which I could actually potentially provide a solution that would benefit my colleagues. I am a proponent of finding ways to do homework that can benefit the real world. As most of you know, I have been the Technology Director at my school since July. One of the areas that I have noted as an area of weakness is our professional development (PD)program. Currently, it is more of a shotgun approach where we have people come in and talk about a particular area or initiative. This tends to be too simple for some teachers and too complex for others. There is a small minority that gets what they need out of it. This decreases motivation to attend PD sessions and increases muttering.
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 went into this process with the expectation that I knew what people would say, since I was a teacher up until July 1 of last year. 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 anticipate.
While there were many takeaways from the survey and the interviews, a few stood out more than others.
The majority mentioned there is a lot of 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. Several mentioned the desire to have teachers share what they are doing, avoid theory and focus more on doing, and do it online. 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.
In this portion of the Stanford Design Thinking Model, I proceeded to brainstorm about how to define the problem most effectively. I utilized two methods in this portion.
The first was the Five Whys. Essentially, you start with a why question and then ask why of the answer you come up with. You repeat this until you have asked and answered why questions five times. Here is a screenshot of what I came up with:
After this, I did a process referred to as the Why How Ladder. In this process, you work your way backward from why you do something to how you do something and vice versa. Here is what that looked like:
I then had to work through what I discovered and take into account what I learned from the empathize step to come up with a definition of the problem. The complication comes in that the faculty consists of roughly 40 teachers that range in experience from one year to 40 years, have varying experience and comfort with technology, have different learning styles, teach different topics, and desire very different outcomes from their professional development. Therefore any plan needed to take into account the audience that I am trying to reach is quite diverse which will make creating a plan that meets all of their needs difficult. Additionally, the school has limited financial resources for professional development and for purchasing of technology programs. Teachers are expected to utilize our CMS to full capacity by next school year. Much like teachers experience in the classroom, I faced a myriad of different ability levels and motivation levels, as well.
With that in mind, I came up with the following problem. Since the professional development plan at the school does not take into account the varying levels of the teachers, a plan for delivering professional development focused on technology usage to the diverse population of teachers that call Roxboro Community School home needs to be developed. This eventually evolved to include other types of PD as well.
This step was divided into stages. In the first, I spent fifteen minutes basically asking questions that I needed to answer before I could actually make the plan itself and a few ideas of what to do. This can be seen here. After this, I spent 35 minutes purposefully not thinking about the problem. This part was referred to as incubation, which essentially means I took a break from thinking about the process and did something else to allow my brain to work through things in the background. The requirements for the incubation stage was that I do something that would keep my mind off the problem and give me something quiet to do. Afterward, I returned to the brainstorming and added a fair amount of ideas since I was looking at it with fresh eyes. This can be seen here.
Next, I met with a friend of mine that is an Instructional Facilitator at a school in Durham, NC. We sat and brainstormed ideas of how to make a professional development plan for my school. Here is what our written evidence looked like:
Next, I again incubated on the ideas that we came up with over the course of a week. I kept this written down in a notebook:
Through this process, I came up with the following list of directives that I would need to take into consideration in the Prototype phase:
- There must be choice for the teachers in terms of what they want to learn about
- There have to be multiple delivery methods and multiple ways to show understanding
- Teachers need to be held responsible for using what they learn rather than listen, nod, and then go about their business
- Teachers will be responsible for keeping up with their contact hours via a Google Form
- Administration needs to have an active role in evaluating teacher use of the information from PD
- Every technology PD needs to be wrapped with Pedagogy PD
- Fellow teachers need to be utilized in teaching sessions on PD days
- Teachers need to have a cohort that will add to their collaborative experience and to hold one another accountable to follow through with what is learned
In this phase, I took all of the information that I gathered and brainstormed and wrote a first draft of the Professional Development plan:
The most difficult part of this phase was figuring out ways to meet all the different needs of the various stakeholders while having something meaningful and useful for all. I spent a fair amount of time going back through the Empathize and Define information that I had gathered to make sure that I at least took into consideration all of the various concerns.
In order to test the plan, I decided the best thing to do would be to send it out to all the people that would be affected by it if it was adopted (all the teachers and administrators at my school). I gave the teachers multiple ways that they could respond (comment on the document itself, anonymously comment on a separate document that I created, email me, or drop by the office). I felt that this would be the best test, because they are the ones that will be most affected by it if it were actually to be adopted.
Here is a snapshot of what I found through the feedback given to me during the testing phase:
The process of testing really helped to clarify for me the weak areas of the plan. I was aware of some of them, but most I wouldn’t have seen. Without testing, the final product wouldn’t be as good as it could be.
The process doesn’t end here. I am currently working with the administration at my school to revise the document taking into account the feedback provided by the teachers and the administrators own feedback. I then will send it out again to garner more feedback. The process will continue until the final design meets the intended purpose of answering the Problem of Practice (a plan that meets the needs of all teachers). The second draft of the document can be found here (it will continue to be revised after the next test phase).
This process has opened my eyes to a number of truths. The first is that we are all designers. If we allow ourselves to have the right mindset, everything that we do for our teachers and students (and in regular life) can be filtered through the eyes of a designer. Prior to this experience, I was too quick to go to a solution without fully sussing out the underlying issues and truly defining what the real problem is. I now have a process that I can use to bring in other voices so that the solution we come up with will have been more thoroughly thought out. That is the biggest takeaway for me. Design is a process that never ends. There is constant ebbing and flowing which if you embrace will allow you to become an infinitely more valuable member of a team as well as a person that reflects on their designs.
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