Teacher professional development needs to be practical, fit your schedule, and improve your classroom — and I’ve found professional development from Advancement Courses that does just that!
Recently, I took a course from Advancement Courses called Teaching Computer Science in 6-12. This blog post will discuss my experience and share what I created related to computer science.
Often when it comes to professional development, teachers will say things like:
Yes! Of course!
To begin, I looked at professional development best practices for teachers. When surveying the research, effective teacher professional development is content-focused with active learning, supports job-embedded collaboration, uses models and modeling, provides coaching and expert support, gives opportunities for feedback and reflection, and is of sustained duration (Darling-Hammond).
So, let’s take these six aspects of effective professional development, and I will share how the Advancement Courses class I just completed meets all six requirements( and I’ll add one extra thought which matters to me!)
In addition to improving my classroom and school, the course was beneficial to me because it meets the characteristics of effective professional development. Let's dive into how this looks for my personal PD and what I learned.
1. Content-Focused with Active Learning
The content focus with an active learning approach made the Advancement Courses class valuable for my classroom. In addition, I immediately applied coursework in my classroom with feedback from facilitators who have expertise in computer science instruction. But, what is active learning?
Well, this course certainly did that! In the course, I experienced:
In addition, I created a personal assignment unique to my classroom and, with feedback from my expert facilitator, improved it to learn important concepts about teaching computer science and adapt it to my classroom.
2. Supports Job-Embedded Collaboration
The collaboration with my administrators began during the course selection process as they shared their objectives for my teacher professional development in the upcoming school year. I selected several courses and shared their syllabi with my administrators and accrediting organization to ensure they met objectives. You can look at your state requirements to see what works for your situation.
Additionally, as I designed my project, I met with administrators to meet objectives to help our school implement computer science standards and computational thinking.
When we talk to our administrators, we can get great advice and have a more supportive experience through collaboration and conversation.
With expert facilitator feedback, I improved the implementation of the content. With my administrator’s feedback, I improved my job as both a computer science teacher and IT director, supporting all teachers.
Student, Parent, and Facilitator Feedback
While the content was fully online, my primary learning space was my in-person classroom as I implemented what I learned using feedback from students, parents, and administrators. The job-embedded collaboration was one of the best parts of this course.
Relevant Teacher Professional Development
One of the biggest reasons this course from Advancement Courses was so helpful to me was that it was relevant to my classroom. Not only did I create a computer science video to help a wider audience of educators (see below), but my school now has aligned standards. In addition, I created a lesson plan for my coursework and final project that increased student interest in computer science and has become a permanent part of my eighth-grade class curriculum.
3. Uses Models and Modeling
One thing I liked about the course is that it aligned our behavior with the Charlotte Danielson Framework. (Danielson) Everything learners did for the course — in terms of the project and participation — was aligned with the Danielson Framework.
I found this beneficial. The Danielson Framework helps us understand areas of work that teachers should master. In retrospect, I think it presented a picture of a very well-rounded teacher grounded in excellence in what they do.
Additionally, the course shared videos, articles, and research, which included what I needed to be using and modeling by professional educators using best practices.
If you watch the video I created for my final project; it was more than just a video — it went along with a lesson plan and other materials. The video included multiple research sources and focused on making computer science practical to students, administrators, and teachers.
4. Provides Coaching and Expert Support
My facilitators were experts in computer science who had extensive experience. They offered constructive, detailed feedback based on research and best practices. I was given thoughtful feedback at each checkpoint that steered me in a direction I hadn’t considered.
5. Gives Opportunities for Feedback and Reflection
At each project checkpoint, I received detailed feedback from my facilitator that required me to go back and revise, think and reflect, and bring out the research that supported what I was doing. For example, after receiving student and parent feedback, I adjusted my final project. Furthermore, a test run of the lesson plan made my project much better overall.
Each of the six modules included multiple points for reflection. In some cases, I reviewed the work of other teachers and provided feedback. In other cases, I shared my work and reflected on what I learned to receive input from others.
The reflective portion of the course was one of the most powerful aspects for me as it required me to measure the results and consider how I could improve. In this process, I became better at teaching computer science and computational thinking.
For the final project, I taught a computer science lesson, to my seventh and eighth-graders.
I liked the personal research approach for the final project. In module four, when we're to the point that we've created the artifact, the course encourages you to test the final artifact with an audience similar to the one you will be using for the final audience.
I ran the lesson plan with my seventh graders while collecting learning and survey data — and I learned so much. I analyzed both the student and parent responses and improved and changed the lesson based upon the data.
Since I have smaller classes, I liked this approach. In addition, the practices and checkpoints in the final project have added behaviors to my classroom practice that have made me a better teacher.
6. Sustained Duration (with Flexible Pacing)
If you're like me, the regular college semester lines up much too close to my school semester. A similar schedule means that traditional college courses aren’t convenient for me. In my experience, it is not suitable for the course load of my students and my course load to be too closely aligned because that makes for a very stressful situation!
Since Advancement courses provided me with six months to complete my course, I was able to work over the summer and fall break. By the end of my Christmas break, I had completed my final project and was very happy with what I had learned.
7. It Fit Me!
The biggest reason Advancement Courses fits me is because it's personal. My Advancement Courses class is wholly personalized to what I need: time, topic, and a tailor-made project for my classroom.
And the results impacted my whole school.
Another thing I learned is even though the course focused on grades six through 12; I work with information technology for kindergarten through 12th grade. So, in the reading assignments, I did take some time in the course to look at some early childhood education and discovered that computational thinking should be integrated from kindergarten up (also in the video).
As a result, I was able to find some excellent research on not only programming (Ricketts) but the use of robotics (Elkin). After conversations, my administrator scheduled a tour of a local STEM Academy that has robotics in place. Consequently, we discussed some visionary strategic things for the school. All of this directly results from what I learned in the course.
One of the most helpful concepts of the course was the overview of the mishmash of what “computer science” teaching is in most schools. I put computer science in quotes because the research shows that most schools and districts do not understand what computer science is. (Wilson)
I’d like to share a practical example that I’ve used for my school (it is near the beginning of the video with research sources). I learned that there are five ways schools use technology in the classroom. Ironically, four of them are not necessarily computer science.
5 Ways Schools Use Technology in the Classroom
This five-pronged aspect of technology education in schools is helpful. Accordingly, I took to my administration early on to help discuss how we needed to improve things in our school. First, it helps to know what computer science is not. Then, we can begin to discuss what computer science is and how computational thinking can help us get there, especially at the younger grade levels.
I've always talked about Advancement Courses on my podcast and blog. Additionally, I have many friends who've gone through their courses. So, when it was time for my professional development, it made sense I would choose Advancement Courses.
After going through an Advancement Courses course, I am a better teacher, and my school is better.
I can give you my 100% recommendation from personal experience. Advancement Courses would be a great option for you if:
I'll admit it's been a while since I've taken a college class, and I was grateful to graduate with highest honors. And now I have another “A” on my transcript. Yes!
Not only have I learned a lot, but I’m also a better teacher, my classroom is better, and my students are better for me taking the class. And in my book, that's an A+.
Danielson, C. (2014). The Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument: 2013 Edition., Teachscape.
Darling-Hammond, Linda, et al. (2017). “Effective Teacher Professional Development (Research Brief).” Learning Policy Institute: 8. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Effective_Teacher_Professional_Development_BRIEF.pdf
Elkin, M., et al. (2014). “Implementing a robotics curriculum in an early childhood Montessori classroom.” Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice 13: 153-169.
Ricketts, R. (2018, March 13, 2018). “Computational Thinking for Kindergarteners.” Retrieved November 27, 2021, 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/computational-thinking-kindergartners.
Wilson, C. S., L. A. Stephenson, C. & Stehlik, M. (2010). Running on empty: the failure to teach K-12 computer science in the digital age.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Never miss an episode
Get the 10-minute Teacher Show delivered to your inbox.