Exploring the instructional technology coach’s role as professional learning facilitator

The mission of an instructional technology coach is to assist and support educators in the integration and utilization of digital technology into their curriculum. Instructional technology coaches provide one-on-one support as well as facilitate professional learning sessions, which may occur in face to face, hybrid or virtual modalities. Both roles serve to transform teaching and learning to improve student outcomes and prepare students with the 21st century skills needed for success in a global workplace.

“The instructional technology coach strives to engage and support digital transitions in their school and district, to empower educators to take ownership of their technology and align its use to curriculum and instruction” (Stevens, 2014).

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The International Society for Technology in Education Professional Learning Facilitator Coaching Standard states that “Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders to use technology to advance teaching and learning” (ISTE). Following, I will provide evidence of mastery in my understanding of the three professional learning facilitator performance indicators.

PI 4.5a: Design professional learning based on needs assessments and frameworks for working with adults to support their cultural, socio-emotional and learning needs.

Any time an educational session is developed, an understanding of the target audience needs to be ascertained prior to developing learning outcomes, engaging learning activities, and instructional content. Instructional technology coaches facilitate professional learning for adult learners. In researching their target population, an instructional technology should first become acquainted with andragogy, or adult learning theories, which provides considerations for facilitating learning among adult learners who are self-directed and intrinsically motivated. It is imperative that a coach understands the distinctions between andragogy and pedagogy, which is the teaching framework commonly used with children who are viewed as dependent and extrinsically motivated. In my blog post titled, “How can the integration of adult learning theories enhance the design of educational technology professional development sessions?I explored how the principles of andragogy and other adult learning theories should be integrated into the design and facilitation of professional learning for adult learners.

In my blog post on designing professional development for adult learners, the following instructional design strategies were discussed to support the socio-emotional needs of adult learners:

  • Allow time for participant interaction to share their professional experiences with one another.
  • Employ collaborative inquiry opportunities, including group problem solving, sharing of resources, and exchange of ideas.

In addition to understanding the rationale for integrating adult learning theories into the design of professional learning sessions, it is essential to seek input from the target audience through a needs assessment survey. Professional learning content should be designed based on the needs and wants of the educators that will be participating in the professional learning sessions and should be learner centered. In my blog post titled, “Designing professional development sessions that go the distance,” I examined the value of conducting a needs assessment in preparation for a professional learning session that meets the learning needs of adult learners. Integrating feedback from the target audience will result in a professional learning experience that is tailored, relevant, and meaningful to participants. Aligning the content with the needs of the target audience will increase the likelihood of transference of learning into the classroom where the professional learning may positively effect student outcomes.

Another aspect of facilitating professional learning among adult learners is cultural. One aspect of culture I explored in the DEL program is the awareness that some educators may be digital immigrants and not as familiar or comfortable with technology as their digital native colleagues. I wrote about coaching digital immigrants in my blog post titled, “Coaching digital immigrants: considerations for digital equity and inclusion.” Digital immigrants may be less likely to engage in EdTech. professional development opportunities due to feeling behind with advances in this area of teaching and learning. However, it is critical that instructional technology coaches structure professional learning to ensure that digital immigrants will be successful as participants. Examples include using plain language when explaining technological concepts, utilization of digital tools during professional learning sessions, such as clearly explaining how to access a Kahoot quiz or providing specific instructions for participation on a Google Jam Board. Positive professional learning experiences may motivate technologically hesitant educators to further exploring the integration of technology into their curriculum, which may make learning more engaging for students and better prepared for a global workplace which depends on its use.

PI 4.5b: Build the capacity of educators, leaders, and instructional teams to put the ISTE Standards into practice by facilitating active learning and providing meaningful feedback.

The role of the instructional technology coach in the capacity building of educators, leaders, and instructional teams focuses on “. . . any effort being made to improve the abilities, skills, and expertise of educators” (edglossary.org). Two methods to increase capacity of educators is through the facilitation of relevant, meaningful active learning experiences and by providing meaningful feedback to educators who participate in professional learning opportunities.

To demonstrate my understanding of the benefits of active learning for adult learners and its application into professional development, I explored this concept in the following blog posts:

In these blog posts, I describe the benefits of active learning, examples of online active learning activities, engagement strategies, and digital tools that can assist in facilitating active learning in an online environment.  

Further, educators benefit from receiving relevant, meaningful feedback on their efforts to improve instructional practices through integration of technology into their curriculum. Meaningful feedback can be provided verbally when an instructional technology coach observes the educator practicing a new technology in a professional learning session or in their classroom environment. Meaningful feedback can also be provided in a written form, such as through responses to an active learning activity in an asynchronous learning environment. A professional learning facilitator can also structure the learning environment to encourage peers to provide meaningful feedback to one another, for example, after completing simulation activities or revising lesson plans. Therefore, there are many ways that feedback can be articulated to adult learners to increase capacity building. However, it should be emphasized that to be meaningful, feedback should be specific, relevant, and tailored to the needs of each individual adult learner. In my blog post, How can the integration of adult learning theories enhance the design of educational technology professional development sessions?, I reference a study by Gregson & Sturko (2007) that emphasizes the importance of providing meaningful feedback in professional development.

During the DEL program, I had the opportunity to practice as an instructional technology peer coach. This collaborative work focused on improving teaching and learning through utilization of digital technology.  These efforts were guided by the ISTE Standards for Students and Educators, which have the following common themes:

  • preparing students for success in an ever-evolving digital landscape, which includes proficiency in 21st century skills
  • empowering students to be independent learners by designing curriculum and learning environments that encourage voice and choice and autonomy in the learning process.

Additionally, the ISTE Standards for Educators emphasize peer collaboration, which I accomplished through my peer coaching experience.

I have written about my experiences with peer coaching and the connections with the ISTE Standards for Students and Educators in the following blog posts:

PI 4.5c: Evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet the schoolwide vision for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning.

It is essential that professional learning facilitators evaluate their professional development efforts to know that is working well and what improvements can be made that will result in effective integration of digital technology for high-impact teaching and learning.

In my blog post, “Exploring the nuts and bolts of ed tech PD program evaluation: Merits of a mixed method approach,” I explored how surveys, focus groups and interviews can be used together as a mixed methods research approach to collect quantitative and qualitative data as sources of feedback in the evaluation of professional development sessions. Moreover, I demonstrated my understanding of how to develop Likert scale questions and how to complete a thematic analysis. Additionally, I demonstrated my competence in designing, conducting, analyzing, and interpreting a survey in my program evaluation project in EDTC 6106, which I provided evidence of in my b-portfolio blog post titled, “Exploring the instructional technology coach’s role as data-driven decision-maker.”

In summary, the role of the instructional technology coach as professional learning facilitator is focused on designing relevant, active learning experiences that meet the needs of adult learners, facilitating meaningful feedback, and continually evaluating effectiveness of professional development to ensure that efforts are enhancing capacity building of educators and improving student outcomes.

References

Author unknown. (2013). Capacity. The glossary of education reform. https://www.edglossary.org/capacity/

Gregson, J., Sturko, P. (2007). Teachers as adult learners: Re-conceptualizing professional development. MPAEA Journal of Adult Education, 36(1), 1-18. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ891061.pdf

International Society for Technology in Education. (2022). www.iste.org

Stevens, J.B. (2014). Defining your role as an instructional technology coach – the 4 Rs. Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. https://www.fi.ncsu.edu/news/defining-your-role-as-an-instructional-technology-coach-the-4-rs/

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