Episode 38: Guest Host Rouzana Komesidou talks professional development with Drs. Laurie Lee, Marcia Kosanovich, & Kevin Smith
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00:11Tiffany Hogan: Welcome to See Hear Speak Podcast, episode 38. This episode is guest hosted by Dr. Rouzana Komesidou. She talks with Drs. Laurie Lee, Marcia Kosanovich and Kevin Smith about their work on professional development, which is also referred to as PD. I’d venture to say that we’ve all experienced PD in our careers at one time or another, and likely many times, either as a facilitator, learner, or both. Because of your experiences, you likely have a sense of what makes for good and not so good PD. In this conversation, Drs. Lee, Kosanovich, and Smith share their extensive experience to discuss what makes PD effective and highlight that good PD takes time and it honors participants’ knowledge and constraints. Thank you for listening, and don’t forget to check out our website, www.seehearspeakpodcast.com, to sign up for email alerts for new episodes and content, read a transcript of this podcast, access articles and resources that we discussed, and find more information about our guests. And, if you like this podcast, don’t forget to subscribe and leave a positive rating in Apple Podcasts, or wherever you are listening.
01:25 Rouzana Komesidou: Welcome to the See Hear Speak podcast. My name is Rouzana Komesidou, and I am your guest host today. I am a postdoc fellow at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, and I'm also a Project Manager at the Speech and Language Literacy Lab, working with Dr. Tiffany Hogan. I'm excited to be here and talk with our amazing guests, Laurie Lee, Marcia Kosanovich and Kevin Smith, about professional development. A big thank you to Dr. Tiffany Hogan, the host of See Hear Speak Podcast, for giving me this wonderful opportunity to guest host. So how about we start with introductions? Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and what you do. Laurie, do you want to go first?
02:09 Laurie Lee: I'd be glad to. Thanks so much for having us today. My name is Dr. Laurie Lee, and I'm the Improving Literacy Research Alliance Manager with the Regional Educational Laboratory, and we are under the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University. And so, basically, what I do in the states that we serve, which is North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, I support the literacy initiatives in those states. And so, together with my colleagues, Kevin Smith and Marcia Kosanovich, we support those initiatives, often times, by providing training, developing tools to help them in what they do. I come to this work as a practitioner, I was a teacher for a number of years at elementary school, and also the middle school level. I taught English, I taught science, and even a little bit of math. And so, I come from that background. And then I also served at two different state education agencies- the agency in Illinois, where I administered a reading improvement block grant there, and then I was at the literacy office here in Florida, Just Read Florida, for about 10 years, where I served as the middle school reading specialist there, and also as the Deputy Director of that office. And so, I came from there to this role. And so, a lot of experience as a practitioner and then at the state level as well. So providing professional development has been a huge part of what I have done, over the last 20 years or so.
03:46 RK: That's wonderful, thank you. How about you, Marcia?
03:50 Marcia Kosanovich: Sure, thanks for having us. I'm Marcia Kosanovich. I am based in North Carolina. I'm with the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast, at Florida State, and I work on a lot of their literacy projects and school leadership projects. I'm also a former teacher. I taught preschool, elementary, I tutored middle school and high school, also taught undergraduate and graduate level reading and assessment classes at Florida State and some other universities. And most of my work has been designing professional development and designing tools for teachers, and that's what I love to do. I love to translate the research for teachers and help them use practical tools in their classrooms and see how they can apply the tools in their classroom.
04:28 RK: That's great. And Kevin.
0:04:40 Kevin Smith: Hi, thanks for having us. So glad to be with you today. My name Kevin Smith, and I am the training, coaching and technical support lead for the REL Southeast, based at Florida State University. So I support the training and professional development projects that occur across our six states on multiple topics, and have the fantastic pleasure of working with Laurie and Marcia every day. And also, I'm a former teacher. I taught special education at elementary school level, and I taught English and reading intervention at the middle and high school level, and then I was a reading coach providing professional development to large faculties at a really large middle and high school. Then I worked with Laurie, I've had the fantastic pleasure of working with Laurie for about 15 years, both at the Department of Education for about seven years, I was there in the Reading Office, and then working with her and Marcia off and on there and here, and just again, have supported large-scale professional development efforts across schools, across the state and then across multiple states. So I've had the good fortune working with teachers and other professional developers for many years in supporting best practices for both teachers and students.
05:53 RK: That's wonderful. What amazing experiences you all have, and I think our audiences will appreciate so much to learn about professional development and learn about the work that you do with schools and practitioners. I'm very excited to talk about professional development, because it's so critical and necessary, and I think we're starting to pay closer attention to it, as one of the ways to bridge the research to practice gap and improve school-based instruction intervention. And I also think that the timing is favorable, because it seems that a lot of pieces are falling into place now, including advocacy for common disorders like dyslexia and developmental language disorder, legislation that now requires schools to have evidence-based instruction, early identify and support those with learning needs. And we also have an interest from research it seems lately, more interest around the translation of research into practice, and I think we started realizing that research findings do not magically induct into routine practice without an actual focus on implementation.
07:20 RK: And based on my experience with school districts and work around implementation, teachers and other school-based practitioners are really key stakeholders in that process, and the more they know about evidence-based practice, the better they will implement it, the better they would sustain it over time, and increasing that knowledge is definitely a game changer, so today we will try to talk a little bit about that and how we can do that, but I think we can start with some basics around professional development. So my first question would be, what is professional development?
07:40 MK: This is Marcia. I always wanna continue to learn and grow in my profession, and so I think professional development, why is it important or what is it? What are we starting with? [chuckle]
0:07:51 RK: I think we can start with what is professional development, just the definition.
0:07:54 MK: Yeah. I think it can be a range of things from reading a book to develop your knowledge about your profession, to listening to a podcast, to taking in an online course or actually going face-to-face and sitting with your colleagues and learning in a professional learning community type of environment. So I think it's a range of things. As long as you have a goal of improving your profession and whatever professional development experience you take part of, if that shares that same goal, then that's going to help you learn and grow.
08:32 RK: That's great. Anyone else want to add something?
08:35 LL: I would agree with Marcia, and I think it's anything that you might do to help increase your knowledge and improve your practice in the classroom, and so there's that knowledge building aspect, and there's also that intent to apply that knowledge, and so in professional development, it is gaining knowledge, but also gaining those abilities and then translating that into changes in practice.
09:00 RK: That's wonderful. Yes, Kevin, sorry, go ahead.
09:03 KS: No, no, I just agree. I'm really glad the broadness of Laurie and Marcia's answer was really good. That it really can be anything, almost. I think in my mind, the one thing I'd say, and they kinda hinted at this, hopefully, when teachers are taking part in professional development, the goal is to ensure that students are becoming even more successful than they would be otherwise, whether it's through knowledge, whether it's through practice, that the teachers are learning something that can take away to ensure that their students are as successful as they can be, so that's kind of the one note I'd make to bring it home maybe.
09:41 RK: I like that definition because it suggests a very active involvement in learning from the teacher side and not just them being passive recipients of information but really engaging with the material. I really like the broadness of the definition. So, I guess the next question is, why is professional development important?
10:04 LL: Well, we all can certainly continue to grow and improve what we do. So even the most prestigious athletes have coaches, and so every single one of us can improve our skills and abilities in our knowledge base, and ultimately I think Kevin said it best in that the ultimate goal is to help our students and to help them to achieve and reach their potential, and so whatever we can do to improve our instruction in the classroom and ultimately help them to do better, it is extremely important that we engage in those kinds of activities.
10:47 MK: Yeah, I agree with that Laurie, and I would add that it's important to learn the most up-to-date evidence-based research practices, so that you can apply that in your classroom to help your students learn.
10:57 KS: I’d just say that the teachers come into the profession from so many different avenues anymore, I think historically there was a very traditional line for a teacher, they finished high school, they go to a college and through a program that helps them become better teachers through college, and now I know there are so many different pathways to become a teacher. So, I think the knowledge base the teachers come into the profession with, it's much more varied than it was at points in the past. And there's a lot more evidence now to show what would be effective. So even if you went through a traditional pathway, really the knowledge, especially in reading instruction, has changed over the past 30 years in terms of what's important, so I agree with everything that's said and know that it's important that we stay up-to-date. Shoot, I've been married almost 30 years, my wife still coaches me and provides professional development on how to do laundry correctly, I don't know if it's evidence-based or not, but there are things that not just in our profession, but in our lives that we receive guidance on as well, right?
12:02 RK: That's so true. I can think of many examples in my life as well, that is a good one. [chuckle] So we do know… we have this broad definition of professional development, and we know how important it is, and it is a continuous process that all of us are involved in. I think those of us who do some work around professional development, sometimes we don't have the full understanding of what it takes for professional development to be effective. So, I would like to spend some time to talk about that. What is the essential in professional development to be successful, and this is where your amazing experiences can come handy and our audience will appreciate hearing about it.
12:48 MK: Yeah, I think it's really important to bridge the research to practice. I think any professional development that you experience, it should translate what the research is saying and how a teacher can apply it in their classroom. Kevin, Laurie and I are in a unique situation because we've been teachers and we've been researchers, so I know we all love to work with teachers the best, but we also understand the research and we understand how we can translate it and make it easily accessible to teachers and show them how it can be used and done to help their learners.
13:23 RK: That's great, thank you, Marcia.
13:26 KS: That's a really good point, and I'll just kinda follow up with saying... And I think this has been a challenge in the research practice gap over the years, and Marcia hit the nail on the head. I think that teachers will see if people don't know how to talk teacher talk, if they're not authentic, if they haven't taught before, then the information gets discounted sometimes. So if you don't know how to talk to other teachers, if you haven't been in the teachers’ lounge, and if you haven't worked with kids one-on-one for the course of a year or years, then sometimes I think the information that gets shared gets discounted some, and that's just as a former teacher, as a coach who worked with teachers, as someone who's been working for professional developers over time, that just seems to be the case that we really have to ensure that in some way whatever is being shared with teachers has been vetted in a way that they'll know that this is real, that this will really work with kids who look like my kids, who come from ____ backgrounds like my kids, who are similar again to what I see day in and day out, that seems to be a really important component of professional development.
14:32 KS: The other side of it is making sure that teachers, whoever you're working with, has an open mind and are willing to change, because if they're not, you can be the best professional developer in the world, and this is coming at a teacher as a mandate in some ways, or if they don't have an open mind to change or it doesn't fit into their philosophical understanding of what's best for their kids, then you're gonna struggle mightily no matter how good your background is as a professional developer. So that's important, ensuring that you're working with the teachers in some way with leadership, with someone to ensure that they're coming in with an open mind and that this is something that can help them help their students, and that's usually, as we mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to come about it, we're here to help show you what will work for students that you have in front of you. So that's one of the pieces that I wanted to share.
15:26 LL: And I think too, when we get... when we talk about... and Kevin and Marcia did a wonderful job of describing some kind of overarching kinds of things that need to be in place, but as we think about too, just logistically, just the nuts and bolts of providing professional development. I know one thing that we've all done is ensure that we integrate knowledge building and application in any sessions that we provide. So it's not just to sit and get and we're spewing information at them, but let's build some knowledge and then that's to give you a chance at your tables to apply that knowledge with some guided practice kinds of things, we circulate the room, we make sure the sessions are very interactive, teachers have the opportunity to talk with one another, we have the opportunity to circulate and talk with them, and then we do the best we can to ensure that that independent practice comes later, that there's an opportunity for them to translate into that knowledge and that guided practice into their classrooms. And trying to ensure that what we're sharing with them is presented as simply as possible, because if it's too complex, if there's too many steps, if there's too much to it, the chances of it actually making it back into their classroom and them transforming their practice based on what they learn is minimal.
16:46 LL: It really just have to be, "Yes, I can do this." That we can convince them that it's not that hard, that maybe you're even doing some of this already, and that it can make a difference in what they do. And I think if they see that it's relatively simple and that it'll make a big impact on their students that they're more inclined to implement.
17:44 RK: Those are very important things that you mentioned, and I would like to stay on a couple of them, again, based on my experience working with school districts, I think another thing that we always have to keep in mind is before we do anything, we really have to take a step back and understand the setting and understand its components as strengths and weaknesses well, because a lot of the programs that we develop, they've been developed under, let's say, ideal conditions, and they haven't taken the actual context into consideration. And this is a big lesson that I had to learn that before telling teachers that this is a program that will be highly effective in your classroom, I had to first sit back and listen to them and understand what it will take for something like this to be implemented in their classroom.
18:07 RK: So I would like to hear a little bit more about that in your experiences, because that is challenging, we have... It's almost like an imbalance between the urgency to implement the right practices to benefit students, but also then we need some time to really understand the context and that we're working with.
18:28 MK: Yeah, I think that's really important. I think honoring the knowledge and experience of the teachers that are in the room with you is a very important part of professional development. So practically, including this time for discussion, time for reflection, just have some broad guiding questions that teachers can talk with each other about, talk to you about. So I think honoring their knowledge and experience is really important, and we can all learn from each other, even the person guiding the professional development can learn from other people in the room. So I think that's really important. And simple things like asking teachers what schedule works best for them. Not just coming and saying, "We're gonna do this on this day at this time." But you know, what works best for you and working with them, and simple things like bringing some chocolate, bringing... [laughter]
19:23 MK: Things like that, but the most important thing is honoring the knowledge and experience that's in the room with you.
19:30 LL: I know one thing that the Institute of Education Sciences practice guides incorporate into those practice guides are challenges or obstacles that might be encountered. And I think that's an important part of professional development as Marcia shared is honoring the knowledge and what those teachers bring to the room in terms of, "Okay, let's talk about the benefits of implementing this. Now let's talk about the obstacles that you might encounter, and let's brainstorm some ways to overcome those. We know this is going to be worthwhile, we know that it's not going to be necessarily easy, so what can we do to meet those challenges, to overcome those obstacles and let's brainstorm those together." And so again, acknowledging, just like you said, Rouzana, that everything is not ideal. Fire alarms go off, electricity goes off, stuff happens. And so just acknowledging the fact that that's going to be the case, and so let's talk together about how we can best implement.
20:42 RK: That is real practice. All the things that we're trying to control in research is really a real practice. Yeah, so it's definitely been a big lesson for us, and then the work we do and just to listen to them and engage them from the beginning, I think we often only... Sometimes we tend to get feedback from teachers at later stages, and I think earlier is better to really prevent some of the problems that we could prevent from the beginning, but also for them to feel that they are actively involved in something that eventually will be meaningful to them and to their students and the communities that they serve.
21:25 KS: Absolutely. Yeah, and I think what you've shared is important, and it's all a form of needs assessment, a lot of what you all have shared, it's not always formal, right. “What kind of chocolate these folks like?” is a real need assessment type question. How does...
21:40 RK: I think so. [laughter]
21:42 KS: ___ into what you're doing? And Laurie mentioned this, so they– and Marcia did as well – they have knowledge, they have skills, they have practices that work for them now, how does what you're sharing hook on to what... It's easy, it's the same, whether it's teachers or students, they need a hook to hang the new stuff on, so where is this hook? What do they know, what can they do now that this new knowledge or practice hooks onto so that they'll be able to do it much more comfortably, and that goes into roadblocks, like Laurie mentioned, it goes into really, anything that you can think of, if you can find ways to connect what you're planning to do with something they already do and value their knowledge, and that's through that needs assessment process. What are you doing now? And how does this fit in? I think that you'll find much more success going that route than otherwise.
22:31 RK: I totally agree. Yes, it's definitely important. Another thing that I would like us to spend a little bit time is I think what you mentioned, Kevin and Laurie and Marcia, that you want to tell teachers that we will try to understand what type of students they have, so the program that they will apply will benefit every student they have not just a small portion. And I would like to stay on that a little bit because that is a very challenging thing to do, because research traditionally has been excluding a lot of children with different profiles and creating these programs that eventually they definitely need some adaptation or something additional supplements to benefit all children. And in my experience, I'm thinking of children with different linguistic backgrounds, for example. I work with a school district that have high percentage of students who speak other languages, different languages, different dialects, and a lot of times the programs that we bring are not appropriate for them, and that is a very challenging situation, tough conversation to have because we have to find ways, this is... It's about equity, we have to find ways to benefit all students and not just a part. So how do you deal with that? How do you talk about it and what are some things that came out of your work around that question of how to apply a program to all students?
24:01 KS: I'm glad to start with a very specific example, if that's okay, and this is something Karina did with adult educators in Florida. So we were providing training on literacy strategies for adult educators, and we work with all – adult education can be with speakers of other languages, corrections, all kind of – so the most extreme example of what you've just described, Rouzana, I've ever seen. We work with adult educators who work with students on death row, and these are people in the most solitary, strict confinement than you can ever imagine for a classroom setting, so that they had to talk to them through a crack in a door, and that's really the only type of communication that they had, they could write things, they could share things through writing, but that's it. So we had to work with these corrections officers who are also instructors on how to interpret what we were sharing with them, and there were serious constraints on how to do some of the things that we were talking to them, so we spent some time with those instructors to try to brainstorm, what does this look like in your setting and really sat down, like Laurie said, we try to have interactive approaches when we can, but really sat down and talk to them for half an hour on what can you actually do from what we're sharing, what does this look like in your setting, how can you ensure that your students will get something out of this.
25:23 KS: And they did, I think by the end, actually feel that the training was valuable and that they were able to pull some things from it, but that is an extreme situation, and we run into that, as you can imagine the same way you do all the time, right, so what does this look like for this specific group, in some cases, you've prepared for that. We were not prepared for the death row inmates at all, we weren't. We never thought that that extreme situation would exist, but you try to prepare when you can. There are always contingencies. There are always examples that you weren't expecting that come up in your professional development, and what I've found is if you just sit down and talk with the instructor and say, "What can this look like? How can we change this some?" And Laurie, any other thoughts? 'Cause that's what we typically do.
26:12 LL: Right. No, you're exactly right, Kevin. That was quite an enlightening conversation for sure, but I think it is, and Marcia reflected this, coming back to honoring what your teachers bring and knowing that they know their students and they know them probably better than anybody, and so honoring what they bring and brainstorming along with them. And I think too, we're fortunate in that all of us have been teachers, we've been in those classrooms, we've had those kids, and so I think having that credibility and having some ideas that we can share, "Well, I've done this before, have you tried that?" And having that background certainly helps in that regard, but you're absolutely right, we can't expect teachers to implement a program and that it would be wrong to expect them to implement a program in a way that's not going to benefit all of the students that they have, so when they need to adapt it, then we need to figure out how to help them do that.
27:15 RK: Yeah, another thing that came from this conversation is you talked a little bit about making it practical for teachers and other practitioners, and I think that's probably another challenge that we often face, because sometimes what we present to them might not be so practical, so when they go into their classroom, they might not have a good idea of how to actually incorporate it in their routine. So can you talk a little bit about practicality and how do we achieve that to our best way?
27:50 MK: Sure. One thing we like to do is show videos of actual teachers in actual classrooms working with their real students using the strategies and the things that we're teaching through our professional development, so I think seeing it in action is helpful. And an example of this is, Laurie mentioned the foundational reading skills practice guide from IES, that shows recommendations for teaching foundational reading skills. And what we did is we took that practice guide and we translated it even more for teachers and created professional learning community materials around those four recommendations. And so we developed a facilitator guy or a facilitator to lead a group of teachers through understanding these recommendations and we develop videos, classroom videos, and we develop activities, so teachers can practice it with each other and give each other feedback and watch the videos of it actually happening in the classroom.
28:52 MK: So those are ways in which we try to really make it practitioner-oriented. So taking that research, those four recommendations from foundational reading practice guide and creating activities and videos and guides for teachers to use and read and then go and practice in their classroom and come back together and talk about how it went and what would make it more effective and things like that. So that's one thing that we like to do.
29:21 RK: That's great. I love how practical those examples are.
29:25 LL: And I'd like to just brag on Marcia, she does a phenomenal job of that work, and when you look at those professional learning community facilitators guides, the participants guides, they are so clear and so very practical that they've been extremely well-received, and she just does a fantastic job.
29:48 MK: Well, thank you, Laurie, but it's definitely a team effort because you can't do it by yourself, that's one recommendation I would give is, you can be the best professional developer, like Kevin said, you can be the best developer of materials, but getting that feedback from colleagues it can only make it better. So it's really important to work with those trusted colleagues.
30:10 RK: Marcia, you mentioned something about practicing and taking this into the classroom and coming back as a group – where does coaching fall into this? How is coaching connected with this type of training?
30:28 MK: Kevin and Laurie can definitely speak to coaching more than I can, but just very quickly, my recommendation would be to include the coaches in your professional learning community sessions. So if the coaches are there, they're learning right alongside with you. And then in between each session that we developed, we have this self-study kind of practice where they take what they learned in the session and they go and actually implement it in their classroom with their students, and so that coach if they're going along in the sessions with the teachers, they could come in and do some observations, they could come in and give feedback, they could come in and co-teach with that teacher, so that would be one thing that they could do, but I would recommend having reading coaches, teacher assistants, teachers, administrators all involved in that professional learning community, so they're learning together and then practicing and then coming back and talking about it. I think it's really important for the debriefing session to talk about how it went, what would you change, how could I make it better?
31:32 KS: And just to follow up with that, something Laurie said earlier is spot-on. One-shot PD where you come, fly in or go visit and meet with somebody for an hour as a consultant or whatever, and then go away, there is very little evidence that that works, right. You need a coach, you need someone there to keep the ball going because if not... We've all seen this, if you've worked in PD, you're in education in any form. Teacher goes to PD, this is very common, unfortunately, the teacher goes to PD, "Yay. This looks great." Teacher closes the door and forgets that ever happened, right. Unless there's some level of follow-up and a coach is a perfect person to do that, and conversely, research on coaching is hard to do, right, because there's so many different factors that go into that. The research that's been conducted on instructional coaching that works, most of them focus on a PD model where there's something consistent that the coaches are doing with teachers over time, because how else will you measure it, right? It's so messy, and it's messy anyway, but it's even more messy if there's not a consistent PD model that the coach is supporting over time.
32:41 KS: So I think what Marcia said is exactly right. Whether it's a PLC... Whatever the model is, that there's something that you found at a school or a district needs, you've gone through a needs assessment, this is something this school... This is something these students need, you provide professional development that provides direct support on exactly how to help teachers and students become better at what that need is and follow up over time, and that is the best model I know of to ensure any kind of long-term outcome that's positive for teachers and students. I know that that can work, there are a lot of things that can get in the way of it, but I know that that is one of the most effective models out there, but it's gotta happen over time.
33:26 LL: And I think what Kevin said is just so very important, that time aspect. That sometime in professional development, oftentimes less is more, right, so we don't wanna try to do too much at the same time, because when we do that, then we don't do any of it well. So identifying those one or two things that are based on the needs of our teachers and most of all our students, this is what we need to address, this is where we need to improve our practice in order to improve the achievement of our students, and really then taking that time to engage in quality professional development where everybody takes part, where it's not just buy-in, but they're taking ownership of that, and this is going to become our way of work, and the coaches provide the coaching, the administrators – and I'll take one of Kevin's phrases – the administrators will be looking for the residue of coaching, so the fact that that professional development is being implemented in those classrooms, the coaches are supporting that, the administrators are on board, and then we take the time that's necessary for that to become a way of work. And to see the improvement.
34:38 LL: And it's not just a fly-by-night thing, this too shall pass, but it's what we do here, and it's improved the results of our students. And so I think that time aspect, so often I think we give up too soon. It's like, "Oh well, that didn't work.” Well, did we support it like we needed to support it, were coaches involved, the administrators involved, teachers changing practice, still building their knowledge. Did all that happen? And so I think all of those are important considerations when we think about how we're going to really change practice and really improve the skills and abilities of our students.
35:19 RK: Yeah, that is so important. And so I guess I'm gonna have a follow-up question here is, how do we measure that change because another challenge that we have, it's like, we know a lot about what needs to be done, but we have a hard time measuring. Measurement is a big challenge in our fields. So how do we measure and how do we know that professional development is influencing practice in a positive way?
35:47 KS: Personally, I think it comes down to observations of some form, right. If it's an administrator, coach, the professional developer themselves, someone needs a set of look-fors, like if this is going well, these are the kind of things that I would see in the classroom as a result of this PD or this program or whatever it is; these are things that teachers would do, these are things that students would do. And there are a lot of ways that people do this out in the field of research, whether it's time by activity, whether it's actually a checklist of look-fors that you have associated with the PD. Those are the most common ways that people try to figure out what actually happened after the fact, right. Of course, interviews, along with those observations, interviews with teachers, with coaches, with administrators. Surveys or another way you can do that. There are only so many ways you can do it and unfortunately, a lot of it takes time from teachers and others that they don't have, and then of course, there's always the concern that whatever... If somebody's coming into a room with a clipboard, it's automatically viewed as an observation.
36:55 KS: So in a perfect case scenario, you even go into the training with a set of look-fors and you tell the teachers, "This is what this PD is. These are the parts that are part of it, and afterward, we want you to look for this in your own instruction". What am I taking... So that somebody sooner or later is gonna come by and check and see if these things are happening. Give them a timeline, work with them, and that's part of the buy-in process; get the teachers, administrators, everyone to say, "Can you do this little piece by this time, and we're gonna come by and check and see if you've got it. If not, we're gonna coach, we're gonna follow up, we're gonna help you get there but this is one of the things we expect to see in six weeks, can you do that?" And just work with them in that way. That's one of the better ways I've seen it done. There are a lot of different ways I've seen people try to do that. You're right, it's hard.
37:42 RK: It is, it is, but I like that. I like very much to, from the beginning, tell what you're gonna do and what this partnership will involve, and I think teachers often appreciate that because sometimes they are left in the dark about next steps and considering all the constraints that they're facing that is hard if something shows up in a random time that they weren't expecting for. So telling them from the beginning, I love that. I think that's a very practical strategy, and I think we should definitely all use it. I think I would like to talk a little bit about the challenges that you faced working around professional development and being on the ground, and what we still need to improve in professional development.
38:29 MK: So personally, I think planning is definitely a challenge. Not… yeah, well, yeah, for planning, it's the time, that's a challenge because whenever someone needs professional development, they need it yesterday, but it takes time to create professional development. You need the planning, you need to create it, you need to edit it. So, I think just the time to develop it is a challenge, at least for me, [chuckle] and then as far as leading professional development, again, you go to some professional development, teachers are mandated to be there, and that's a big challenge. So again, honoring the knowledge in the room I think is important to combat that, and also if you can give teachers the information, the data that supports what you're doing, I think that is really important to help ease that challenge, and asking those teachers who are there to participate and maybe ask them to ask other teachers to come to the next one, so those teachers that are there and participating and you know they wanna be there, getting them involved and helping them get other teachers on board, I think would help combat that.
39:54 LL: And I think for us, Kevin and I work a lot together, we present a lot of professional development sessions throughout our region, and unfortunately, we're not there to provide that follow-up, and so we do try to with our stakeholders to encourage them to provide that follow-up but I think a major challenge for us is the fact that while we provide that professional development, we do our best to check in with our stakeholders following that, we don't have the control over what happens there, so in fact, we have a slide at the beginning of our presentation saying, "We can't make you do anything. We can share information with you, we hope that you'll find it beneficial and that you use it." But that's challenging because we do think that what we're sharing is valuable and will be helpful, but we can't ascertain for sure that it's actually making it to the classroom in all instances.
41:01 RK: Right.
41:03 KS: I'd agree. Just what Marcia said, time is the biggest... It's the biggest challenge for all of us. And that's both on the front end for planning, she's 100% right, people want it yesterday, and it's gonna take six weeks and they don't always understand the need to create it, or longer than that even. And then on the back end, like Laurie just mentioned, the follow-up time, knowing that if we just come and do this thing, the likelihood of it actually working the way that we all envision is tiny, it's minuscule if there's not someone who is continuing to follow up and make sure that it's happening. So I think both on the front end and on the back end, it's time, and having people understand the importance of taking the time to make sure it's high quality, and then taking the time to follow up to make sure that it actually is happening. Those are… it's about time, but it's, again, I think on both ends of it.
41:57 RK: Yeah, and time, I think it's definitely one of the challenges that we face in the work we do. Another challenge that we've seen is sometimes there's this disconnection between what you are presenting in the professional development and the need for specific evidence-based practice and what the school district is actually using. And you start seeing the confusion among teachers of how they're gonna respond to the information that you're presenting them, but also trying to balance it with whatever is happening in their context, so how do you deal with that because that is definitely a challenge that we face a lot?
42:37 MK: Yeah, I think we talked a lot about the pre-planning that goes into it. So if you're asked to deliver professional development, it's really important to ask questions and ask what are the teachers doing and what's the student data look like, and ask those questions, so you go – and even talk to teachers ahead of time if you can – so you go in there knowing as much as you can about the context of that school, or of that district, so that will help you prepare and plan to show how what you're teaching or helping them do can be integrated to what they're already doing.
43:14 LL: Yeah, I think that's key is that integration piece, and I know we face the challenge sometimes where what we share is different than the belief system of the teachers in the room or many of them. And so you can see them trying to figure out that hook, where do I hang this because this doesn't fit my knowledge and belief system. And so I think you just have to go slowly with those teachers and give them the opportunity to work with what you're sharing and provide that guided practice and have that understanding that this is very different than what they've been taught before or their belief system, so I think it is just a matter of being patient, growing slowly and helping them to integrate the knowledge you are sharing with the knowledge they have.
44:13 RK: Thank you, Laurie, yes. And Marcia, that was excellent. Anything else that you would like to add?
44:20 KS: Just time, again, comes up being... Knowing like Marcia said, doing a solid enough needs assessment that you know you're gonna run into this, is important. And taking time, it's like I said, with the observations, what would it look like to see this little piece in three weeks or a month or whatever, can you try to do this one little bit by that piece of time. Because sometimes, honestly, the teachers don't have the tools to implement what it is that you're sharing. Again, hopefully you know that going into it but that's important. So what can we actually do from what we're sharing and what would that look like over time. I think setting realistic goals with the folks going through the training and with even the administrators or whoever's setting it up in advance could be really helpful.
45:07 RK: I love that. Realistic goals and less is more. I love that. I think these are great key points to take away from today's discussion. I think we have a few questions left, I'm mindful of our time. The next question for you is, what is an advice that you like to give for someone who is planning a professional development, but also for someone who is receiving professional development and what they should be asking from it?
45:32 MK: For someone who's receiving professional development, my advice would be just to make sure it's evidence-based, it's coming from a reliable source, ask questions, making sure whatever you're going to take your time, 'cause time is precious, whatever you are gonna take your time to get involved with, it shares the same goals as your professional learning goals, if possible.
45:55 KS: I'm glad to give one from the other side of the coin, if you're considering doing professional development, I'll quote Shakespeare, "To thine own self be true." Teachers think about who they are, what their job is other than the content they know, they're experts in reading people and behaviors, they have to be. If you come to try to train teachers and you're not authentic, if you're not who you say you are or don't know about teaching, they're gonna see through that in a second, just like they'll see through the kid who's trying to come up with an excuse that they don't have their homework. They're really good at that. So you have to be authentic, you have to be honest with yourself and with them, what it is that you're presenting, what it can actually do. Do your homework, as we've mentioned, know exactly who your audience is, who you're speaking with, solicit feedback from them and listen to it. Ask questions of them. And as Laurie Marcia have both said, take time to debrief with them, "Do you understand what I'm saying here? Does this make sense? How does this fit into what you're gonna do?" So don't go two hours of sharing content with them before you take time to say, "Does this make sense? Would this work for you?"
47:03 KS: Even during the session, have them take time, talk to their shoulder partner, then come and share out. That's really important, but on the other hand, don't give up, keep going, be yourself, like I said, and just keep getting better. Work with the teachers who are there and try to figure out what will help them in their specific situation.
47:24 LL: And I just like to follow up on both ends of that. As a participant, ensure that you're not wasting your time. That again, as Marcia said, that whatever you participate in is evidence-based and will be beneficial to you and your students. And then conversely, as a professional developer, do everything you can to ensure you're not wasting the time of your participants. Teachers hate that, I hated it. Sitting in a meeting where I was learning stuff I already knew, where I knew it wouldn't be helpful to my kids or to me, there's nothing worse than that. And so when you're providing that PD, ensuring that what you're presenting is valuable and that it's not a waste of their time, and as a participant, ensuring that you're doing whatever you can to develop your skills and knowledge and abilities, and you're not wasting your time.
48:20 RK: That's wonderful. I think all the advices are great and ready to be implemented. So I love how practical they are. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for sharing all this great information around professional development and bringing your experiences. Dr. Tiffany Hogan always likes to end the podcast with two questions, the first one is, what is something that you are excited about currently? So, I would love to hear about some new projects that you're working on and you're excited about.
48:56 MK: I'm so excited, so I'm gonna jump in. [chuckle] We recently released Professional Learning Community materials around emergent literacy, so these are materials for pre-school teachers in how to teach literacy and language to three and four-year-olds. So we released these materials just in December, and it includes a facilitator guide, participant guides, all around print knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabulary, and oral language. Videos of teachers using these strategies in preschool classrooms with their children. And so those materials are available. And the thing I'm excited about is we are going to provide Train the Trainer on how to use these materials to our six states that we support. So each state is gonna bring about 10 master facilitators to our training. And so then they'll learn all about these materials, how they're organized, what the content is and how to actually implement it, so they can work with their own teachers in their states, and they can also turn around, train other facilitators in the use of the materials. So that's what I'm excited about.
50:08 RK: That is amazing, and just to mention that we will include information with this episode around the resources that you're mentioning, and I'm gonna make sure to share all that with all of our partners. Those are excellent resources. I kinda checked them before... [chuckle]
50:22 MK: Thank you.
50:23 RK: How about you, Laurie and Kevin.
50:26 LL: Well, I'd like to share, last summer, Marcia and I started some work with the Florida Department of Education, and we developed a course for the reading endorsement here in Florida. And we have teachers, elementary school teachers that are required to acquire this endorsement, and so the department wanted a face-to-face that kind of turned virtual opportunity that we could provide to them, and so that work has expanded and the department has come to us at the Florida Center for Reading Research and asked us if we could create courses for the remaining competencies of the reading endorsement and to expand a little bit, the course that Marcia and I created last summer. And so I'm excited about that work, the fact that we'll be training those teachers of elementary students and foundational reading skills, assessment, differentiating instruction, all of that, and will strengthen hopefully their knowledge base and their practice in their classrooms, and so we have the capacity to reach lots and lots of teachers in Florida, so that's exciting to me.
51:36 RK: That sounds very exciting.
51:38 KS: Good. And I'll thank you both. And I'm gonna follow up with the third project that Laurie and I have been working on for a good while, and that's helping content area teachers, English, science and social studies teachers, integrate literacy strategies into what they do every day to help improve literacy outcomes for their students. So in good news, I graduated, I think it was a month ago today, with my doctorate and my dissertation focused on this as well, and what I found through my dissertation was that teachers who've gone through this training, if they get good at it and they know how to implement these strategies well, then they actually have bleed over to other classrooms because either the students or the teachers talk and say, "This really works. Why don't you try this?" So that's really cool. And Laurie and I have done a similar project with the Georgia Department of Education this year, and with a couple of local school districts here in Florida, and we are working on potentially scaling this up to other states coming up, so we're really excited about that work. And just knowing from interview quotes how effective this was for teachers and how they really could find how this fit in well with what they did is really cool for me to hear, so that was... That I'm really excited about, not only that project, but the fact that it's ramping up and that I graduated. All of those are things to be excited about.
52:56 RK: Congratulations, congratulations, and I'm very excited to read about it. Thank you. This work, this project sounds amazing, and I look forward to hearing more about it and sharing the amazing resources that you're creating with other teachers and administrators. And the last question is, what is one of your favorite childhood books?
53:19 MK: I'll say The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl is one of my favorite children's books. And I just remember when I first graduated with my undergraduate and going into first grade, it was just, I loved using that book with my children because there's so much you can do with the science and nutrition and even math. So I really enjoy that book.
53:41 RK: I love that book too.
53:43 LL: Mine is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Has been for... Ever since I read the book, I think. And it's just a delightful book. I've enjoyed it over the years. I've gone back and re-read it at times, and so Roald Dahl, that's one of my favorites.
54:00 KS: Good. I'd say Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. And my first teaching job was working with severely emotionally disabled, they were all boys first through third grade, and that book really helped them understand just rage in some ways, and anger and how to deal with that, and it just was a good book to help them understand almost from a psychological standpoint, the stages of going through anger and coming back from it, so that's one reason why I really appreciated that book.
54:31 RK: Thank you. Thank you so much. I've learned so much from you today, and I think our audience, including our students will too, and I appreciate you taking the time out of your very busy schedules to be here and share all this amazing work that you do and your experiences around professional development. Thank you, it's been a pleasure to have you on See Hear Speak podcast.
54:55 MK: Thanks for having us. It's been a lot of fun.
54:58 LL: Yes, we've enjoyed it. Thank you.
55:04 TH: Check out www.seehearspeakpodcast.com for helpful resources associated with this podcast including, for example, the podcast transcript, research articles, and speakers bios. You can also sign up for email alerts on the website or subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or any other listening platform, so you will be the first to hear about new episodes. Thank you for listening and good luck to you, making the world a better place by helping one child at a time.
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Tiffany P. Hogan,