Icon for: John Ward


Teaching Channel, University of Washington, Northwestern University
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: John Ward

    John Ward

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2017 | 10:45 p.m.

    Thank you for viewing our video. As you watch it, please think about what kind of teachers might benefit from this sort of course, how this course might be incorporated into new teacher induction or other professional development initiatives, and how you and your organization might make use of this sort of course in your own environment.  Please pay special attention to the anticipated workload (30-40 hours) and think about whether that is reasonable for the teacher participants.  Finally, we would be interested in your general thoughts on making asynchronous online spaces interactive for participants.

  • Icon for: John Ward

    John Ward

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 08:15 a.m.

    I should have mentioned that the videos from this project are available at the Teaching Channel website by following this link:


  • Icon for: Lynn Goldsmith

    Lynn Goldsmith

    Distinguished scholar
    May 15, 2017 | 10:34 a.m.

    Hi presenters,

    Thanks for sharing your work! It would be great to hear more about ways participants are rethinking their understanding/use of modeling; also their changing ideas of argumentation in young students and the ways they learn to support students’ development of this  argumentation practices.

    You also note that you were expecting some challenges in moving to PD in an online environment, and therefore chose to start with a hybrid (or blended) model--what kinds of challenges did you anticipate and how has your choice of a blended approach helped to address those challenges? What are you learning about the affordances of working online and how to use them to best advantage?

  • Icon for: John Ward

    John Ward

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 05:51 p.m.

    Hi Lynn, and thanks for watching our video.  I am the project manager and would like one of our PIs or course designers to address your questions with a bit more detail, but I am happy to provide some general answers to your questions.

    We started piloting these courses in fall 2016, so one of the things we want to accomplish this summer is to go back to our initial pilot group and find out how they applied what they learned in our course to their teaching practices this past spring.  We plan to report back on that next year.  Anecdotally we are hearing from our pilot participants that they are indeed making the effort to modify their teaching with what they learned in our course.

    We knew that an online environment would prevent challenges for collaboration, apart from the collaboration that they do on the Teaching Channel Teams platform where the course is located, but it was our initial pilot sections that led us to try to have an introductory group meeting (in-person) where important information about the course can be disseminated, and it inspired us to try out offering a pilot section to a group who was recruited via Twitter, to see if using social media might be a way to bridging the online and hybrid environments.  Again, we're still compiling information on the effectiveness of both, but it will probably come as no surprise that there seems to be a correlation between regular communication with other course participants and on-time successful completion of the course work. 

  • Icon for: Jennifer Richards

    Jennifer Richards

    Research Associate
    May 22, 2017 | 12:21 p.m.

    Hi Lynn!

    Thanks for your questions!  With respect to modeling, we are seeing teachers shifting towards thinking of modeling more as a process (as compared to a model as a static thing) and engaging with the communicative and explanatory functions of modeling.  The math team is just piloting the lab on argumentation, so stay tuned!

    With respect to moving online, we anticipated 2 main challenges.  First was how to support teachers' engagement in the practices (modeling and argumentation) as learners, to understand what they feel like and the kinds of intellectual work they require.  We were unsure how to do that well in an online, asynchronous forum, especially in science where modeling a puzzling phenomenon takes place across time and multiple activities.  The blended approach in science has allowed us to keep the in-person space dedicated to these sorts of synchronous sense-making activities and to keep the online space dedicated to deeper interactions with artifacts (e.g., classroom video, student work).  Second, as part of a practice-based approach, we have teachers post and interact with videos from their own and others' classrooms, and we were unsure how well we could support community formation to facilitate making practice public in this way in a purely online space.  With some lead-up activities (e.g., posting classroom tours as initial videos), we haven't noticed concerns among teachers in posting videos of instruction -- though we imagine the connections formed in-person in science mitigate this even further.  We could see integrating synchronous online opportunities (rather than in-person opportunities) to serve these same functions at distance!

  • Icon for: Sally Crissman

    Sally Crissman

    Senior Science Educator
    May 15, 2017 | 03:14 p.m.

    Hi John

    I'll respond to your question about anticipated workload. We, in Focus on Energy, are finding  that 30-40 hours (a weeklong face-to-face workshop + teaching the curriculum + PLC follow-up)is what it takes for teachers to be ready to teach about energy in elementary school, including the shifts to NGSS pedagogy. Is it reasonable? is a different question:science coordinators and teachers tell us it's not reasonable, given everything teachers are being asked to do in addition to their every day teaching! We're grappling with the same dilemma:knowing we can meet the NGSS challenge given time and resources (in the case of learning about energy it can be done!) but also knowing that what it takes may not be feasible on a large scale. We are seeing if we can narrow the ideal vs realistic gap with a combination of face-to-face and online resources. 


  • Icon for: John Ward

    John Ward

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 05:59 p.m.

    Thanks so much for that feedback, Sally.  Our courses were initially broken into 12 units with the idea that a participant would do one per week, and we tell the participants that we estimate they will spend about 3 hours per week on the material. But like you, we see that oftentimes teachers struggle to consistently find that extra time.  We're considering paring back to a 10-week course, but it's a challenge to cover everything that we want to cover to be comprehensive without asking at least 3 hours per week.

    Like you, we're also considering how providing more support resources -- both face-to-face and online materials -- might help our participants work more efficiently and cut down on the time needed to complete the course.

  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Sr. Director, Research and Innovation
    May 17, 2017 | 09:21 a.m.


    Let me say up front, after just reading the sidebar abstract, I’m thinking, …awesome, this effort is addressing a real need, to give elementary teachers support and practical experience in acquiring the skills and knowledge to better implement the new vision for three-dimensional learning, and with your project---specifically focusing on the science and engineering practices, i.e., using and developing models and using evidence to support their arguments.


    Indeed the K12 Framework for Science Education posits that this approach is a different way to teach and facilitate a deeper understanding of the core ideas of science. As students ask their own driving questions, and then design and conduct investigations to understand locally relevant/authentic science phenomena, ultimately using that data as evidence to support their arguments, explanations and models—this should be a regular and frequent occurrence in the science classroom—at ALL K12 grade levels! Elementary educators need support. Kudos for this effort at the outset and “right on” regarding the focus of the project.


    I am VERY interested in blended models for teacher professional learning and feel your project may offer some keen insights here.


    The 2010/2017 US Dept of Ed National Education Technology Plans talk about the power of blended learning for teachers, allowing teachers to extend and enhance their onsite efforts, providing the affordances of immediacy, convenience, and access to other colleagues, experts, and resources they might not have otherwise (this is critically important in rural areas where isolation is often acute).


    This said there is also a large body of research about high attrition and drop-out rates in online learning courses, with recommended strategies like on-boarding, scaffolding, etc. Additionally, the Council of State Science Supervisors have generated and released an insightful document focused on Science Professional Learning Standards (SPLS), that incorporate a rubric to help administrators/leaders understand the structures/ supports/systems that need to be in place to effectively scaffold professional learning to transform teacher practice—and there are references in these standards as to the value of blended models for professional learning.
    See: http://www.csss-science.org/downloads/SPLS.pdf


    From a delivery standpoint many now espouse that teacher professional learning should be:

    --on-going across the school calendar year (not a one-shot, one-and-done effort)

    --closely aligned with and in support of the local curriculum educators are charged to teach (job-embedded)

    --of sufficient duration & frequency (dosage) to enable transfer & comfort in the new skills/knowledge

    --informed by student learning data (quantitative/qualitative)

    --iterative over time as teachers apply new skills/strategies cycling back impact/tweaking/effectiveness

    --part of a local professional learning community

    --allow some teacher autonomy based on their learning needs, station in their career and varied backgrounds (not a one-size-fits all)


    I have read research about various blended models showing some techniques that show promise, and others that warn of pitfalls to avoid. One example: This district had a regular time off scheduled every week for teachers for the online PD effort and even put aside funds for substitute pay too, but encountered unforeseen and deleterious consequences when it was realized after implementation that:

    --the teachers in the PD effort recognized the burden creating weekly lesson plans for the substitute

    --it was challenging to secure the number of substitutes needed for the district-wide effort

    --the teachers not in the program began to resent those teachers that were getting off each Friday

    --the parents of students whose teachers regularly off began to complain to the principal

    --the teachers in the PD effort were not allowed to leave the school grounds, but had a challenge finding a quite/secluded location within the school to meet and execute the weekly online effort


    OK, I need to get off the soap box here, and ask the question...given all this…I’d love to hear a reaction from your team to this stuff, and I’m sure other readers will gather tremendous insight from your current efforts and as the project unfolds too! Thank you in advance for sharing such an important effort.

  • Icon for: John Ward

    John Ward

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 08:12 a.m.

    Wow, this is some fantastic information, Albert!  Thanks!

    Let me say that if you would like to see the classroom videos we have created, you can find them on the Teaching Channel website at this link: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos?q=NSF.  These should give you a fuller view of what we are doing with this project.  I regret that I didn't post that link in my initial comment.

    We have been reasonably successful in getting our participants to go through the entire course, but by no means do we have a 100% completion rate.  We're also seeing that some finish all of the material in the scheduled 12 weeks, but others take one to four extra weeks to finish.  Naturally this isn't ideal, since it means that they probably aren't able to collaborate with the participants who are staying on schedule.

    It would be interesting to have someone try to go through one of our courses in a regular 40-hour workweek, but that would probably put a lot of pressure on the course facilitator to keep up and it would kind of run counter to our interest in trying to make PD something that can be done semi-independently after hours.  In the same matter, it would be interesting to do it in, say, four Friday all-day sessions, again subject to the availability of the course facilitator.

    Thanks again for your detailed comments.  I am going to make sure the rest of our project team sees them.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Albert Byers
    Kathy Kennedy
  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Sr. Director, Research and Innovation
    May 19, 2017 | 05:07 p.m.

    Thank you John for sharing the URL and the reply! Outstanding completion rate? You all are hitting on all cylinders!

  • Icon for: Anne Gold

    Anne Gold

    Research Faculty
    May 18, 2017 | 12:50 a.m.

    This is a great model of blended learning - thank you for sharing your approach in this video and your description. 

    I am particularly curious about the online professional community. How to you get the teachers to engage in the online forum? We have found while these online communities offer excellent support it takes heavy facilitation and encouragement for teachers to engage. Thank you for sharing some of your insights around the building of online communities for teachers. 

  • Icon for: John Ward

    John Ward

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 07:57 a.m.

    Thanks for your kind words, Anne.  I think you are absolutely correct that getting them to engage online is a challenge.  One of the things we have done for pilot sections in which everyone is locally-based is to start off with a face-to-face meeting to discuss administrative and support issues and to give everyone a sense of who is who in person.  What we are hearing is that there is a fair amount of collaboration that occurs unofficially -- discussions in the hallway or the teacher's lunchroom, for example -- and we want to learn more about how to replicate those sort of moments online since that model is not feasible when you have a section of participants dispersed nationwide.

  • Icon for: Jennifer Richards

    Jennifer Richards

    Research Associate
    May 22, 2017 | 12:32 p.m.

    Hi Anne,

    We are definitely wrestling with this and learning in starts and fits!  I would be curious to hear what you mean by "engagement," as this can take many forms?

    Something that has been instrumental in drawing attention to the online space is the integration of videos of classroom practice, which teachers report appreciating.  It has also been useful to have teachers try out and post reflections on a common task or lesson, as we all want to see how it goes in others' settings.  But we are still working on how to support meaningful interactions across teachers.

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