EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration: Reflection on Theories of Adult Learning

Adults and children learn in similar ways, but with marketed differences that need to be noted when planning and facilitating adult professional development. Both children and adults learn best when presented with creative opportunities, choice, structure, are given ownership of their learning, are motivated to learn, and are given opportunities to self-reflect on learning.

However, children often need more structure than adults, and adults thrive with self-directed learning and when learning is directly and immediately applicable to their life. Also, adult learning often, if not usually, involves collaborating with colleagues. Adults are more intrinsically motivated and self-directed, having learned sufficient skills to allow them to problem solve, cope with frustration, manage their time and prioritize tasks, and search for additional resources when necessary,  while children are still learning essential educational skills needed to become independent. However it is essential that adult professional development be in context and directly applicable to the learner’s daily work. It is also very important to have follow up on professional development, either through PLCs, further trainings, learning coaches, etc., as much adult learning is informal and incidental, and practitioners benefit from the reflective process, either individually or collaboratively.

According to Zepeda’s Adult Learning Theory, “adult learning should be built on ownership, appropriateness, structure, collaboration, internalization, reflection, and motivation.” (p.47) I agree that all these factors play integral roles in adult learning, however I believe that ownership and motivation, two qualities that are closely intertwined, are some of the most powerful but also the most frequently overlooked and under appreciated by politicians passing educational policy, and even by many district and school administrators.

Teacher leaders and administrators should be a facilitator of information and learning, not necessarily the source. This means their ideal role is listening to teachers or staff regarding what kind of training or resources they need, then going out and finding those resources, coming back to staff or teachers and continuing the cycle.

According to Zepeda, collaborative evaluation processes give teachers a sense of ownership in the learning and evaluation process, produce learning through participation in the evaluation process, enforce skills in self-reflection and skills in program evaluation, and improve communication among staff at different levels throughout the school. The benefits of engaging staff and stakeholders in the evaluative process of a staff development program seem to be many, yet this requires cultivating trust amongst staff and administrators.

Some new strategies for involving teachers in professional learning discussion and program evaluations that have been suggested in our group discussions  are:

  • listening sessions
  • sticky note brainstorms and then a follow up discussion
  • giving credit to others who have helped or have been a part of projects, teams, or initiatives, instead of taking the credit for ourselves

I have learned from my own professional development journey, and from watching those journeys of colleagues, that as teachers are used to being autonomous educational experts, it is essential that they own their own professional evolution. This means teachers will change at their own pace, when they are ready, and when they have compelling enough evidence to motivate them to invest the substantial amount of energy that is required to change pedagogy or practice. The old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force him to drink” is appropriate here. If governments or districts or administrators try to force teachers to change without first getting teachers’ buy in, change will not take hold, and the culture of the school will be compromised in the process. We see this happen with regularity, whether talking about No Child Left Behind, state standardized testing, professional evaluation systems, data teams or PCCs/PLCs, or adoption of new curriculums. As Hilty states “given a reinforcing school culture and a self-confident principal willing to experiment and to share some power, the raw potential for teachers to become a serious force in local school policy would appear to be enormous.” (p.87) Unless teachers are entrusted with the power to lead within the school and have their voices heard in the decision making process, whether those voices are in agreement or dissension, unless you empower teachers, it is hard to get teacher buy in and thus motivation.

Hilty, E. B. (2011). Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education: A reader. New York: P. Lang.
Zepeda, S. J. (2008). Professional development: What works. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

EDU6524 Curriculum Design Meta-Reflection

Before this course, I was familiar with key components needed in a well designed curriculum such as Standards, Learning Targets, formative and summative assessments, engaging lessons, differentiation plans, and community engagement plans. Although in some ways I was already following Ainsworth’s guidelines to design a rigorous unit, I had never looked so in depth. When beginning to design or evaluate a rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of all learners, there are a variety of steps that must be systematically addressed. This was meaningful and helpful to see these steps so clearly delineated, and it also raised many questions and concerns for me about our current District Spanish Curriculum. This process of designing units and a whole curriculum is best when completed collaboratively. According to Larry Ainsworth, author of Rigorous Curriculum Design, these steps include:

  1. Prioritizing the state academic content standards
  2. “Unwrapping” the standards to pinpoint the concepts students need to know and the skills they need to be able to do
  3. Determining the foundational understandings or “Big Ideas” that students need to discover on their own (these should be posed as statements or answers to the Essential Questions)
  4. Creating Essential Questions to focus instruction and assessment and to spark students’ interest in what they were about to learn

From here we can look at assessment, both formative and summative, creating engaging lessons for our learners and differentiating lessons and assessment for diverse learners.

In this course I produced a unit plan that can be found here En la escuela_Unit Plan_FINAL and a student tracking sheet for students to self-assess and track their progress on formative and summative assessments as we progress through the unit: Learning Target Progress Tracker.

One of the big take-aways for me from this course was that all we do should stem from Standards. This raised many challenges for me as I worked through the course, as our current District’s Spanish Power Standards are general and unmeasurable. They are the same for Spanish 1, 2, 3 and 4! I ask myself and my colleagues, how do we know if students are improving from one year to the next, and how do we know what to teach from one year to the next, if the standards remain the same all 4 years (side note, there are not any official standards for Spanish 4)?!

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According to Ainsworth, Priority Standards must meet the three criteria of endurance (lasting beyond one course, life concepts and skills), leverage (interdisciplinary connections), and readiness for the next level of learning (prerequisite concepts and skills students need to enter a new grade level or course of study). These defining criteria further allowed me to evaluate LWSD’s Standards for Spanish and make specific criticisms and suggestions for improvement.

My main concern with the current Spanish Power Standards is that they do not provide specific verbage that defines to what degree students must be able to do or what they must know to move on to the next level of learning. They do not meet the readiness for next level of learning criteria set forth by Ainsworth because they do not show, in measurable language what “students must know and be able to do by the end of each school year in order to be prepared to enter the next grade level or course.” (p. 40) For example, Standard 1: Student engages in conversations, provides and obtains information, expresses feelings and emotions and exchanges opinions does not define to what level students must be able to do all these things. Students in Spanish 1 can do all these things, but on a more basic level, using single words, lists, memorized phrases and chunks of language, where Spanish 2 and 3 students can express these things in full sentences and begin to create original ideas and thoughts. Thus, more specificity of skill needs to be defined in the Standards to make them useful to teachers.

Due to weak standards, teachers in our district do not seem to follow much of what is considered by researchers to be sound practice for designing units and implementing curriculum. As Douglas Reeves states due to “the limitations of time and the extraordinary variety in learning backgrounds of students, teachers and leaders need focus and clarity in order to prepare their students for success. Power Standards help to provide that focus and clarity.” (p.45) However, I argue that often, it is not the standards that drive teaching in this country. Here our curricula is so strongly driven by publishers, and mostly school districts adopt curricula based on one textbook series and associated resources, as has happened in LWSD for the new Spanish Curriculum, Asi se Dice, adopted 4 years ago.  In our case, the textbook drives what we teach, not the Standards. This is problematic for many reasons.

The first major problem with a curriculum driven by a textbook is that you are relying on one perspective to teach students. This limits the ability to address the needs of students with diverse learning styles, preferences, interests and cultures. We know from our studies in Multicultural Education and Moral Issues for a Democratic Society that textbooks often leave out essential perspectives of diverse groups, fail to engage learners, and impersonal and often lack real-world connections. Due to obvious financial constraints, school districts are only able to adopt new textbook series/curricula ever 7+ years or so, and often this gap is much wider and will always be lagging behind society’s trends and developments. Ainsworth is right to point out that a rigorous curriculum cannot depend solely on textbook resources. Even worse, many underfunded districts have no funding to purchase textbooks and have no set curricula. I can not count the number of times I have heard language teachers tell me that they have no set curricula off of which to work. They are simply responsible for making something up, based on their professional discretion.

I felt frustrated as I worked through this course because, without a strong foundation, how are we supposed to know where to go in our planning? Due to our District’s reliance on the textbook as a curriculum, instead of standards, we do not meet most of the components of a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum Ainsworth mentions on page 5. He says we must “raise the level of teaching so that students are prepared for the 21st century with skills that ‘drive knowledge economies: innovation, creativity, teamwork, problem solving, flexibility, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous learning.” Items on his list that I feel we have yet to achieve in our Spanish curriculum include:

  • Specific learning outcomes students are to achieve from Spanish 1 through Spanish 4
  • Vertical representation of those learning outcomes
  • Emphasis on standards-based skills and content knowledge
  • Explicit linkages to college and career readiness (especially conversation around proficiency level measured on a nationally recognized scale)
  • Higher-level thinking skills (pure textbook focus mainly asks students to recall, identify and sometimes apply)
  • Authentic, student-centered performance tasks that engage learners in applying concepts and skills to the real world (This one is key. Relying primarily, if not solely, on textbook resources is not authentic, nor student centered. Teaching a world language presents daily opportunities to put students at the center of the curriculum and draw on their personal expereinces to teach vocabulary and grammatical structures necessary to communicate about those expereinces.)
  • Research-based effective teaching strategies
  • Differentiation (There is a real push to delay students beginning world languages because they are “developmentally not ready,” however, research shows that time is the key factor in acquiring a new language-the earlier you begin and the longer your study, the better your chances are to reach a high proficiency and really use the language outside the classroom. However, teachers push for this because their current methodologies aren’t working for these students. Instead of adapting to meet the needs of these students, many teachers and trying to push struggling students out of the course. This is a significant concern for accessibility.

It became very clear to me that we need to do work in our District around the Spanish Power Standards, and as a Teacher Leader I decided it was time to step up, as this is one of those issues that won’t be addressed until we, the Spanish teachers, push for it. As of the time I am writing this reflection, I have emailed the District Curriculum Coordinator raising my concerns, but have yet to hear back. I am open and willing to forming a committee to look at the Standards and the Curriculum based on Ainsworth’s model. It is exciting to thing of the possibility of bringing teachers together in our district that for this specific course, seems fairly divided still.

This course has given me the specific knowledge and corresponding confidence to hopefully move forward as a Teacher Leader in my district to help refine our current Power Standards and thus curriculum and collaborative practices. I hope that I will find the opportunity to work will colleagues to address these issues and bring our Spanish classes closer to modern expectations for teaching and learning a rigorous curriculum.

Educational Technology Meta Reflection

This Quarter my goal for growth in this class was:

I would like to further improve my technology integration by creating more options for students to demonstrate creativity and innovation in my classroom. Going hand-in-hand with this is the teacher standard of Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity.  

I have already improved my knowledge of different technologies available that would be useful in my classroom, such as OneNote Class Notebooks and  Office Mix.

I would like to further improve my technology integration by creating more options for students to demonstrate creativity and innovation in my classroom. Going hand-in-hand with this is the teacher standard of Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. 

To do this, I will use the 21st century rubrics to help plan lessons that

  1. Incorporate and explicitly teach students how to use
    1. Office Mix
    2. One Note Notebooks
    3. One Drive

to collaborate with one another, investigate and apply critical thinking skills to new situations.

  1. I will also have an English day (since my classroom is Spanish immersion) where I teach some of these tech skills and also discuss digital citizenship topics specifically related to research online and collaborating using technology.

I feel like I have just started on this journey. I have indeed incorporated OneNote Notebooks and have begun to incorporate OneDrive, although it has much more potential than what I have actually used it for. However, I don’t think I have inspired or facilitated student creativity. I have begun to improve my facilitation of knowledge construction, but innovation and creativity is something I’m not quite sure how to tackle in Spanish immersion…yet.


As I don’t think I fully achieved the goal of facilitating creativity and innovation, I guess the question is what prevented me.

I think my focus shifted once I began applying technology in the classroom. Knowledge construction for my subject area was a more natural area of focus, and the shift of focus from creativity and innovation just “happened.” I can’t easily think of ways to allow students to express creativity while using Spanish, except to write stories or create songs or videos. Either way, I want the experiences I create for my students to be relevant to the goals of the course and the standards. In this sense, I struggle to create meaningful activities that apply to my course’s standards and facilitate student innovation and creativity.

I am motivated to continue to network with colleagues via Twitter and Facebook. The ideas and resources I collect there I will share (as I’ve already begun to do this year) with my other World Language colleagues at my school.

I also will begin to attend and contribute to Thursday morning collaboration time with colleagues at my school. The goal of these 20 minute sharing sessions is to share innovative and meaningful work, often with technology, that is happening in our classrooms.

Finally, I will continue to be open to and to implement new technology in order to enhance my students’ learning. My successes and lessons learned will be shared with my colleagues. For example, immediate wants to try are:

-Skype for the classroom

-Choose your own homework tasks for students, almost all of which require the use of varied technology

-Trying out Google Cardboard and virtual fieldtrips

Overall, what you do you feel is the role of technology in your classroom with your community?

When teaching a world language, a very important aspect is exposing students to authentic language. This means language written by native speakers for native speakers. Most of this authentic language (if not all) is now found digitally. In my classroom we use “Twiccionario” which are tweets found on different relevent topics being discussed in class at that moment, we watch Youtube videos and commercials in Spanish, and we listen to songs in Spanish, all of which I pull from online.

I feel that in my classroom, technology is no longer an option, but an essential element that connects my students with the cultures they are studying. They can now talk, IN REAL TIME!, with peers their age around the world, who speak Spanish as a first language. They can read tweets in Spanish and make meaningful, personal connections to the language and see the real-world application.

What I now need to do now, as urgently as I possibly can, is design more investigative tasks where students have to go out and interact with these authentic materials, construct their own knowledge and interact with the real Spanish-speaking world in creative ways.

Formative Assessment Resources

  1. Beyond the Test: L2 Dynamic Assessment and the Transcendence of Mediated Learning MATTHEW E. POEHNER
  2. The Zone of Proximal Development and the Genesis of Self‐Assessment MATTHEW E. POEHNER The Pennsylvania State Universi
  3. Dynamic assessment in the classroom: Vygotskian praxis for second language development James P. Lantolf and Matthew E. Poehner
  5. Formative Assessment ideas handout from Checking for Understanding class 2014 LWSD NTSP.
  6. Formative assessment and selfregulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice David J. Nicola * and Debra Macfarlane-Dickb a University of Strathclyde, UK; bUniversity of Glasgow, UK
  7. OWL instructors and learners construct meaning together and have fluid roles in the classrooms.

(b)“’…allow students to observe and explore cultural interactions from their own perspectives to enable them to find their own voices in the second language speech community.’” (Andrew 2011)

In an OWL classroom, instruction and assessment are simultaneous activities – one constantly informing the other; assessment facilitates scaffolding to give students greater ability.

(a)“A practical consequence of Vygotsky’s dialectical approach to human development is that it integrates teaching and assessment in a single activity in which mediation is used to uncover a learners’ ZPD while concurrently moving the ZPD forward.” (Poehner 2011)

(b)“…standardized testing practices posit a separation between assessing and teaching.” (Poehner 2011)