Do it well

Based on the research in the Life Sciences Journal article on the active learning Biology classes (see article in sources below), I found it to be very interesting that it isn’t enough to simply use a technique – you have to use it well.  It would be way too easy if we could simply adopt a new method, throw it at the kids in any which way, and have it produce results.  Way too easy but it sure would be nice.

In reality though, active learning won’t be effective if the teachers implementing it have not been properly trained.  The bottom line is that even the best tools in the hands of an inexperienced user will rarely produce a masterpiece.  

Guiding questions from the pro

I really liked the idea of using “guiding questions” with collaboration and found that to be the key in allowing for collaboration and group work in an active learning environment which actually yields results and improves learning. Charting the lesson out and knowing where to guide the students is the expertise needed in order to make active learning work.  Otherwise you only have a noisy classroom.  But while an active learning class may seem chaotic sometimes, there is learning happening because the teacher, the guide, has carefully laid out the path.  Teachers circulate and help to keep the students on task and heading in the right direction without taking control of the situation.  

Tech Academy

I found that the video reminded me of an event our district has held the past 3 years called Tech Academy.  It is 2 days long, right after school has ended and is an optional PD which allows teachers to “flex” out of certain PD days during the following school year.  They highly encourage everyone to attend.  Sessions are taught by teachers who have more experience with technology and topics range from how to use Google classrooms to how to use iPads in the class (ironic since I have none…but who is bitter?  Not me.  Not when they promised me an iPad cart and delivered 15 iPods.  Thanks guys.)  So on account of my disillusionment after the bait and switch I refused to go to any more Tech academies.  Maybe I’ll have a better attitude this year. But I felt like overall it was a decent use of my time and I left with a few ideas.  Like the people in the video I also got to choose which sessions I wanted to sit through so there was nothing irrelevant (except, it turns out, the hours I spent preparing for the iPads which I never got!…ok, i’m done now…sorry…need to let go!)

Collaboration plus ongoing support

Allowing time for teachers to teach teachers and for collaboration to take place is an empowering and value adding exercise in PD.  However I still believe that the principles outlined in our reading need to be followed for the deeper change to take place.  For new techniques to make a difference they need to be used CORRECTLY and in the hands of someone who has been well trained.  A 3 hour PD session is hardly enough training to be considered anything beyond a novice.  That’s where the ongoing training and the coaching comes in.  Package all of that together and I believe they may be onto something growth producing in the classroom.




Andrews, T. M., Leonard, M. J., Colgrove, C. A., & Kalinowski, S. T. (2011). Active Learning Not Associated with Student Learning in a Random Sample of College Biology Courses. CBE Life Sciences Education, 10(4), 394–405.

EdCan Network Le Reseau EdCan. (2016, May 19). Retrieved from Innovation That Sticks Case Study – OCSB: Collaborative Professional Development:

Goodwin, B. (2015). Research Says/Does Teacher Collaboration Promote Teacher Growth? Educational Leadership, 73(4), 82–83. Retrieved from (EdCan Network Le Reseau EdCan, 2016)

Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teachers Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability. Center for Public Education. Retrieved from