The power of digital professional development

A low view of college students sitting in a row at a desk writing notes

True learning—the kind that alters our perceptions and changes the way we do things—is a lifelong process, especially for educators. Practitioners at every level are constantly considering the ways their teaching impacts their students’ abilities, and so they want to ensure that they continue to learn new material themselves. To this end, Pearson has partnered with a team of highly skilled educators, creating a series of webinars in the humanities, social sciences, and language arts. The webinars are designed to offer opportunities for professional development in a variety of areas linked to a higher education instructor’s professional practice. Educators who complete the webinars have the opportunity to earn Acclaim badges in a variety of areas. These digital credentials are easily pasted into a resume, a professional social media profile, or an email signature, and provide easily verifiable evidence of competency.

About “Learning Makes Us”

Educators are consistently provided with options for professional development, but with limited resources, conflicting teaching schedules, and possibly lack of funding, choosing effective professional development can be challenging. The webinars in Pearson’s “Learning Makes Us” series offer a unique opportunity for dedicated, forward-thinking educators to engage in high-quality professional development sessions at their convenience and with the support of a digital network. Webinars related to best practices when teaching English, world languages, and psychology have proven to be the most popular—53 percent of those enrolled are adjunct professors. Sessions covering student engagement, course curriculum, and course design are highly trafficked as well. Practitioners are showing a strong desire to shape instruction in an engaging and valuable way.

For example, Dr. Jean Twenge of San Diego State University leads a webinar specifically designed to improve engagement with millennial students. Her seminar, “Generation Me: Teaching and Working with Today’s Students,” offers strategies for communicating with a generation of students whose attitudes, self-concepts, and long-term goals are uniquely their own. Millennial college students tend to internalize and reflect on new information in new ways. Dr. Twenge’s presentation helps bridge the gaps that can arise when professors and students look at each other from across a digital divide.

Professional development by educators, for educators

What makes Pearson’s Learning Makes Us webinar series special is that it is designed by educators, for educators. English, world languages and psychology webinars have proven to be the most popular, with 53 percent of attendees identifying as adjunct professors. Sessions cover student engagement, course curriculum and course design, and are led by practitioners who are eager to help others shape their instruction in effective ways, based on their own best practices. Effectively, Pearson has broken down the walls of these educators’ classrooms and allowed anyone who is interested a glimpse inside.

Professors David Rothman and Jilani Warsi’s lead a session titled “An Academic-Content Based Approach to Teaching Reading and Writing as Integrated Skills,” for example. In their webinar, they discuss the current academic trend toward the teaching of reading and writing. Writing is inarguably one of the most valuable skills a student can possess. It’s one of the most important tools in developing critical thinking skills, but it’s often under-stressed in both high school and the early years of college. In fact, many students enter rigorous courses without fully-developed reading and writing skills. Students struggling with their reading and writing skills will be better prepared for the challenges of 100 level courses if remediation classes are more closely aligned with academic content.

The benefits of digital professional development

In recent years, brick and mortar universities have taken steps to help incentivize adjuncts to continue with their professional development. For example, the University of Louisville survey found that some universities have offered to pay their professors a one-time monetary award and reward them with a certificate if they completed a series of PD programs. Others offer to give their professors a raise after completing PD programs. This incentivization has proved successful, especially in community colleges where a larger percentage of their staff are non-tenure teachers.

For those educators who cannot make it to set programs that are usually during the week (and conflict with their classes), taking advantage of Pearson’s digital webinars can give them an opportunity to earn badges, demonstrating their growth and study in various areas. Digital Acclaim badges represent online credentials that can be easily posted on social media networks and within email signatures. These digital badges allow educators to share their skills and achievements in a way that makes it simple for prospective employers to vet.

Digital professional development offers an opportunity to both learn and share best practices in a way that’s not possible with books or publications. Traveling to professional development seminars isn’t always an option for busy adjunct professors. Digital professional development through webinars allows practitioners to gain insight and learn from skilled professionals in their fields who are teaching all over the country. This sort of digital network goes a long way toward promoting transparency and fostering relationships between educators, increasing opportunities for communication and collaboration.

Webinars can also open doors to inquiries about a professional’s own practice or that of his university. For instance, Dr. Bruce Ballenger discusses the importance of revision to developing high-quality writing skills in a webinar, “The Gestalt of Revision.”

Ballinger mentions how rarely he sees this topic studied or addressed at the university level. His webinar explores findings from interviews with undergraduate and graduate students about their revision practices, and it present strategies drawn from gestalt theory that may help other professors.

Opportunities for professional development are about more than padding out a resume. Pearson’s webinars provide professors with enrichment opportunities developed by other dedicated practitioners. Educators who are passionate about their subject matter and their students’ success deserve access to the kind of resources that will enhance their skills and allow them to remain indispensable contributors to their institutions.

References

Colleen Flaherty, “Developing Adjuncts,” Inside Higher Ed, August 27, 2015.

Earn Digital Badges & CEUs,” Pearson

Elizabeth Segran, “The Adjunct Revolt: How Poor Professors Are Fighting Back,” The Atlantic, April 28, 2014.

Martha Schulman and Quen Hyman, “In Defense of Essays,” Inside Higher Ed. February 19, 2016.