Design Decisions

Professional Development Intended for Passaic County Technical Institute Science Department

Training Unit Overview

Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) is an institution that strives to utilize all available resources to remain at the forefront of the dynamic field of Education. In this growing age of technology, they have equipped teachers and students with the appropriate tools to enhance the educational experience. At this point in time each student has a Chromebook and each teacher has access to Canvas, a Learning Management System (LMS), which they are to utilize to facilitate learning via technology. However, the Needs Analysis has shown that the Science Teachers are still struggling with the effective use of Canvas. With its first year of Implementation this is understandable, but immediate training was found to be necessary since PCTI has entered a five year contract with Canvas.

Based on the information collected during the Needs Analysis a series of Five Canvas Professional Development Seminars are proposed for all 40 Science Instructors at PCTI to help them get a fully functional Canvas Course up and running that can be utilized for subsequent years. The participants include slightly more female instructors than male, and vary in age and years of experience. The participants do not all teach the same course and have varying levels of technological competencies. In addition, in the Needs Analysis they reported their preferred method of learning. Taking all this into account, and the wealth of literature on andragogy, the seminars will allow for group collaboration to facilitate learning (Merriam & Bierema, 2014). Groups will be strategically designed to take into account the prior knowledge of the learners and allow it to be incorporated during the learning experience, per the Constructivist learning principles and benefits discussed in Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice (Merriam & Bierema, 2014).

The overarching Unit objective for the series of Canvas seminars works to develop a fully functional Canvas course for a traditional High School Science class, that is designed, personalized, and utilized by the individual teacher to the full potentials of Canvas. The Unit is broken up into five seminars. The first seminar is the most important and focuses on designing the interface for the course to keep materials organized for the convenience of the teacher when adding assignments and students when navigating the course. The second seminar will focus on creating Tests and Quizzes in Canvas in a variety of styles. The third seminar will focus on creating, designing and grading writing assignments and Research Stimulation Tasks (RST) on Canvas. The fourth seminar will focus on discussion groups and collaborations for projects and labs. The fifth and final seminar will focus on ways to incorporate Labs in your Canvas course.

Unit Plan – ‘Canvas Ready – Science Edition’

  • Professional Development Seminar 1: ‘Starting with a Blank Canvas’
  • Professional Development Seminar 2: ‘Assess and Evaluate’
  • Professional Development Seminar 3: ‘The Written Word on Canvas’
  • Professional Development Seminar 4: ‘Team Work – Two Heads are Better than One’
  • Professional Development Seminar 5: ‘There is no Science without a Lab’

Design Decisions for 1st Canvas Seminar

The following design decisions were developed specifically for the first of the five Canvas Seminars in which participants will develop a personalized template for their Canvas course. The course would be entitled, “Starting with a Blank Canvas”. This seminar will last two hours long and be conducted the next half-day for students in which the afternoon has been reserved for in-house Professional Development. It would be hosted in the F-Wing Library of PCTI because there are several tables which can accommodate groups of six comfortably with enough space for personal laptops or chrome books, which will be necessary for at least part of the seminar. The tables are perfect for group workstations and can accommodate all 40 participants. Additionally, two of the teachers who were found to be highly proficient with their use of Canvas this past year, as revealed by the Needs Analysis and follow up interviews, will be utilized as co-teachers to facilitate teaching this large group. A variety of activities are proposed to segment the workshop and a break is incorporated as well. The following itinerary is proposed.

            1st Canvas Seminar Itinerary – ‘Starting with a Blank Canvas’

  • Introduction and Welcome – (5 mins)
  • Opening Presentation – Goals and Objectives – PowerPoint (5 mins)
  • Discuss Article on Importance of LMS Design (10 mins)
  • 1st Activity – Create Course Interface on Paper (Small Groups) (20 mins)
  • Share Findings and Discuss (Large Group) (10 mins)
  • Break – Coffee and Deserts (15 mins)
  • Discuss Rubric for Canvas Course (5 mins)
  • 2nd Activity – Create Interface on Canvas (Individually or Pairs) (20 mins)
  • Share Templates with Colleagues (10 mins)
  • Review Concepts and Lessons Complete Evaluation on Canvas (5 mins)
  • Complete Feedback Survey on Canvas (5 mins)
  • Conclusion Remarks & Preview Next Seminar (10 mins)

Goals, Objectives & Standards


  • Provide an overview of the expected role of Canvas in the Classroom and how it can help make teaching and learning efficient.

Objectives – Learners will be able to:

  • Organize and categorize all assignments into folders
  • Identify the most important elements of a Canvas Course Interface
  • Determine the most efficient design for a theoretical interface that compliments their particular course
  • Create an organized and customized interface/template on Canvas


  • Apply project management techniques in learning and training contexts. (ISTE 3.a)
  • Identify and apply problem solving skills in appropriate school media and educational technology (SMET) contexts for the adult learner following best practices in instructional design to solve a real-world training need. (ISTE 2.f, 2.c, 4.a, 4.b, 4.c, 5.c)
  • Co-create a community of learners to share ideas, insights and experiences to establish a design thinking approach mindset. (ISTE 6.a)
  • Evaluate and reflect on their personal practice to improve and strengthen abilities and knowledge for continued personal and professional growth. (ISTE 6.b, 6.c)
  • Identify effective school media program services that promote collaborative planning and curriculum development with classroom teachers. (ISTE 1.a, 2.a)
  • Apply knowledge of current trends and issues in the field of school media to learning and training context. (ISTE 1.d)
  • Compare and contrast curriculum objectives for their area(s) of preparation with federal, state, and/or professional content standards if applicable. (ISTE 2.a)
  • Create instructional plans (micro-level design) that address the needs of all learners (universal design), including appropriate accommodations for learners with special needs. (ISTE e, 2.c, 3.d)
  • Professional learning shall incorporate coherent, sustained, and evidence-based strategies that improve educator effectiveness and student achievement, such as job-embedded coaching or other forms of assistance to support educators’ transfer of new knowledge and skills to their work. (State Standard – 6A:9C-3.2 Components of Professional Development)
  • Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and improves results for all students shall be guided by the following standards: Learning Communities, Leadership, Resources, Data, Learning Designs, Implementation, Outcomes. (State Standard – 6A:9C-3.3 Standards for Professional Learning)

Delivery Methods and Content

Out of the forty Science Instructors a few were found to be more proficient at their use of Canvas in the classroom as found in the Needs Analysis and discussed with the Supervisor. For these reasons, a tech savvy Chemistry Instructor who, was also part of the Canvas Pilot program prior to implementation, will be the lead Professional Development Instructor. He will be assisted by two other proficient teachers, a Biology and an Anatomy Instructor respectively, to facilitate teaching the large group of participants. Each participant will be situated in a group of four with other participants who specialize in teaching the same subject area. Teachers that coteach a class will be put together as well for this activity as they will be designing a shared course by the end of the seminar. This is taking into account the Constructivist Theory to teaching and learning which views learning as a construct interconnected with past experiences and knowledge (Brown and Green, 2016). Placing teachers in groups with teachers who teach the same subject will allow them to discuss and debate what features would be essential when designing the theoretical interface for their course.

Motivation is connected to effective learning and cognitive retention (Merriam and Bierema, 2014). As a result, the introductory presentation and discussion is crucial in determining what learners expect from the course, what they should expect, and how the knowledge and skills covered in this seminar directly impact their career as a teacher at PCTI. Following the introduction presentation, the facilitator will briefly discuss the importance of effective design of LMS for effective implementation in schools. Then, in groups, they will be given a sheet and set of index cards given a task as part of the first activity for the session. The index cards will supplement to guide the discussion as the group works to design the perfect theoretical interface for their course. Following they will present and share their design with the other groups and then break for refreshments.

Participants will then reassemble and be given a rubric and instructed to design their template on Canvas making personalized adjustments where they feel necessary. Each person should be working on their own Canvas classroom from scratch. Self-directed learning is an important consideration in this particular design. ‘It is a primary process and defining characteristic of many adult learners’ (Merriam and Bierema, 2014). The instructors will walk around and facilitate where necessary. Then the group will reassemble and share some of their designs. This will serve as an Informal Assessment. Then, the seminar will conclude with a formalized assessment, in addition to a participant feedback survey, which will both be done on Canvas. Following, conclusion remarks will be given, a preview into the next seminar, and opportunities for further growth and development with respect to the content and skills covered.


The session will begin at 1 pm, following a half-day for students during scheduled Professional Development, and end at 3 pm.


All participants will be asked to bring a Laptop or Chromebook, which our school provides, and desktops will be available. Additionally, a Projector/Smartboard will be necessary for the Instructor Presentations, which is already supplied in the media center. Index cards, copies of articles and other resource materials will be prepared prior to the seminar by the head instructor.

Learner/Participant Assessment

Throughout the seminar participants will be provided with opportunities to work and share collaboratively and independently. A form of informal assessment will be based on the theoretical templates designed on paper by the small groups following the first activity of the session. A form of formal assessment will be given after the participants produce their Canvas course interface following the second activity. They will be given that rubric prior to beginning this activity on their devices so they can keep the main goals and ideas discussed in the first part of the session in mind. A final form of assessment will be a Quiz on Kahoot at the end of the seminar and cover aspects of the course including the main points of the opening article, the collaborative discussion from the first activity, and questions pertaining to designing on Canvas. The learner participant survey will be administered but not be used for assessment purposes.


Brown, A.H., & Green, T.D. (2016). The Essentials of Instructional Design: Connecting Fundamental Principles with Process and Practice. New York, NY: Routledge.

Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.