Professional Development Intended for Passaic County Technical Institute Science Department
Overview and Background
Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) is a Public School in Wayne, New Jersey. It welcomes students from all over Passaic County via application and is funded by the freeholders of Passaic. PCTI is an institution that offers vocational shop classes to learn trades as well as traditional academic courses in an effort to adequately prepare students for college and career readiness.
With over 3000 students and 400 teachers PCTI is a larger school with a variety of departments. The Science Department at PCTI consists of 31 instructors who are headed by one supervisor, Mr. Michael Coscia. The Supervisor is responsible for determining appropriate professional development opportunities and managing resources to develop and enhance programs within the department, in addition to a variety of other responsibilities. As State requirements and curriculum get modified, or if the school vision changes, it is up to the supervisor to communicate these changes and expectations to the teachers and provide them with the appropriate support during these transitions.
One major transition PCTI underwent is the purchasing of Chromebooks for every student in an initiative known as 1:1. In the 1:1 Initiative, which began three years ago, teachers were supposed to begin incorporating technology use in the classroom and using the devices as a supplemental resource that opened a world of opportunity, activities and exploration at the fingertips of the students. There were many seminars on the “Flipped Classroom”, which taught teachers how to have students study content at home and come utilize the class time for learning through activities rather than transcribing notes. To facilitate teaching, this year PCTI signed a five year contract with Canvas, which is a Learning Management System (LMS). Consequently, all teachers are expected to use Canvas as an online platform for their class similar to Blackboard and much more complex than Google Classroom. This Needs Analysis is designed to explore any professional development needs in incorporating Canvas to enhance the successful implementation of the ’Flipped Classroom’.
Design, Data Collection and Methodology
The Needs Analysis was designed to extract the attitudes, feelings, challenges, and concerns regarding the implementation and utilization of Canvas by Science Teachers. The target group consists of 31 Science Instructors at PCTI, teaching courses such as Chemistry, Biology, Geophysical Science, Physics, Anatomy & Physiology, and Environmental Science. The teachers all teach students who possess Chromebooks and are required to utilize Canvas as a medium for instruction. The Science Teachers are a diverse group varying in age, gender, ethnicity and level of education completed, as well as differing technology competencies. Mr.Coscia, the Science Supervisor, was interviewed independently to obtain his expectations and aspirations for the teachers within his department. Following, with his permission, a Google Forms Survey was sent out to all of the Science Department Teachers and the data was collected over the course of four days and then reviewed. Finally, following reflection and some post questions, two primary needs that could be addressed with professional development were identified.
Specific questions focused on teacher attitudes towards Canvas and the new technology trainings. They were asked if they utilized Canvas already and to what capacity? Also, what challenges did they face with using Canvas this year? Further questions focused on ascertaining their interest in learning specific features of Canvas and how they felt they learned best. Also they were asked about their issues with previous Professional Development Seminars and what they would like to see in future workshops.
Sixteen responses were collected and reviewed, including one from the Supervisor, Mr. Coscia who was a previous Science Instructor. 62.6% of the science teachers feel pretty confident using Canvas already. However, every single person expressed encountering frustration at some points and still felt there was a lot more they could learn. The top three features that most teachers expressed interest in learning were ‘How to get more out of the Tests and Quizzes Feature’, ‘How to Create and Organize Worksheets and HW on Canvas’, and ‘How to Create a Canvas Course’ that can be carried over from year to year and tweaked for improvement, rather than reinventing the wheel each year.
Conclusions and Recommendations
After careful review of the data, and one to one follow up interviews, it is clear that the Science Teachers would benefit from Professional Development in Canvas. While some are more comfortable figuring it out, some of the science teachers feel they are not able to keep up with all the changes and could use some guidance. All teachers agreed there is more they would like to learn. Most of the teachers indicated that they prefer professional development that follows a ‘I do, We do, You do’ approach to teaching with some group learning opportunities as well. In this manner, the Canvas savvy teachers can help facilitate learning for the beginners in a collaborative manner. After discussing the objectives of the school with the Supervisor and reflecting on what the teachers would like to learn, it seems that two major needs stick out for Professional Development. One identified need is Professional Development to explore the Test features in Canvas in order to create a variety of question types and assignments. Another need that could be addressed in a workshop is how to create a complete Canvas Course to be exported from year to year. The best fit workshop option that would please the participants and achieve learning objectives would be a half-day Professional Development workshop consisting of 2.5 hours. However, a follow up teachers learning group should be established for quick access help and intercommunication between participants and the Professional Development Instructor.