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Teaching the Teachers: Learning Ally's Professional Development Workshops

Categories: Activities, Education & Teaching

Today’s classroom includes students with a wide range of abilities. How can teachers meet the needs of this diverse group? Focusing on high student engagement, understanding effective instruction and improving teamwork among teachers are three steps that can help educators ensure each student is successful. Terrie Noland, Learning Ally’s National Director for Professional Development, provides key insight into this new training series and gives a few examples of Learning Ally’s expert tips for the classroom. Q: What is Professional Development and why is Learning Ally providing it? Terrie: When people think of Learning Ally, they instantly think – audiobook provider. While that’s true, our 60-plus year history has given us the expertise to provide more than just one tool. We know the trends in education and how to serve students who learn differently. Educators are required to fulfill Continuing Education Units, or CEUs, and Learning Ally has extended its services to include a professional development series just for them. Q: Do the workshops train educators on how to use Learning Ally audiobooks? Terrie: No. Schools with a Learning Ally membership can receive that type of training from the project director in their area. Our professional development series currently includes three modules that focus on techniques for effective instruction and addressing the needs of diversified learners. Q: What do you mean by diversified learner? Terrie: All people learn differently. Whether that is because of an auditory processing disorder, learning disability like dyslexia, a language barrier, or even advanced learning capabilities, there are many different types of learners in every classroom and teachers need to know how to reach each student.

"The workshop was extremely beneficial and all the information that was provided was excellent. In my school’s area, we’re used to doing webinars and web connects, but the face-to-face aspect of this workshop and the interaction between teachers was superb."

- Sharon, Assistive Technology Specialist, Monroe County Schools

Q: How can a teacher begin to accommodate each different type of learner? Terrie: That’s what our professional development series is all about. We provide techniques that teachers can implement the very next day after they attend a training.For example, many people think a child needs to be sitting at a desk with both feet on the floor, eyes facing forward, to be learning. However, this may not be the best learning position for all children. We propose giving students something to do that is not distracting to their peers, such as placing an exercise band that a student can slip their foot into on the leg of a desk. Repeated physical movement while listening can help them learn more effectively. Q: What is a favorite technique among teachers from this series? Terrie: The voice levels chart is popular. It’s an example I use when addressing classroom management. When you think about children learning differently, relate that to how ideas are often misinterpreted. For example, when a teacher says, “Be quiet,” he or she probably means: no talking, everyone’s mouth is closed. But the student might interpret that as, “Let's lower our voices, so the teacher can't hear us.” Being specific about a rule or discussion topic is extremely important when there are many learning styles in the room. Q: What is the most common question you get from teachers? Terrie: Many schools are incorporating "Common Core objectives" into their curricula. Forty-five states have currently adopted this list of standards that students are expected to meet at each grade level. Teachers have a list of exactly what students must learn, and so they want to know, "How does this training series align with Common Core?" We developed the trainings in a way that doesn’t teach what the standards are and how to meet them, but explains how to be an effective educator and teach Common Core more efficiently.

"I wanted to thank you for a great presentation on Effective Instruction. I have attended many sessions on behavior management and effective instruction, but yours I actually found enjoyable. I have already used one strategy in my classroom - so far they love this system!"

- Lori, ELL Teacher, Horace O'Bryant Middle School

Q: How do teachers know which training to attend and where they are provided? Terrie: We work with each school to customize a package that is the best value for the educators within that district. A Learning Ally membership is not required, but the training series can be worked into a school membership package. If a school is interested in purchasing this training series, it can sign up to receive more information. Once a school is signed up, teachers will be told which modules are available and a Learning Ally instructor will complete an in-person 7-hour training. Any educator, specialist, teacher or administrator who participates can receive 7 CEUs for each module they attend. Q: Does Learning Ally provide any support to teachers after they complete a training? Terrie: Teachers who have attended a workshop walk away refreshed and renewed with a defined focus on strategies that will work for their students. A major benefit of our workshops is the list of strategies that are shared for immediate implementation and the quality follow up that takes place after the workshops are completed. We know that learning for a student never ends and so it is with teachers as well. We are committed to supporting teachers with additional strategies even after the workshop is over.
About Terrie Noland:
Terrie is a dynamic presenter who focuses on keeping audiences engaged and excited about their role in teaching and education. She has provided high quality institutional training for more than 15 years and has expertise in both accessible instructional materials and UDL. Contact Terrie at PDprograms@LearningAlly.org or call 325-260-3911.
Have ideas for other topics you would like Learning Ally to cover in future professional development modules? Leave us a comment below.