Motivate and Engage Teachers to Be Positive Learners in PD on Educational Technology – considering adult learning principles

ISTE Coaching Standards

ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation

Performance Indicator B

● Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

Inquiry Question:
How can we design the professional development /What kind of PD can motivate and engage teachers to be positive learners in PD on educational technology considering adult learning principles?

Retrieved from: thepeakperformancecenter

How Can We Catalyze Teachers to be Positive Learners in Professional Learning

As educators for the 21st century, we always seeking ways to differentiate our teaching to target student diverse learning needs to increase motivation and engagement. As digital technology thriving, we don’t expect our students to come to class at the same level and learn in the exact same way anymore. We want to create more opportunities of student-centered learning to foster strong self-direct and self-regulation using educational technology as a supportive tool. Since education changing a lot, the high quality of PD is the fuel for the profession of a teacher whose knowledge, skills and mindset can greatly impact student achievement and even the direction of future education.  Why don’t we differentiate our professional development to meet diverse needs and fuel up teachers’ internal motivation?  Teacher’s professional learning is the same important as our student learning. Their motivation and positive attitude in PD can catalyze professional growth which will improve and pave the path for students learning.

Depending on the theory of adult learning, the learning should emphasize the value of the process of problem-solved and collaboration rather than didactic. Adult learning should be self-directed and internally motivated; Adult bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences; Adult learning should be goal-oriented and relevancy oriented; Adult needs to be respected and like to practice rather than sit-and receive. (Malcolm Knowles). We should use this theory in the teacher’s professional development to motivate and engage them to be positive learners in transforming teaching methods using educational technology.

Personalized Professional Learning – Give Teachers More Agency

In adult learning principals, adults are autonomous and self-directed. Their choices need to be considered in the PD. And adults are goal-oriented and relevancy-oriented. The explicit goal and relevancy can boost teachers learning in PD. As known, teachers’ schedule is so tight and it wastes time to attend the PD not relevant to them. They have diverse class contexts and different needs in using educational technology to improve student learning. The top-down PD is not worth to motivate teachers to buy-in the new teaching practice. The compelling, engaging and meaningful PD should be the one that provides teachers with choices on what and how to learn. Teachers will be positive learners when they get more agency on professional growth. Choice is the key to increase internal motivation.

Online Professional development-Webinars

Webinars can be attended synchronously and also can be reviewed asynchronously at teachers’ convenience. Webinars can provide different content to have teachers to choose the relevancy to meet their special needs. As the professional development focused on educational technology, webinar PD can be a good practice for teachers to touch digital technology and understand the learning process in students’ position. The well-designed online PD should build-in interaction, create the opportunity for collaboration both online and offline, a follow-up to hear teachers’ voices and collect feedback for improvement. Also, the clear outline of the webinar which can show teachers how this PD will help them reach teaching goals is necessary for teachers to understand the PD better and motivate them to be actively involved to reach the goal as they expected.

Empower Teachers via PLC- Pineapple Chart

Teachers always getting inspired by peers when they are trying new instructional strategies or using a new digital tool more than the lecture from an expert without a related context. PLC, a professional learning community is a powerful form of PD to encourage teachers to learn from colleagues who are trying new ways using educational technology in a relevant context. Pineapple Chart is a systematic way to welcome teachers into classrooms in one central place. By having a calendar where teachers can post if they are doing something worth watching, other teachers know that the door is open to visitors. Depending on each teacher’s interests, class contexts and schedules, they can decide what and when they want to observe with motivation to learn something new on educational technology from others. The well-planned PLC should encourage teachers to exchange perspectives after observed and provide quality feedback to improve the teaching practice fit in classes. Teachers should be encouraged to implement the new teaching strategies into their classes to develop a rich technology environment for learning and share their experiences with peers in PLC.

Differentiated PD – Considering Teachers’ Readiness

It will suppress adults’ engagement in learning when they have poor prior experiences and knowledge. Especially when the teachers who are hesitant to use digital technology in teaching attend the PD in which other participants have abundant experiences will lead to a feeling of inadequacy and less confidence. The differentiate PD is necessary to engage varying readiness levels’ teachers. The well-designed PD needs to provide small-group sessions with flexible groupings to be instructed for different levels. All teachers can get engaged when they feel their experiences and knowledge is gotten respected by the PD instructor. The differentiated PD which considers teachers’ readiness can be the most effective and efficient to motivate everyone to leave a comfortable zone to take risks on technology integrated teaching practice.

As we design the PD, we should consider the principals of adult learning to engage every teacher to be positive learners to buy-in new skills in using digital technology to improve student learning.


Wolpert-Gawron,H. (2018). The Importance of Choice in PD. Retrieved from

 O’Donnell, L. (2016). Hacking Education: The Pineapple Chart. Retrieved from

Zdonek, P. (2016). Why Don’t We Differentiate Professional Development? Retrieved from

Watson, B. (2015). Adult learning theory and the six principles of adult learning. Retrieved from

3 thoughts on “Motivate and Engage Teachers to Be Positive Learners in PD on Educational Technology – considering adult learning principles”

  1. Helen, I agree that the teacher’s professional development needs to be taken as seriously as student learning since it has such an impact on student outcomes. Also, I like that you used PLCs as an example of addressing key adult learning principles including choice and relevance. Finally, I thought you made a really good point about offering differentiated learning for edtech by forming groups of teachers with similar experience levels. Edtech can be an intimidating topic for teachers who don’t have experience, and those who do want to be learning about advanced features. Getting these groups right could make a big difference in how the users view the tech they are learning about. Thank you for these insights!

  2. Helen, I am excited to read your affirming and research-driven statements about how self-directed and goal-oriented professional development is a must for today’s adult learner. Your blog highlights what moves we can make to ensure that all learners are honored with learning that is anchored in the intent of meeting the adult learners’ needs and specific goals. You are point on when you state that differentiated learning will support learners at different stages of comfort with digital learning and tool integration. The differentiation will allow for specific coaching, modeling of scaffolded support, and individual confidence building. All of these are a foundation for successful professional development. Well done my friend!

  3. As you state clearly, differentiation is a key to success in educator professional development. This is true at both the macro and the micro level. Many fellow faculty in my computer science department all have different levels of training and experience. One of the biggest benefits of the PLC is to have faculty benefit from this difference in training and experience by allowing teachers to actually author and deliver professional development to other teachers at the same school in a safe and respectful environment. This sounds obvious, but turns out to be very difficult in practice due to so many issues. As you state, teachers are all very busy at this point, so administrator support for this approach is key. Your point about teachers feeling inadequate and less confident when a safe environment is not provided is spot on!

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