Journal Number Nine

I was using Design Thinking/Iterative Design as I was planning my Early Literacy Workshop/Intervention.  This design model heavily emphasizes prototyping, feedback and iteration as a continuous cycle that may never end. This has certainly been my practical experience.  Although I rarely have time to iterate a new course design before teaching it the first time, I always change things up before I teach a course again. As many of my courses are taught online this might include minor adjustments to the calendar, updating content, and tweaks to assignments, but it might also include complete restructuring units depending on the feedback I have received. In my face-to-face course I am always looking for inspiration for new activities and adding updated content. I publish my calendars as “tentative” and I leave room later in the course to be responsive to student needs or topical items that come up as the semester progresses. 

I am fortunate in many of my courses that I am largely only accountable to myself and my learners, so long as I adhere to the general outline of the syllabus and course description on record. I am the only instructor who teaches the courses I am assigned and I am left largely to my own devices to find content and develop course activities, which gives me quite a bit of freedom. In my personal design, therefore, I believe I will continue to iterate and refine my courses in line with a Design Thinking Model and take opportunities to iterate and refine informally as I go and formally before the beginning of each semester.   I like the image below, because it illustrates that this process can go on indefinitely. 

Where things might be more convoluted is in my work with my larger department. We structure certain courses for the purpose of college-wide and university-wide assessment for the purposes of meeting the requirements imposed by outside accreditation organizations. As I noted in one of my previous reflections, this work often takes a more Backwards Design approach, as we are obligated to decide which student artifacts we will preserve to show our accrediting bodies that we are aligning our curriculum to standards, and to demonstrate that our students have learned what we set out to teach them. Once these assessments are in place I have less flexibility during the assessment cycle to change them (or the individual course content that prepares students to complete them).

Iteration feels much more artificial in this model, as I have certain windows when I can change or update materials and assessments.  I also cannot work fully independent of my colleagues as any change in my assessments or the standards I am responsible for addressing may impact their courses or the program as a whole.  I would personally advocate for a more systematic approach to iteration given these parameters. Unfortunately I am not in a position to direct the work of the other faculty within the department; the reality ends up being that we rush to make changes right before the deadlines mandated by our accrediting bodies (Middle States and CAEP) and changes are often made for the sake of expediency rather than a cohesive vision or response to learner needs. Unfortunately, this leads sometimes leads to a rather uneven product that reminds me of this popular meme which beautifully illustrates what happens when we focus all of our effort on the START of a project, rather than having a strategy to keep us motivated throughout:

Journal Number Eight

I am not accustomed to having the opportunity to iterate instructional materials/courses before introducing them to my students.  My teaching load at Kutztown, when combined with my other commitments, does not give me much time to develop instruction. Often I only have time for a first pass at development before I need to be ready to make the course live. Typically, I need to design something based on my best guess as to what my students need, and then I iterate based on feedback I receive after I run the course for the first time, and my own observations upon what is working and what is not.  I know this is not an ideal situation, but it is the reality of a 4/4 load where I teach a minimum of 8 different preps in a single academic year (while working towards my PhD).

I much prefer preparing for a class when I teach it a second (third, fourth, etc.) time because I honestly enjoy tweaking things and rethinking my work.  Often I am pleasantly surprised when I go back into my courses and I remember things I liked about them. I am also fueled by the challenge of finding ways to make something better – sometimes this is inspired by student comments or suggestions and  sometimes by my own study or reflection.  

My process for iterating materials and online courses I have taught before includes taking notes based-off my observations and student feedback immediately after the course is taught.  Then I put everything away until it is time to prep the course again (typically in August for fall courses or January for spring courses). I look back at the course structure as a whole and decide if there is anything I want to change about the overall outline or pacing of assignments. For example, two years ago I switched over to a model where my online graduate courses are broken into three unit trimesters, each five weeks long, based off feedback I was receiving from my students. Once I have iterated the overall structure, I look to see if the content or assignments need to be updated or changed. 

Having Amber provide feedback on something that was still in the development phase, therefore, was a rare luxury for me.  It was very helpful for me to use her feedback to think through the overall structure of the existing and future modules before I went too far down one development path.  I have been known to get caught up by something I think is clever and I end up trying to shoe-horn an idea that I am enamored of into a place it really doesn’t fit. I think have early feedback could help prevent me from following a hare-brained idea too far. While I look forward to a day when I can invest more time in iteration before teaching a course for the first time, I doubt that will be happening any time soon!

I will be using Amber’s feedback as the main inspiration for my iteration this week.  While her ideas have inspired other ideas, I will try to refrain from moving too far beyond what Amber has suggested during this first iteration, for time’s sake.   


Journal Number Seven

Amber is a pleasure to talk to and work with.  We touched base after class on Wednesday. I shared by Development document with her via a google doc that evening and we created a shared doc where we could keep notes as we looked through each other’s work.  Our interactions were informal and conversational. Amber confessed to feeling behind and overwhelmed due to it being the end of the school year and her need to travel for a conference. We agreed that we could be flexible and check in during multiple brief meetings over the next few days to accommodate her busy schedule.

Amber was thorough and generous in her feedback.  I was very happy for her perspective – I am very familiar with this content and have been concerned during the development phase that I was belaboring information that my audience might already know. Some of my learners, however, will have had limited formal training in child development, early literacy skills, early literacy practices, and storytime programming.  It was great to have feedback from Amber precisely because she was coming into the content cold and could point out that more description was needed in terms of learning objectives and formative feedback in each of the submodules. She also made the suggestion to offer means for interaction that participants could choose to engage in, even if it wasn’t required, to help the experience feel less isolated.

I will be applying as many of her changes as I can as I iterate my project.  I decided I will add a Padlet for participants to share information they have found useful.  I will also add a Flipgrid to allow participants to record short videos of themselves. I will think about how to clarify the objectives and feedback while keeping the feeling of the course conversational and less formal given the audience and purpose of the intervention.  Amber noted that she enjoyed the tone of my writing and the clean design of the LMS shell, so these are both attributes I will try to continue through the iterations.

In terms of giving feedback, I do suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome when evaluating the work of people who have been formally trained as K-12 educators, since I have neither training nor experience in that arena. I also have not had a biology class since my undergraduate years, so I was feeling out of my depth in terms of the audience and the content.  Once I got over those hesitations, however, I felt I was able to give Amber constructive feedback, most of which was positive and positive feed forward. Amber’s hands on activities seem engaging and motivating, and that was one of her main concerns. She is using many different modalities and incorporating formative and peer feedback. The only bit of negative feedback I had was about the flow of her overall lesson.  I wasn’t sure how the individual pieces were fitting together but I acknowledged I might be missing context. The only other suggestion I had was regarding the design of her slides – I thought they might be better served by less text and the addition of images and/or audio or video elements. Looking at Amber’s work also helped me to think about my own work. While there was nothing that Amber was doing that I wanted to lift completely into my course, I always think our brains are making connections subconsciously and I would not be surprised if a seed of an idea that I got from Amber sprouts in my own work down the line.

Journal Number Six


I have attempted to approach the development of my early literacy intervention from a design thinking perspective.  While I have not yet had the opportunity to formally assess my audience needs, my personal experience as a youth services librarian and my experience as an instructor and mentor to many current youth services librarians should provide me with some insight and empathy into my audience’s needs.  I know my audience will have varying levels of experience, expertise, formal education and access to professional development. I know they are working adults who should be intrinsically motivated to improve their practice, but who may have limited time and may be looking for a model in which they can skip over sections they have already “mastered” to focus on content that is new or less familiar. Understanding this has driven the development of my modules. I also knew, from research, that there is a need to deliver early literacy training to youth services librarians and a need to bolster their sense of efficacy, particularly in their role as teachers.

I entered the “define” phase and began thinking about how I could address my learner’s needs through both content and design.  On the one hand, I needed a way to introduce my learners to the basics of both infant brain development and early literacy skills as outlined by ECRR (which are both content heavy and within the cognitive domain). On the other, I need to support their efficacy (which is in the affective domain). For this reason, there will likely be a combination of instruction strategies used over the intervention as a whole, while individual modules might rely heavily on one specific strategy.

I entered the ideate phase and began generating different outlines of how I could structure this module to allow for learners with differing levels of expertise and to allow for different approaches to particular content types.  I knew I would be working with a set of online learning modules that could function asynchronously and I had to think about how I could structure them in a way that they built on each other without limiting a learner to a single pace or path through the content. I sketched out several outlines of how the content could be structured to accomplish this before moving on to creating a prototype.

My prototype consists of a welcome page that introduces the structure of the workshop to the learner.  Each topical module will have it’s own landing page that will consist of an introduction to the topic as a whole, links that go into more detail, and a quiz.  The learner may choose to look over the topic overview and take the quiz immediately, or they may pursue the more in-depth content and activities as a more leisurely pace.  Once the quiz is successfully completed, the learner may move on to the next module. This should offer learners the opportunity to be introduced to new content, review less familiar content, and skip over content that they have “mastered.” This approach will hopefully cut down on feelings of frustration that could be caused if I make assumptions about the baseline level of familiarity within the audience and force all the learners to move at the same pace through content that might be unfamiliar to some and too familiar to others.  The next phase is testing and feedback, where I hope my classmates will be able to assist me.

While I anticipate that I will use a variety of instructional methods in the intervention as a whole, the modules I have developed so far rely somewhat heavily upon direct instruction given that the goal is for the learner to absorb content.  I am keeping UDL principles in mind, and I am looking for ways to deliver that content in multiple ways (through text and through videos with captions). I am also keeping Cognitive Load theory in mind, by making sure each sub-module is focused on one topic and that the videos or readings are not overlong. I will also be incorporating some scenarios into the modules, particularly in the affective section that is addressing efficacy, to have the learners think about themselves in real-life situations.  The whole structure of the intervention is meant to provide a more personalized learning approach, or at least something akin to it, given the limitations of the online/asynchronous format.


Journal Number Five

My field is practitioner focused; I am working with learners who are translating library science theory into practice that will happen in schools or libraries. I have found instructional strategies that are grounded in scenarios and solving problems encourage the development of skills and knowledge that will transfer to the real world.  For example, I will provide students with a set of parameters (audience, library type, budget, community needs) under which the learners make selections for a library collection. Or the students will be presented with a human resources scenario such as a memo exercise and will have to decide how they will prioritize a number of managerial tasks.  

While I have built project-based strategies into some of my courses about developing lesson plans and programs, this is an instructional strategy I would like to figure out how to use more often.  My undergraduate students often struggle initially with these more constructivist approaches. They seem to expect more direct instruction and either do not trust themselves to find a unique solution to a problem or project prompt, or they do not trust me to actually be willing to give them that much freedom. They ask for examples and seem convinced that I already have a specific work product in mind.  Once they realize I really am interested in their ideas, rather than expecting them to guess mine, they really enjoy the approach and talk about how “fun” and, interestingly, “easy” it is to work that way.  I would like to use this more because I do see more intrinsic motivation from my students when they have choice in terms of the focus of their projects. They also seem to take more ownership of the projects because they are investing more of themselves into the process and the outcome. If the project can also be given parameters that encourage authentic explorations of contexts that my students will be practicing in during their professional careers.


I can see using scenario-type strategies in my intervention, in addition to direct instruction, I think using a project-based strategy might be more challenging considering the format and audience. I want to think about it though, because I might just need to look for examples beyond the k-12 context, which is where I usually see them. Given the increase in makerspaces within libraries, many lessons are now maker-based.  While there are similarities between project-based and problem-based learn, I do need to spend some time learning about maker-based instruction so that I can look into ways I might also use these strategies to prepare my students for the maker-based contexts in which they will be teaching.

Journal Number Four

Since my research revolves around whether training, or specific kinds of training, will impact the self-efficacy of youth services librarians my intervention will attempt to introduce, review and/or reinforce what youth services librarians know about storytime and integrating best practices for early literacy into their programs.  The tricky part is I do not know what training or experience my learners will be bringing to this intervention. Some learners might find the entire intervention to be review, others might never have encountered the material before, and still others may be familiar with some concepts but not others. My challenge will be introducing the content in a logical way so that it builds on itself, but also in a manner that will allow people to move through the content at their own pace depending on their level of familiarity.   Perhaps each module will have a fast track and a leisurely track, with a diagnostic assessment at the beginning to suggest which route to take?


Much of my content will be based off the “Every Child Ready to Read” 2nd edition.  These materials are designed to be used in public library storytimes and are free for educational use so long as attribution is given. Most professional development offered at public library conferences references the language of ECRR, meaning most public library youth services librarians should be at least passingly familiar with the terminology used and the basic ideas presented in the ECRR toolkit.  Because I would like to focus on improving efficacy, I would also include modules about infant brain development, so that my learners have an understanding of why early literacy is important, as well as modules to reinforce the librarians’ identities as teachers and educators of both children and caregivers. This section will dwell at least partially in the affective domain, as many librarians do not see themselves as educators and struggle with how to take on that role with adult caregivers in particular. Content would be presented in a variety of formats, including audio, video, readings, peer discussion and interactive activities.


The tasks will also  include formative knowledge checks to make sure learners have a grasp of basic concepts before moving forward.  These might include simple drag and drop activities that allow the learner to demonstrate the know the kinds of activities that reinforce early literacy skills, assessments for understanding of basic vocabulary and concepts.  Task will also be authentic, with learners designing storytimes with integrated early literacy content which will be evaluated by peers and the instructor. Finally, there will be self-reflection tasks that will help learners process their identities as teachers.

Journal Number Three

The fact that I will be working with adults in a professional development context will make assessment a bit tricky: there will be no grade, for example, to serve as an extrinsic motivator or demonstrate that the learner has demonstrated enough “mastery” to receive credit for a course.  In my personal experience with online professional development for adults, modules are typically accompanied by short multiple-choice style quizzes to check for understanding. These can often be retaken until a high enough score is earned to allow the learner to progress to the next module.  This leaves open the possibility that a learner will skip the content and go straight to the assessment and/or retake the assessment until they pass. When professional development is conducted face-to-face, the facilitator might encourage a discussion or place participants into groups to complete an activity.  I have even been in a professional development workshop where the group took a quiz at the end, as a group, with no individual accountability.


In graduate level courses, instructors often rely on peer feedback and self-reflection as a means of assessment in adult learners who have a higher level of intrinsic motivation. This same method has been suggested as a means of assessment in adult learners engaged in professional development (Kelleher, 2003). This might be a model I could apply to my intervention, but it would rely on multiple people completing the same module at the same time in order to facilitate the peer feedback component.

Self-assessment and peer feedback could serve to assess both the knowledge and affective domains.  A module might include guided discussion or self-reflection that would ask learners to probe their initial beliefs about their efficacy and track any evolution in their feelings of efficacy or the values related to different storytime activities. As structuring a storytime to include early literacy skills is a goal of Every Child Ready to Read and other programs aimed at improving storytime outcomes, learners might be asked to provide a storytime outline or script that would include the selected titles, songs, and activities and ask for peer feedback on their choices. Psychomotor might be a bit more difficult, although if students posted videos of themselves conducting storytime and received peer feedback upon their physical presentation of books and other activities during a storytime, this might work as well.

In terms of content, I would begin with the established programs that already exist and are relied upon for professional development during library conferences and local/regional training. Every Child Ready to Read is the most central of these and the vocabulary that I would use would be drawn heavily from their “Play, Talk, Write, Sing, Read” language and guidance. I would also include videos of librarians demonstrated best practices in program delivery and caregiver engagement and access to model program plans and suggested resources participants could use to create their own custom plans. I would also include information about the latest research into literacy development in children, the important role of caregivers, and the importance of the librarian.  The focus of my intervention would be to improve the self-efficacy of the librarians, to remind them why what they do is important and to reassure them that resources are available to help. I will, therefore, be looking for strategies that work in the affective domain, where self-efficacy dwells. These might include real-world scenarios and modeling, and clear discussions as to why these early literacy strategies are so important.

Kelleher, J. (2003). A Model for Assessment-Driven Professional Development. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(10), 751–756.

Journal Number Two

While not quite in my dotage, I am old enough that I am aware of how trends build, plateau, and recede only to be taken up again by the next generation under a new name (shoulder pads, I see you trying to make a comeback).  My elementary school was designed in the 1970’s around open spaces called “pods” with no physical barriers between the grade level classrooms. The theory was that this would encourage collaboration between students and teachers and allow students more freedom to engage with content on their own level.  By the time I attended this school in the mid-1980’s the teachers had erected barriers between the classrooms by using rolling chalk boards and books shelves. By the time my friend was teaching in a similar school in the early 2000’s actual walls had been installed between classrooms.  If you search for the “Open Schools” now, you find news stories like this one that details all the reasons why the concept fell out of favor.  When I was watching the video about learner-centered environments, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between that school concept and the open schools of the 1970’s.  I was reminded of my own tendency, when my house gets cluttered and dirty, to purchase an organization rack. When I come home, I happily install my new toy and, yes, it makes my pots line up.  But it doesn’t do anything about the dirt on the floor and, just because the rack is present, it doesn’t stop my kids from not putting the pots away, or carelessly tossing them into the cabinet without using the rack. I think too often we look for the shiny fix without addressing the structural issues lying beneath that are the true cause of the problem. My hesitation with learner-centered environments or personalized learning are that they are seized upon as a solution without also addressing the inequities that exist that are often at the root of problems in our education systems.

With that in mind, however, I do feel that there are things schools can do to make learning more learner-centered.  My younger daughter attends a Waldorf-methods charter school where the development of the child guides the curriculum, rather than a reverse engineering from standards. Reading is not formally taught until 3rd grade because mountains of research shows that a large number of children are not ready to read until they are 8 years old.  Desks are not introduced until later grades because, again, it is not developmentally appropriate for young children to sit at desks all day. The school prioritizes movement and time outside, again, because we know young learners NEED those things, and those needs supersede the more arbitrary need to push through content that will appear on a standardized test.

In my own teaching, I do respond to my learner’s needs.  For example, my undergraduate students prefer for major assignments to be due at the end of the week so that the work does not hang over their heads during the weekend. My graduate students prefer Sunday night deadlines, because most of them are working professionals and they prefer to have the full weekend to complete their school assignments. I also allow for students to modify their assignments to make them meaningful to contexts in which they live and work, I provide structured and unstructured options, and I always try to inject a little bit of humor or, to borrow Farrah’s word, whimsy, so that my students remember I am a person too and that we don’t need to always take ourselves too seriously.

For this course, the intervention I plan on developing is a professional development module for youth services librarians.  I am well-acquainted with the general demographics of this group as I was myself a member of this professional community for many years and I have continued to monitor the demographics for my own research which is centered on youth services programs in public libraries. I belong to several online learning communities that foster conversations and resource sharing within this learner group and I stay up to date with published information about trends within this population from its associated professional organizations (ALA, PLA, ALSC and PaLA).

This is a challenging group to pin down in terms of learner characteristics.  On the one hand, there are some similarities: these learners would all have similar work contexts in terms of the primary mission of their organizations – public libraries serve their communities through collections, programs, and other informational, educational and recreational services. They also will be serving youth as at least a portion of their job responsibilities. By nature of social norms, the majority of learners will likely be female, because women are overrepresented in these positions. Beyond that, however, there will be wide variation in age, from young people who are new to their adult work experiences, to people on the brink of retirement.

They will also vary in terms of education and training, as there is no federal mandate and very few state mandates that guide libraries when making hiring decisions.  While the ALA- accredited master’s degree is considered the terminal degree in the profession, not all libraries require the people who provide youth services programs to hold the degree. In the same vein, the ALA MLS is not, on its own, focused on youth services; it is possible to have one without taking any courses with youth-related content. Some libraries hire people with teaching or pre-school experience, and others “hire the smile” and encourage or require the individual to pursue professional development.  

Cart racing meme

Since these individuals all work in libraries, it is relatively safe to assume that most will have access to basic technology such as computers, web-cams, and a decent internet connection in their workplace, if not at home. In terms of motivation and learning preferences, I would hope they would be motivated by a desire to improve their practice, but I know many may not see the need to do so because they feel they are already doing a good job, or because they are resistant to any suggestion that they take on more responsibility.  In these cases it will be important to present myself as an advocate, rather than a taskmaster or evaluator, to help them feel motivated to take on additional training. There may be extrinsic rewards in the sense that the library may count this training towards required continuing education training hours. Their learning preferences would likely be a course that does not over-burden their time and/or which could be completed during regular work hours. It would likely need to be largely asynchronous or built into existing professional development workshop days at the regional or system level.

Journal Number One

I had a round-about journey into the study of education.  My initial professional experience was in librarianship, and while I created programs that included educational content on a regular basis I had never studied education theory or instructional design.  Rather, I learned through observing my mentors and colleagues, and through trial and error (and error, and error). Overtime I developed a programming style that adults and children alike seemed to enjoy. This was an iterative approach to instructional design (although I did not know to call it such) – I listened to, and watched, my program attendees, I looked for what worked, and I tweaked or discarded what didn’t work, until I had a storytime program style that hummed along like a well-oiled machine.  When I began teaching at Kutztown University, I went through the same process again. I was hired for my professional expertise, not my teaching experience, and I had only my own experiences as a student in higher education context upon which to draw as I created my own lessons. Again, I gauged my students, I tried things (and failed, and failed) until I came up with ways to present material that was engaging and rewarding for my learning community, using an iterative approach.

During my first semester at Lehigh I took a curriculum course and had my first introduction to Backwards design.  I had never heard of it before. I quickly realized how the approach aligned with contemporary assessment models (for good or ill).  At KU, we are accredited by CAEP for our education programs. To make our case for continued accreditation, we have to demonstrate our students’ proficiency as aligned to professional standards.  We accomplish this by designing authentic core assignments that serve as the final, capstone-style assessment for each of our courses. We are, therefore, designing our courses backwards from that final core assessment that is meant to demonstrate the student’s proficiency in the given content area.  Once again, I realized I was using a version of an instructional design model without realizing it.

For this course I plan to return to Iterative Design, albeit a more informed version of such,  for several reasons. First, I think it is my natural inclination to empathize with my learners.  Second, I am not afraid to try an idea out and change it as needed. Third, for the intervention that I plan to work on, an iterative approach that is responsive to learner feedback might be most appropriate. My hope is to build a professional development intervention for youth services librarians that might help improve their sense of self-efficacy – this kind of training would seem to be particularly suited to an iterative approach.


The process to explore this model will begin with empathizing with my audience.  In this context I will be thinking about individuals who provide storytime programs in public libraries.  They may come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds, they may have vastly different types of experience, and they may be serving diverse communities. My goal will be to provide an intervention that is sensitive to all of these variables.  I will need to define exactly what I am trying to share with these learners before ideating and prototyping the modules.  Feedback from experts that I hope to engage in this project and from individuals who volunteer to test the modules will help me refine the project and bring it closer into alignment with what might benefit my specific learning community.