10 Training and Professional Development

Chapter 10 of the Dynamic Learning Maps® (DLM®) Alternate Assessment System 2015–2016 Technical Manual Update—Integrated Model (Dynamic Learning Maps Consortium, 2017a) describes the training that was offered in 2015–2016 for state and local education agency staff, the required test administrator training, and the optional professional development provided. This chapter presents the participation rates and evaluation results from the 2020–2021 use of the optional instructional professional development. This chapter also describes the updates made to the professional development system during 2020–2021.

For a complete description of training and professional development for DLM assessments, including a description of training for state and local education agency staff, along with descriptions of facilitated and self-directed training, see Chapter 10 of the 2014–2015 Technical Manual—Integrated Model (Dynamic Learning Maps Consortium, 2016a).

10.1 Instructional Professional Development

The DLM professional development system includes 51 modules that address instruction in English language arts and mathematics and support educators in creating Individual Education Programs that are aligned with the DLM Essential Elements. The modules are available in two formats, self-directed and facilitated, which are accessed at the DLM professional development website.

The self-directed modules were designed to meet the needs of all educators, especially those in rural and remote areas, offering educators just-in-time, on-demand training. The self-directed modules are available online via an open-access, interactive portal that combines videos, text, student work samples, and online learning activities to engage educators with a range of content, strategies, and supports. It also gives educators the opportunity to reflect on and apply what they are learning. Each module ends with a post-test, and educators who achieve a score of 80% or higher on the posttest receive a certificate via email.

The facilitated modules are intended to be used with groups. This version of the modules was designed to meet the need for face-to-face training without requiring a train-the-trainers approach. Instead of requiring trainers to be subject-matter experts in content related to academic instruction and about the population of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the facilitated training is delivered via video recorded by subject-matter experts. Facilitators are provided with an agenda, a detailed guide, handouts, and other supports required to enable a meaningful, face-to-face training. By definition, they are facilitating training developed and provided by members of the DLM professional development team.

To support state and local education agencies in providing continuing education credits to educators who complete the modules, each module also includes a time-ordered agenda, learning objectives, and biographical information about the faculty who developed and delivered the training.

During the 2020–2021 year, the professional development team at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and the implementation team at ATLAS continued their work together updating several professional development modules to ensure they reflect the most recent implementation of the DLM alternate assessments. The group updated seven modules: (1) DLM Essential Elements, (2) Who Are Students With Significant Cognitive Disabilities (3) IEPs Linked to the DLM Essential Elements, (4) DLM Claims and Conceptual Areas, (5) Overview of College and Career Ready Standards, (6) Effective Instruction in Mathematics, and (7) Principles of Effective Instruction in ELA. The professional development team at UNC Chapel Hill also packaged professional development modules into topically related 5- and 10-hour units to support schools and school systems in offering coherent professional development programs for their teachers who work with students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and participate in the DLM alternate assessments in English language arts and mathematics. There are five different packages posted at the professional development packages section of the DLM professional development website.

10.1.1 Professional Development Participation and Evaluation

As reported in Table 10.1, a total of 3,094 modules were completed in the self-directed format from September 1, 2020, to August 31, 2021. Since the first module was launched in the fall of 2012, a total of 134,616 modules have been completed.

Table 10.1: Number of Self-Directed Modules Completed in 2020–2021 by Educators in DLM States (N = 3,094)
State Self-directed modules completed
Colorado 1,384
Kansas    368
Maryland    326
North Dakota    210
Iowa    204
Missouri    193
Delaware    187
Arkansas    109
Illinois    107
Alaska        6

To evaluate educator perceptions of the utility and applicability of the modules, DLM staff asked educators to respond to a series of evaluation questions on completion of each self-directed module. Three questions asked about importance of content, whether new concepts were presented, and the utility of the module. Educators responded using a 4-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. A fourth question asked whether educators planned to use what they learned, with the same response options. During the 2020–2021 year, educators completed the evaluation questions 81% of the time. The responses were consistently positive, as illustrated in Table 10.2. Across all modules, approximately 78% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with each statement.

Table 10.2: Response Rates and Rate of Agree or Strongly Agree on 2020–2021 Self-Directed Module Evaluation Questions

In addition to the modules, the DLM instructional professional development system has a variety of other resources and supports. These include DLM Essential Element unpacking documents; extended descriptions of the Initial Precursor and Distal Precursor linkage levels and how they relate to grade-level Essential Elements; links to dozens of texts that are at an appropriate level of complexity for students who take DLM assessments and are linked to the texts that are listed in Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards; vignettes that illustrate shared reading with students with the most complex needs across the grade levels; supports for augmentative and alternative communication for students who do not have a comprehensive, symbolic communication system; alternate pencils for educators to download and use with students who cannot use a standard pen, pencil, or computer keyboard; and links to Pinterest boards and other online supports.

10.2 Conclusion

During 2020–2021, the professional development team at UNC Chapel Hill and the professional learning team at ATLAS updated seven professional development modules and packaged modules into units. Educators provided consistently positive feedback regarding the importance and relevance of the professional development modules.