Alternative Placement & Remediation Professional Learning Plan

Particularly with my new focus on a data-driven placement and remediation model in my innovation plan, a professional learning plan is a vital part of this project’s success. Previously, I gave a brief outline of a professional learning approach to include the 5 principles of effective professional development. Now, to flesh out that outline a bit, I have developed a modified 3-Column Table for the learning plan. In addition, I have developed the framework and initial content for a hybrid online/in-person professional learning course as part of the prior approach. I will continue to flesh out and revise the course content with more citations and relevant content. Contributors will also have the ability to add additional resources, so the course will continue to grow throughout its duration as well.

View the Course in Canvas

In addition to the mentoring program mentioned in the outline, I have also included modeling by including videos from a number of different colleges that have implemented these programs to provide another level of modeling.

I believe that this approach of encouraging employees to work collaboratively to help solve the problem of ineffective developmental education, combined with providing them with resources and access to data, will give them ownership of the process and allow them to make the most of this professional learning opportunity.

Professional Development Plan Outline

If my innovation plan to provide alternatives to the current model of developmental education at Sauk Valley Community College is to be successful, there will need to be effective professional development. As I looked at effecting organizational change, I narrowed my focus to reducing barriers and providing alternatives to traditional developmental education in the admissions and advising process. Since I am not a classroom teacher and my position at the college does not directly deal with instruction, I think this will be a more effective direction to take my innovation plan.

In developing a plan for professional development, then, I will again focus on the initial phase of this project, gathering additional relevant student data to identify trends we can use to determine what students may need additional intervention and what students are likely to be successful in regular courses with additional resources, lessening the burden of developmental education courses. This outline is the beginning of a professional development plan with the admissions and academic advising areas.

  1. Incorporate Gulamhussein’s 5 principles of effective professional development.
    1. Significant, ongoing duration – Training sessions would take place over the course of an academic year, beginning before the data collection project officially starts and continuing at least until after one full semester’s registration and advising cycle has been completed.
    2. Support during implementation – In addition to the training, prompts and reminders would help advisors and admissions representatives to know what they need to collect. Good user interface and database design will ease the workload and streamline the process. As aggregate data becomes available, it would be shared with employees so they can see the result of their efforts.
    3. Active initial exposure – Training sessions would not be just an instructor going through PowerPoint slides, but would contain hands-on exercises designed to simulate real-life experiences. Special attention would be paid to outlier situations to help employees think critically about what they should do in a given situation.
    4. Modeling – A mentoring program would be developed at SVCC, starting in the Student Services area to allow more experienced employees to help newer employees to understand procedures and practices.
    5. Content specific to area – The mentoring program will also allow colleagues to apply content specifically to their area. In addition, hands-on training sessions could be partially split up by area (academic advising, enrollment management, etc.) and partially mixed (to allow employees to see how their job contributes to the whole).
  2. Collaboration – Collaboration is vitally important, and it will be central to the mentoring program and in the hands-on training exercises. In addition, we should explore other means of communication such as forums, email listservs, group chats, and the like, to allow for more open sharing.
  3. Training leaders – Leadership would be shared among Student Services personnel (dealing with students, understanding the “why”), Institutional Research (why the data is important, how it contributes to student success), and Information Services (how to enter and share the data, information security).
  4. Audience – Primary audience will be academic advisors and enrollment management representatives, but should also include all student services personnel in some form.
  5. Instructional Design – I will develop the plan using backwards design and a 3 Column Table with a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” (BHAG).
  6. Timeline – To adequately prepare for upcoming registration periods, trainings would need to begin in the Fall 2018 for Spring 2019 registration. In addition to giving time for preparatory training, implementation for the spring semester makes for an easier implementation as spring registration is generally smaller than the summer/fall registration period.
  7. Resources – Will need Information Services to develop streamlined data entry screens, Institutional Research to develop data requirements, and Student Services leadership to make time for training sessions and provide guidance to employees.



More Effective Professional Development

Professional development (PD)is at somewhat of a transition point at SVCC, making this an ideal time to present an alternative vision of how PD can be done differently. The most effective beginning point to start this discussion would be a discussion at Leadership Council (which consists of administrators and the faculty leaders for different academic areas), so I put together a brief overview intended as an introduction to an open discussion time. This group tends to be pretty open and collaborative, so an introduction of the topic and a nudge in the right direction should be all that’s necessary to start a productive discussion. However, when presenting to different  groups, it may be helpful to have a more guided discussion.

In describing the “what is,” I thought it was important to describe it in a way that presented our currently available PD in a positive light and look at the opportunities for improving on what’s good rather than presenting the current state as a completely broken system.

Screen shot of editing video in Adobe Premiere ProTechnically speaking, I firmly believe in the adage that “less is more” with regard to presentation graphics, so I kept the presentation simple with some mild humor and photos at the beginning to engage the audience and then giving way to a more traditional slide deck. I developed the slide desk in Google Slides, wrote a manuscript to follow (I usually end up farther off-script when giving a presentation live but am more confident when I manuscript it first), recorded the screen capture using Snagit, and then did final edits in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.


Organizational Change Strategy

Few things are as daunting as organizational change, both for the change agent and the person being asked to change. The change agent can easily be overwhelmed by the immense task ahead of them, while everyone else tends to feel like to proverbial “old dog” being asked to learn new tricks. This is why it is so important for me to start with a common understanding of why, how, and what for my innovation plan. This common baseline will help to start everyone on the same page and establish a common goal for organizational change.

Building on that common understanding, then, I will have a basis to be able to explore how to motivate people to change using the Influencer model’s Six Sources of Influence. By addressing the structural, social, and personal spheres of motivation and ability, I will be more likely to meaningfully influence others in my organization to want to change. When we are personally motivated to change—that is, when we have ownership in the process—the project will be more successful.

Motivation alone, though, does not guarantee a project’s success. Perhaps more detrimental to the change process than lack of motivation is the project being choked out by the daily grind, or what the Four Disciplines of Execution calls the “whirlwind.” Having established a strategy to help motivate people, we must move on to execute that strategy through five stages of change—in spite of the whirlwind. This requires singular focus, commitment, and accountability.

Ultimately, though, the biggest impact I can have on an organization—whether I am the one in charge or whether I’m at the bottom or the organizational ladder—is going to be through the individual dealings I have with others. It’s also the area over which I have the most control. Enter the concepts of self-differentiated leadership and crucial conversations.

Much like in the Influencer model, Friedman’s concept of self-differentiated leadership understands the relationship between the social and personal spheres, but refuses to blur the line and descend into groupthink. One way of doing this is what Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler refer to as stating your path and asking for others to state theirs. They advise,

“So once you’ve shared your point of view—facts and stories alike—invite others to do the same. If your goal is to keep expanding the pool of meaning rather than to be right, to make the best decision rather than to get your way, then you’ll willingly listen to other views.” (p. 143)

Seeing myself as part of a larger whole, yet unique from it, also allows me to see others in the same way, which encourages the humility and respect necessary to successfully navigate these conversations. Treating others with this respect is a cornerstone of the Crucial Conversations methodology. Without this differentiation and respect, the techniques become mere manipulation.

Again, here, a common understanding of the “why” is important; Patterson, et. al. call it starting with heart. When change becomes confrontational, having established a common starting ground will allow us to come together for the already-agreed-upon common goal. Then, with that common goal established, we can work together to maintain a safe conversational environment where fear doesn’t dominate the exchange and both sides are able to openly yet respectfully share their ideas and concerns. Once agreement has been reached, then, we will be able to move to action together.

These very different, yet very similar, approaches to organizational change work together beautifully to minimize resistance to change and allow for maximum impact.


Using 4DX to Implement Change

While the Influencer  model–in particular the Six Sources of Influence (6SI)–deals with motivating and removing barriers to change, the Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) model deals with the mechanics of bringing about organizational change. The goal of 6SI is to help an individual want to change, to be personally motivated and enabled to change, and support that with social and structural forces. The 4DX model largely operates in the structural sphere and employs a more “top-down” approach. Both models are helpful and appropriate for different situations, though 6SI is more broad and can be used by anyone to help encourage change.

The two models do have a lot of similarities and overlap as well. While using different terms, both models
discuss the importance of a primary, measurable goal which can be influenced by smaller, measurable actions. While not identical, vital behaviors are very similar to the lead measures and the measurable result is similar to the lag measure. Both models emphasize the need for accountability and a small, focused number of goals. Both prioritize regular, quick feedback.

Having looked at an example of how to apply 6SI to my innovation plan, another example using the 4DX model would be useful. Following this model will lead us through the 5 stages of change. 

Getting Clear

Success in the 4DX–especially in the early days–depends largely on how clearly the objectives are developed and stated. Our Wildly Important Goal (WIG) will be to decrease the number of incoming students needing to take developmental education courses. However admirable that goal may be, it is very difficult to gauge progress or success toward that WIG. Stating the WIG in the “From X to Y by WHEN” format, then, will give us an actionable WIG and lag measure.

WIG: Reduce the percentage of incoming students taking developmental education courses from 50% to 45% by the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester.

Lag Measure: Percentage of incoming students taking developmental education courses to total incoming students.

A few lead measures that would have a direct effect on the lag measure are the following:

Lead Measures:

  • Recruit Sauk-bound students for the college prep courses.
  • Improve courses with more authentic learning experiences
  • Collect full data sets for incoming students to identify other, earlier methods of remediation

A dashboard interface would be developed in the College’s reporting platform to show the following:

  • a graph for the lag measure should show at least 3 years of past data so a trend can be observed (since data for the lag measure can only be collected once a semester),
  • a weekly graph showing the enrollment in the college prep courses,
  • a weekly graph showing the level of engagement in the courses (activities performed, interactions recorded, etc.),
  • a weekly graph showing the count of students enrolled with/without full data sets collected, and
  • a series of graphs showing the data collected from incoming students.


A task force comprised of admissions representatives, academic advising representatives, and instructors would be assembled to begin weekly WIG meetings. Kickoff meetings could be scheduled for the beginning of semester kickoff day or mid-semester workshop day, to demonstrate that this has support from the administration.


As adoption begins, care will need to be taken to celebrate achievements and keep on pace. Accountability is crucial, here, to avoid losing momentum and help to overcome resistance. Focusing on helping the “potentials” improve (instead of focusing on the “resisters,” which may be the tendency) will help keep spirits high and have more of an impact on the final goal.


Particularly with the course quality and engagement lead measure, it will be important to look at ways to improve as the project moves into the optimization phase. As the data is analyzed, too, the plans can be refined and changed.


With a project like this, it is hard to imagine ever getting to the point where the project is “complete”–there will always be room for improvement–but seeing higher success rates for students and a new normal where more incoming students aren’t blocked by developmental courses will pave the way for the next WIG.



Influence Plan

Update 2/11/2018: Replaced original concentric circles diagram with an updated, clearer version.

If my innovation plan is to be successful, it will need to be supported by a strategy to influence Sauk stakeholders to take part in the process. For this post, I am focusing on just one facet of the plan–collecting data as part of the advising process.

Currently, the developmental education process at Sauk is pretty cut and dried. Depending on their placement test scores, incoming students are placed in the appropriate course. Incorporating other methods of placement such as the college preparation course I am proposing, though, introduces complexity to the process and so it also increases the chance for error. In addition, judging the effectiveness of the process will depend on collecting and analyzing as much data as possible.

Following Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler’s model in Influencer  calls for finding a “vital behavior” to change and then applying six sources of influence. To achieve the result of having enough data to analyze the effectiveness of the plan, it is imperative that academic advisors collect as much relevant data as possible. While specific relevant measures still need to be defined, some examples of relevant data would include the following: high school GPA and specific course grades, ACT/SAT scores, at-risk markers, and participation indicators in college preparatory course (if applicable).

Therefore, for this influence plan, the vital behavior is to ensure that a complete data set is collected for at least 80% of incoming students. It is not reasonable to expect 100% collection as data may not be available for all students and some students may not be willing to provide all data points.

The Six Sources of Influence

The Six Sources of Influence arranged as concentric circles with Personal at the center.
The Six Sources of Influence arranged as concentric circles.

To be successful, I will need to engage all of the six sources of influence from Grenny, et al. While the matrix in Influencer is useful, I prefer to think of the model as concentric circles as it shows the difficulty of penetrating all the way to the Personal level as well as the relationship between the Structural, Social, and Personal levels.

Changes are easiest to make at the structural level, as they are what McChesney, Covey, and Huling call a “stroke-of-the-pen strategy” , a change that can just be made by saying it needs to be done. Structural changes will most directly affect the social level, which will in turn affect the individuals at the personal level.

Structural Motivation

Structural, or external, motivation could be accomplished by providing printed or digital materials (posters, computer wallpapers, etc.) that remind advisors to ask for all the information, not just the minimum necessary to get the student’s immediate needs taken care of.

In addition, some silly rewards such as “most math scores this month” or “collected 500 high school GPAs” could be given at monthly staff meetings. In addition to turning the data collection into a game, it will also help to encourage…

Social Motivation

…healthy peer pressure among advising staff. Between the healthy competition among advisors and the effect of seeing that other advisors are collecting the information, the social motivation will provide a powerful encouragement for advisors to remember to collect information.

Personal Motivation

Healthy peer pressure will help advisors to be personally motivated, but much more can and should be done to affect the personal motivation realm. One key way to do this will be to clearly contextualize the data by repeatedly discussing the overall goal of the project and sharing data as it becomes available. This will help advisors to see the results of their work and how it is helping to help students succeed.

Structural Ability

To help advisors’ ability to collect the necessary information, the most important structural accommodation will be to make sure the database and collection forms are user-friendly and easily accessible.

Social Ability

Good database design will also enable multiple advisors (and other personnel) to collect and enter information, decreasing the load on each individual advisor.

Personal Ability

Proper training, of course, is paramount to the success of any program like this. In addition to contextualizing the need for the data collection, training sessions can also equip advisors with clear descriptions of what data need to be collected and responses to common objections students may provide. A mnemonic device to help advisors remember the pieces of information that need to be collected could also be helpful.

I believe that, with these measures in place, 80% data collection is an achievable result and will contribute greatly to the success of the overall project.



In his TED Talk, “Start with Why — how great leaders inspire action,” Simon Sinek proposes a three-step process of Why, How, and What for communicating a product or idea. Here’s my application of Sinek’s model to my innovation plan.

  • Why: We believe that all students have the ability to learn and that we can help them succeed.
  • How: We can help students succeed by providing resources to self-remediate instead of blocking them with developmental classes.
  • What: We help students start college classes sooner so they can complete their program of study.

Starting with the shared belief that our college exists to help students learn and succeed draws on why teachers started teaching in the first place. They really want students to succeed and far more rewarding than the paycheck is the sense that they’ve been a part of changing someone’s life. Starting from there will make an emotional connection with my stakeholders; then, pointing to the fact that developmental education often blocks rather than helping the student succeed will help to create the sense of urgency Kotter refers to and which is so vitally important to creating change in the college.


Growth Mindset and Significant Learning Environments

It is difficult to believe that six months have elapsed since I first wrote about developing a growth mindset plan. Quite a bit has changed since then, but perhaps most notably has been the selection of my innovation plan. When I initially wrote about a growth mindset plan, I was anticipating that my innovation plan would involve working to implement a maker space, collaborative learning spaces, robotics clubs, or something similar. Indeed, I value all of those things and am working on projects in all of those areas. However, somewhere along the line something changed. In retrospect, I see that if I pursued that course of action, I would have been shortchanging myself by spending my whole time in this program in what Briceño calls the “performance zone” instead of engaging in authentic learning . Working toward arranging learning spaces is something that I have expertise and experience doing; it is a project I feel like I can do–a safe project, one where I know I can succeed. I am not sure it was entirely a conscious decision at the time, but the topic I chose is far from safe for me.

That decision has made my studies much more difficult and much more rewarding. It has also affected my approach to individual courses and assignments. For example, when working on the course design assignments, I was certainly tempted to just say that course design isn’t something I’m good at or something I do. Looking at it from a growth mindset perspective though, that is an opportunity and not a hindrance.

I have had opportunities to put growth mindset principles into practice in my department at work as well. Unfortunately, the public nature of this post forces me to omit details, but I have seen repeatedly that trusting employees and nudging them to tackle challenges rather than relying on others. As a result, those employees have performed amazingly well, surprising even themselves with how much they were capable of learning and accomplishing.

As I work toward addressing the developmental education challenge in my college, I will need to incorporate growth mindset principles to encourage learners to continue pursuing college. Many of these students will have had a fixed mindset drilled into them for years and may not believe they have the capability to learn these concepts, which is all too often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I see mindset as the doorway into learning; if the learner believes it is impossible to learn, a constructivist learning philosophy and a significant learning environment will not achieve the results they otherwise could. It is incumbent upon me as the educator, then, to model a growth mindset, seeking new challenges and looking for opportunities to reinforce growth mindset ideas on a regular basis. Changing a mindset takes time, so it is certainly not something that will happen without regular reinforcement and reminders.


Mathematical Order of Operation Course Design

In a discussion with a math professor at SVCC, he mentioned that one of the common concepts he sees students not understand is order of operations (Megill, 2017), so I thought I would use that as a subject to develop a course design.

Course Design Tool Comparison

Having worked with both Fink’s 3-column table and the UbD template, I can see why each would have a following and why both are useful in developing significant learning environments. The 3-column table is most useful in putting down broad, learner-centered goals and aligning activities with those goals. UbD, with its maddening level of detail and specificity, forces the designer to fill out those goals and activities and develop a much more well-rounded course.

I certainly prefer starting with the 3-column table. It’s much less rigid and allows me to get down the learning goals and connect them with activities and assessment. I generally prefer to move from goals to learning activities to assessment because I that helps me frame the activities around authentic learning rather than crafting them to suit the assessment. I would much rather adjust the assessment activities to fit learning activities than the reverse.

Once the broad goals are sketched out, disassembling the structure and rebuilding it in the UbD framework forces me to look at the activities and goals in a different way, helping me to find and fill holes in the course design. Honestly, I find it difficult to imagine going through the whole UbD process for every lesson, module, or even every course, but I can certainly see that at least thinking through the process will result in a better course design.

Updated 10/1/2017 to a new version of the 3-Column Table (prior version) and added the UbD template and course design tool comparison.