Q: What are the benefits of an online approach to professional learning?

A: Online courses offer teachers opportunities to engage with colleagues and learn new strategies when they have time, according to their own weekly schedule. This course is highly interactive, offering each individual an opportunity to participate fully, which face-to-face sessions can sometimes limit. For a team of teachers whose schedules make it difficult for them to meet in person, online learning offers a unique opportunity to interact and learn from each other.

Q: What are the benefits of the collaborative, team-based design of this course?

A: The team-based design of the course allows teachers to share with colleagues, think about how strategies would work with their students, try things out in their classroom, and reflect on their practice. Teachers who are taking the course together (for example, as part of a Professional Learning Community, or PLC) can apply their learning in a collaborative setting. Teachers who work in small schools (where they may be the only teacher in their grade or subject area) have the opportunity to work with teachers online who are also working in their grade and/or subject area.

Q: How do you know your approach works?

A: Research shows that in demanding, highly skilled professions like teaching, professional learning takes time. This online course represents a commitment of approximately 40 hours, over a five-month time period, which gives teachers an opportunity for deep learning and real understanding of the course content.

Collaboration and support among colleagues is also key to professional growth: when teachers learn together, they are able to share insights, work through common challenges, and encourage each other. Additionally, research indicates that teacher learning is most effective when it is directly connected to a teacher’s day-to-day work, which is why this course allows teachers to apply their online learning to what’s happening each day in their classrooms.

Q: What do I receive when the course is complete?

A: At the end of each course, participants who complete all major assignments will receive a Certificate of Completion from WestEd stating the number of hours for the course which could be used toward certificate renewal hours.

Q: Can I earn continuing education credits?

A: We have partnered with Grand Canyon University to offer participants an option to earn three-units of graduate credits for use with certification renewal and endorsements; tuition is $100/credit. Enrollment details and course/credit requirements will be available at start of course. Professional development hours can apply to certificate renewal in all partnering states.


Q: Can I join with a group of my colleagues? What if I don’t know any other teachers who want to join?

A: Yes, groups of teachers can join as a team in order to collaborate throughout the course. Teams are made up of 6 – 8 teachers, so if you join by yourself (or with just a few other teachers), you will become part of a larger team. In addition to your primary working group, you’ll also have a chance to create or join other groups for sharing or networking. For example, you might join a secondary group of teachers who teach at your grade level, in your content area, or in your district.

Q: As a working teacher, my time is limited. How can I fit this course into my week?

A: Adding one more thing to an already-full plate can seem overwhelming, so it’s important to remember that the work you’ll be doing in this course will be integrated into what you do everyday in your classroom. Yes, the course requires an additional time commitment, but it’s time well spent. Your online learning will enrich – not detract from – the planning and preparation you’re already doing. Most importantly, classroom practice that is grounded in formative assessment is precisely the support your students need to achieve the deep learning called for in the College and Career Ready Standards.

Q: What’s the best way to schedule my online learning?

A: Plan ahead for when you will log on to the course: 3 – 4 times a week is a good rule of thumb. Log on to discussions early in the week and plan to return to them at least once later in the week. Those who post early and check in regularly tend to get the most out of discussions. Coursework is more than just checking your email. Think of it as time you devote to doing homework, and make it a part of your routine for the duration of the course.

Q: In addition to regular discussions, what should I expect in terms of assignments?

A: Major assignments can include implementing a lesson plan, trying out a new strategy, conducting a peer observation or providing peer feedback. The calendar on the course home page will give you an overview of major assignments so that you can keep track of weeks that may require extra planning or time commitment.

Administrator Questions

Q: How can I support teachers who are considering the course?

A: Encourage teachers to consider this course in their professional growth plans. Teams of teachers can sign up together, and the course can be used to create or support a PLC (Professional Learning Community). The course can also provide an opportunity for professional learning aligned to the district or school’s educator evaluation and support process.

Q: How can I support teachers who are enrolled in the course?

A: Once you know a teacher from your school has signed up for the course, you can informally ask about how the course is going. Talk with the teacher about what seems interesting or important, or discuss how ideas from the course may be shared with other staff. Recognizing the learning and time commitment of participating teachers (during the course and after it has been completed) is important. This might be reflected, for example, as you plan teachers’ schedules or responsibilities. Acknowledging and celebrating teacher effort is a good way to further the impact of the course.

Q: How can I make sure our standards or curriculum are compatible with Formative Assessment Insights?

A: Essentially, Formative Assessment Insights is about good classroom practice. Not only does the course orient teachers’ thinking (about lesson goals, evidence of student learning, purposive instructional moves, and effective feedback), it also gives them concrete strategies to make teaching more responsive and learning more meaningful. All educators, regardless of the standards or curriculum they use, can implement and benefit from the content of the course.

Technical Questions

Q: How will I know if my computer and browser will work for this course?

A. You will complete an introduction to the course technology, which will ensure that your computer set-up is compatible. The course platform we use is called Canvas. To learn more about the technology requirements, visit: Which browsers does Canvas support?

Q: I’ve never taken an online course. What do I need to know how to do?

A: Our participants have found the course interface intuitive and easy to navigate. The primary technology tasks are viewing media, participating in online discussions, downloading documents, and uploading your work. Our course platform, Canvas, offers a terrific “Help” site that allows you to search user guides, and there’s a “Report a Problem” feature if you run into any trouble. You need to have an email address.