Vermont Higher Education Collaborative Logo

Collaborating with experts to support schools and deliver professional development, ensuring the success of all students.

VT-HEC WORKshops Focus on Application

VT-HEC WORKshops Coming in 2014-2015

Research on professional development producing actual change in schools and classrooms has not always been great. To better ensure the practical application of the knowledge and skills presented in our offerings to the work settings of the participants, the VT-HEC is designing a special series of professional learning opportunities that will focus on application of the content topic in the classroom or school. These sessions will be designated as WORKshops.

Some professional learning sessions are designed to be speaker-centered and planned to provide a general conceptual framework of the topic being presented. Some are meant to create the motivation to learn more; others are planned to communicate factual content such as changes in regulations, procedures or laws. While these types of speaker-centered presentations are useful, they rarely result in a change of behavior at the school or classroom level.  To get that kind of change, learning opportunities need to be designed and delivered based on principles from the research on the brain and learning and effective professional learning.  For example:

  1. We know from neuroscience that “the one that is doing the work is doing the learning”. In our new WORKshop series the instructor will be designing the day so that over half of each session will be devoted to participants working to apply the content to their own situation and needs.
  2. We know that the best learning happens when the new learning concepts and skills are made clear and models and examples are given that meet the performance criteria. After presenting clearly-defined key concepts and the research behind them, multiple real-life models will be shared both during and after our WORKshops.
  3. We know that learning happens where there is a safe environment when the learners are engaged and able to focus on their own needs. Our WORKshops will include ways to help the participant assess their levels of knowledge and skill, set their own goals for learning, measure their progress and focus on their own real-world application.
  4. We know that learning requires opportunities to practice and receive positive feedback. Each WORKshop session will give participants the opportunity to practice applying the content, receive coaching from experts in the room and receive feedback from our experts and/or fellow participants.
  5. We know that learning that results in changes in schools and classrooms is best done in a collaborative context. Our WORKshops and the courses that are connected to them will emphasize working with your team and /or planning and applying the new skill or knowledge through a collaborative implementation system in your school.
  6. Lastly, we know that the best learning includes a focus on improving learning skills and producing new knowledge. VT-HEC WORKshops will support participants in building their capacity for learning and application by modeling the use of technology, collaboration and teaching/learning strategies as well as being transparent in sharing the design of the day and strategies being used.  In addition, ways to share the new work that is developed by participants will be included.


It needs to be emphasized that for changes to be take root and be maintained in a school and classroom these same principles need to be applied in the workplace in a consistent, coherent and coordinated manner. Collaborative systems for implementation and the resources and supports needed by staff must be available or planned for.

The VT-HEC has programs that can assist schools in this work, providing embedded coaching, consultation and other learning opportunities tailored to the needs of the school and consistent with these principles. VT-HEC programs such as TASS (Teaching All Secondary Students) and ASAP (Approaching the Solution to the Autism Puzzle) can provide such supports to ensure the most effective use of resources.  VT-HEC can also support schools in other areas such as leadership, planning, education technology and special education\MTSS systems.

VT-HEC is working hard to deliver professional learning opportunities that best match the goal of the participant or school and to put into practice what we know about effective learning for adults. The VT-HEC has always worked to apply the principles gleaned from research to the design and delivery of its offerings.  In fact, the VT-HEC has published its Expectations for Professional Learning as a guide and commitment to that goal.

 Watch for VT-HEC WORKshops coming in 2014-2015.

Dennis has been the Director of the the VT-HEC since it was founded in 2000. He spent 16 years at the VT-DOE as Director of teams with various names that included: special education, Title I, health and wellness and other family and education support services. Prior to that Dennis worked at the Barre Town School (VT) starting as a special educator and serving many years as the Director of Student Support Services. He also spent 6 years as a classroom teacher grades 5-8 in NJ.

Leave a Reply