SAMR – Design Learning for Engagement, Part 3 – Professional Development

Note:  This post is Part 3 in a 3-part series about the SAMR Model as it relates to digital badge learning design.  Explore Part 1 and Part 2 to follow more of this conversation.



Teacher professional development aims to transform teaching practices, which ultimately, improves student achievement.  At the onset, this sounds simple; however, developing effective teacher professional development experiences is more challenging than meets the eye.  Reflecting on your own experiences as an educator, I bet much of your critical feedback would highlight current research on effective (or ineffective) teacher professional development. Not only this, but I am guessing with certainty that you can recall only a few really meaningful and impactful professional development experiences.  What made them so impactful?

In Allison Gulamhussein’s report, “Teaching the Teachers:  Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability,” from the Center for Public Education, she provides a succinct review and synthesis of what research tells us about effective teacher professional development. She highlights that in a recent study, 90% of teachers reported participating in some form of professional development, and they also reported that it was not helpful in their practice. Thus, professional development is happening, but it is not effective.  Further, the most often utilized model, the “one-and-done” teacher workshop, is also the least impactful.  Not only this, but professional development is often focused on obtaining new skills, rather than on implementing new practices.  It is interesting to note that any teacher development program less than 14 hours actually had no effect on student achievement.  And in fact, it takes 20 instances of practice to master a new skill and the number may increase as the practice increases in complexity.  Some studies report that teachers may need as much as 50 hours of instruction, practice and coaching combined in order to master a new teaching strategy in practice.


Personalized Professional Learning in a Digital Age from the Alliance for Excellent Education (57:40)
This conversation reflects current studies on teacher professional development and begins the conversation about how to move towards personalized, impactful experiences.


Researchers explain that the challenge in teacher professional development is not that educators are learning a new skill, but rather, implementing the skill in the classroom.  This is known as the “implementation dip.”  And in fact, teachers are more likely to abandon a new approach to instruction if they do not experience success when trying the new practice with students. Teachers are more likely to wrestle with new instructional approaches when they receive ongoing support and coaching as part of the implementation experience (Gulamhussein).

Research informs us that the following elements must be in place in order for effective teacher professional development to occur; and not so surprisingly, many of these same hallmarks support good student instruction:

  • Ongoing:  Allow extended time for teachers to experiment and wrestle with the new technique.  Job-embedded models of professional learning support this best practice.
  • Support: Provide opportunities for support during the implementation stage of acquiring the new approach.  This may the take the form of shadowing a colleague, observing another teacher’s class or collaborative planning time.
  • Learn by Doing:  Design learning around new concepts with active engagement in mind, appealing to a wide variety of learning styles and modes of thinking.  Immerse the teachers in the learning!
  • Modeling:  Demonstrate the new practice, give teachers opportunities to see it in action and build in time for experiementation.
  • Grounded in Teachers’ Discipline:  The concept presented should be framed within the teachers’ content area or grade level, adding relevancy and direct application to their practice (relevancy!).
  • Reflective:  Build in opportunities for reflections on practices, new learning and possible implications about the learning approach.
  • Collaborative:  Professional learning communities or communities of practice (CoP) enhance learning, relying on sharing, collective wisdom and dialogue about real-world examples, challenges and successes.  Research indicates that in general, CoPs have a positive impact on teaching practices and student achievement.  The social connection also removes the isolation barrier of the classroom that many teachers experience as professionals.


Adult Learning Theory — How do adults best learn?

As teachers, we spend a great deal of time thinking about our students in daily instructional design, considering their social and emotional developmental stages, learning styles; how to make the content and skills accessible; and how to engage each unique learner, both challenging them and helping them rely on their strengths.  When we plan professional development, we need to do the same for adult learners.  Let’s put “andragogy,” (the art and science of helping adults learn; coined in 1980 by Malcolm Knowles) at the center of our thinking when planning for meaningful professional development.

Key Attributes of Adult Learners:

  • Self-directed
  • Draw upon life experiences and background knowledge
  • Goal-oriented
  • Problem-centered and need to apply learning immediately
  • Internally motivated
  • Relevancy-oriented – “Just in time learning” appeals because it is related to current work and current professional roles


Digital Badge Learning:  Personalized Teacher Professional Development

In previous posts in this three part series, I reflected on the SAMR Model (Part 1), referring to substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition as cogs in the process of utilizing technology integration to transform how learning happens in an organic fashion, rather than a linear model.  I also illustrated how New Bloom’s may be considered a “learning hive,” where lifelong learners move in and out of active learning modes, applying, remembering, analyzing, creating, evaluating and understanding (Part 2).

Badge learning for teacher professional development complements the Digital Age instructional designer’s machine, by relying on elements that support best practices in teacher professional development:

Relevant – Badges transparently and comprehensively document skills, training, specialities, experiences and interests relevant to a teacher’s toolkit.  By designing badge learning experiences with input from teachers on their goals, interests and needs within their discipline and/or content areas, the learning is immediately applicable, job-embedded and relevant.  The badges are valued by the learner and tied to their learner identity.

Self-Directed – Badges amplify the opportunity for learners to make decisions about their own learning processes, pathways, goals, resources and outcomes.  Badge learning supports self-directed learning, which research tells us comprises 70% of adult learning.

Connected – The Digital Age affords us with anytime, anywhere opportunities to learn.  We can chat with colleagues and experts from around the globe and collaborate synchronously and asynchronously by co-creating dynamic multimedia and artifacts of learning.  When designed within a connected learning community, digital badge learning may serve as the “connector in connected learning,” harmonizing interest-driven, academically grounded and peer-supported learning within a vibrant community of practice dedicated to improving teacher practice and student achievement.  Not only this, but the badges’ value is accentuated by being connected to a learning community dedicated to improved teacher practice and student achievement.

TAMRITZ’s badge learning model for teacher professional development attempts to integrate all the elements from the “Badge Learning Designer’s Machine” (above infographic), with the goal of providing an impactful professional learning experience.  I would like to take the model one step further: Instead of offering pre-determined topics and pathways with multiple choices within the learning experiences, engage teachers in co-designing the learning pathways and badges in concert with the teachers participating in a connected learning community. This would be the ultimate in self-directed, relevant and connected learning for adult learners, where they could rely on their passions, pull from their rich life and professional experiences and at the same time, explore new horizons with the ongoing support of their peers and learning coaches.

How do you imagine impactful professional development with the affordances of the Digital Age?  How do you imagine digital badges supporting personalized professional development experiences at your school?


Teacher Professional Development Resources and References:

Standards for Professional Learning – from Learning Forward

Adult Learning Theories Fact Sheet – from Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy

Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability – from the Center for Public Education, by Allison Gulamhussein

A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning – from the School of Teaching and Learning, University of Florida

Teacher Development Research Review: Keys to Educator Success - from Edutopia

Job-Embedded Professional Development:  What it is, who is responsible, and how to get it done well – from Learning Forward

Badge Alliance Work Group: Badges for Educators and Professional Development

Badges:  A New Measure of Professional Development – from Campus Technology

SAMR – Design Learning for Engagement, Part 2

Note:  This is Part 2 in a 3-part series of posts about the SAMR Model.  The last post in the series will examine the SAMR Model as it relates to digital badge learning design and teacher professional development.  Access Part 1 here.

Part 2: Digital Badge Learning, the SAMR Model and New Bloom’s 




When I begin the badge learning design process, I draw upon a reference library that serves as a compass for ensuring that the learning is engaging and relevant for the students in mind.  I think about the TPACK model, New Bloom’s Taxonomy and the SAMR Model for technology integration and the principles of Connected Learning.  In addition to these models and frameworks, I keep ISTE’s Standards in mind, as well as my own sensibilities about what “good” teaching and learning looks and feels like, both from the learner and teachers’ perspectives.

The learning pathways I designed for TAMRITZ’s digital badge learning experiences are based on Quests.  Each Quest is broken down into more granular learning pathways, “discover,” “play” and “create.”  The learning pathways integrate a process approach to New Bloom’s — we may not always be at the highest level of cognition and we may move between each layer more naturally, like a learning hive, rather than a linear, “all or nothing” approach.  And ultimately, the badges at each milestone of the learning journey are designed to be a vibrant feedback loop.


Elements of a Badge Learning Feedback Loop:

  • Students receive feedback at each milestone in the learning journey, either from a teacher or a peer.
  • Students have opportunities to revisit and hone their work (as opposed to one and done)
  • Feedback supports students in pacing themselves and being self-directed learners.


TAMRITZ’s Digital Badge Learning Pathways:

I ask myself, does each Quest move students up Bloom’s Taxonomy and engage them in meaningful tasks and experiences?

Learning Pathways Active Learning




read, reflect uncover, absorb, peruse, browse, propose, plan, view, review, categorize, annotate, document, search, watch, record, jot down, explain

Play explore, experiment, prototype, demonstrate, try, test, orchestrate, tinker, model, draft, conduct, organize, lead, participate, volunteer, contribute, share
Create compose, craft, design, develop, sculpt, publish, record, tell, animate, synthesize, produce, paint, build, construct, evaluate, assess


Here is a short check-list for considering elements of New Bloom’s in your badge learning design and for engaged learning design in general:

  • Student-centered?
  • Student choice?
  • Student discovery?
  • Student-directed?
  • Student-generated content?
  • Learning by doing?
  • Opportunities to collaborate?
  • Opportunities to create unique artifacts of learning and publish globally?
  • Opportunities to communicate socially and with a variety of media?


As for the SAMR Model, like real learning, it is not a tidy linear model, but rather it is a messy, interconnected process.  We may not always integrate technology tools that reflect transformative learning — sometimes we need to jot down notes or recall some basic information to move on to the next path in our learning journeys.  We may weigh factors like time involved, learning goals and students’ interests.  Like the TPACK model, the design process occurs within a context, our learning communities and the students involved.

S – Substitution – tech serves as substitute for the “old way”

A – Augmentation – tech substitutes “old way” with a functional improvement

M – Modification – tech affords marked task redesign

R – Redefinition – tech affords new task creation, ways of learning, never before possible

I ask myself, where on the SAMR Model would I place the tasks in a given Quest? What tasks need to be altered in order to take the Quest to the transformation level, if appropriate within the context of the learning?

What are your thoughts?

SAMR – Design Learning for Engagement, Part 1


Part 1:  Gears of Transformation, Technology Integration:  SAMR Model Revised

Note:  This is Part 1 in a 3-part series of posts about the SAMR Model.  Future posts will examine the SAMR Model as it relates to digital badge learning design and teacher professional development.

SAMR-Gears of Transformation


The SAMR Model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D., offers us a ladder approach for thinking about how technology integration can enhance learning and transform how learning happens today.  As educators, it is up to us to think creatively about how technology tools can engage students in creating, problem solving, innovating, researching and connecting with the wider world.

I prefer to think about the road to transformative learning design as an interconnected proposition, where each cog in the machine moves us closer to lighting up connected learners.



Substitution:  tech serves as substitute for the “old way”

Augmentation:  tech substitutes “old way” with a functional improvement

Modification:  tech affords marked task redesign

Redefinition:  tech affords new task creation, ways of learning, never before possible


How do we begin to move from enhancement to transformation?

  • Tinker and play with a tool enough to understand its limitations, as well as what it does best.
  •   Rely on your professional learning networks to share ideas and support your experimentation.
  • Strive for global learning and project-based learning opportunities for your students.
  • Accept that you cannot possibly know every tool out there or be THE expert in the room on the tool(s) you plan on using, every single time.
  • Invoke the roles of coach, facilitator and guide.
  • Adopt a growth mindset for your own journey and your students’ journeys.
  • Consider your students as an integral part of the learning community. As contributors, they have wonderful input, knowledge and ideas.  Trust them in the process of trying new approaches and tools.


Learn More About SAMR

The SAMR Explained by Students (3:54) From Rich Colosi Media


SAMR Resources

Weblog from SAMR Model creator, Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.

SAMR App Wheel found on Edudemic

Resources to Support the SAMR Model from Kathy Schrock

Edutopia’s Technology SAMR Model for Administrators, Part 1:  Staff Presentations

Edutopia’s Technology SAMR Model for Administrators, Part 2:  Community Interaction


Access Part 2 in this blog series on the SAMR Model.