I recently designed a self-paced online professional development course for an elementary school based on the principles of microlearning. Microlearning is delivering new information to be learned in small ‘chunks’. After a discussion with the school’s administrative team, I learned that an in-person professional development session was not feasible. However, the leadership wanted this professional development for their faculty so we discussed other delivery formats and settled on the self-paced online model. The course was titled “Effective formative feedback and homework design strategies to improve student learning”. I wanted to make this 2-hour course accessible from phones (or laptops) so teachers could perhaps choose to learn a ‘chunk’ during their planning period or lunch break.
Microlearning is not a new concept
Herman Ebbinghaus in the mid-1880s was studying memory and discovered concepts like “learning curve” and “forgetting curve”. Ebbinghaus’ “forgetting curve” depicts that we can lose more than half of newly learned information within a month! When we learn large amounts of information, we only recall parts of it. However, when we learn smaller bits of information that we consider ‘important’, we remember it better. So microlearning can actually help us retain more because we only engage with small amounts of information and for a short duration.
I went into designing this professional development with two underlying theories: microlearning and the VAK learning model. I created text-based, audio and visual learning materials in Google Classroom that would require about 15-20 minutes of learner engagement. Teachers had to proceed through the ‘chunks’ in a predetermined order as some of the learning material built on one another.
As I was writing this blog post, this Edutopia article was published describing a school’s experimentation with delivering professional development using microlearning. The author describes how the year-long process resulted in great teacher participation and led to community building among the faculty.
Positive feedback from faculty
Faculty feedback showed that my microlearning self-paced online course was a success as teachers indicated that they enjoyed working through the smaller ‘chunks’ at their own pace.
Incorporating microlearning into a professional development journey could be a key to unlocking teacher motivation for continuous growth and success.