What are you reading for professional development?


I'd like to start this thread where we can share resources that we find useful in our own professional development growth. I'll start with a blog from the Ed Tech Center at World Education. The blog, Tech Tips, covers topics related to technology use in adult education in the United States. Posts include simple lesson ideas that teachers can use to integrate technology into instruction, updates on what’s happening in the field, new opportunities and resources, and news from our EdTech Center projects.

Their global perspective provides great insight to how technology can be utilized across cultures to lead to equity and inclusion. I hope you enjoy the articles. 

What are you reading for PD? I'd love to add to my growing list of resources. 

Kathy Tracey


Hi Kathy,

Thanks for posting this important question.  I have been reading articles on cognitive load theory (CLT), which offers an important balance to the emphasis on metacognition and discovery-based learning, which are pervasive in current discussions on principles and theories of adult learning.  The literature on CLT is quite extensive, and John Sweller is one of its main proponents. Briefly, the concern of CLT proponents is the problem of how to assist students in grappling with the problem of informational overload, particularly when there is a wide gap between the learning challenges of a given learning situation and current knowledge base of a given student. In that situation, discovery-based learning needs to be supplemented with a more guided approach to learning that students can follow in a more step-by-step fashion.  While not rejecting constructivist modes of learning, CLT researchers draw more on the literature of cognitive science in emphasizing informational processing and memory retrieval.  Ideally, the two modes of learning work in tandem, but sometimes it is more important to emphasize structured-based approaches to learning.  The CLT researchers draw that out on both in theoretical and practical ways of thinking.

For a brief overview, check out the mindtools article on the topic https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/cognitive-load-theory.htm

George Demetrion



Thanks for the question, Kathy, and sorry for not getting back to you sooner.  My available times for writing are a lot more constrained these days than at former times in my career. Let me work into this question. 

The overarching assumption of cognitive load theory (CLT) is that in certain contexts, a structured rather than a discovery approach best facilitates learning, though ideally, these modes of learning work in tandem rather than representing polarized philosophies of learning and instructional design.  Broadly speaking, a discovery mode of learning is rooted in constructivist theories of learning supported by the underlying metaphor of "meaning making" whereas a well thought out structured approach is rooted in cognitive learning theories supported by the underlying metaphor of "informational processing. Here, too, I do not want to draw too sharp of a contrast between these two learning theories as there is a great deal of work that focuses on the various ways in which they are blended, even as, often, one or the other of the two metaphors has priority in a given research project.

To keep the focus on CLT, in highlighting the importance advocates place on informational storage and retrieval as foundational to learning, the development of "schemas" (which allow information to be chunked in recognizable patterns or structures) is key to moving information from the short term to long term memory-- which is so essential to internalization. Such work is facilitated by "work examples," which are highly structured "maps" which lay out a step-by-step learning process, ideally set within the frame of reference that the learner can work with.  The Worked-Example Effect Wikipedia page provides a succinct overview (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worked-example_effect).

A Google Map is a type of worked example, which I extensively relied on when I moved to San Diego.  For my first year in the city I relied on the step-by driving instructions a great deal which provided me the security I needed to explore the city.  At that point, I felt unequipped to take on a more "discovery" approach of learning my ways around the San Diego roadway.  As I became more knowledgeable--as I shifted in my knowledge from a novice to an intermediary learner, I was gradually able to scaffold in some of the instructions provided by the Google Map, which provided me with some of internalized resources I needed to discover areas of the city on my own.  As I became increasingly knowledgeable, I could be even more adventurous, even enjoying being temporarily lost on the road, depending on nothing else than my automobile compass and my expanded sense of how the city was laid out.  I could give another example of how I went from worked examples to a more internalized grasp of understanding complex math problems that I was called upon to teach, but the process is the same, as it would also be for the ABE classroom.

In short, CLT is grounded in cognitive learning theory and instructional design.  It draws heavily on the metaphor of the mind as a computer with its corresponding definition of learning as informational processing. It is drawn upon as a resource in an understanding of the "novice-to-expert" continuum and focuses on providing effective resources at the more novice levels of learning.  It draws out the importance of schema formation in the process of moving information from the short-term and working memory to the long-term memory where the more thorough internalization takes place.  CLT researchers often acknowledge the importance of discovery modes of learning at the higher levels and views scaffolding as an essential pedagogical strategy in helping learners gradually internalize knowledge. 

While there are "radical" proponents in both the constructivist and cognitive camps, many researchers and practitioners (myself included) see the value in blending various learning theories and instructional designs, in which the mix is worked out based on the particular learning context (according to learner ability and learner task).

Given the emphasis on constructivist, discovery, and meaning making approaches to learning, CLT research adds an important complement that is not much formally addressed in the adult education research even as its methodologies are widely adapted, informally, in the ABE classroom. The CLT research provides a source of academic legitimacy to such approaches as well as some specific guidelines that the practitioner can appropriate. 

Again, I do not support a great divide between, say, between metacognition and CLT-based learning. even as one approach or the other may prevail at any given time.  Rather, I maintain that over the long-haul, they have the potential of working well together, so that when they are mutually considered in any given context can greatly enrich our ABE classrooms.  Further, I think there is generally space in every classroom setting, though the manner of how that is worked out is a most critical one, in which careful scaffolding plays a pivotal role.

For a nice overview of cognitive learning theory see  Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design: Recent Developments Fred Paas,Alexander Renkl &John Sweller. Just do an Internet search of the title to access a pdf form of the document.


Wow, what a fascinating conversation. I am looking forward to doing more research on cognitve load theory. I think you've blended the divide between CLT and constructivism very well, and I agree that blending sound theories to delivery quality instruction is an exceptional approach. 

The idea that individuals need step by step instruction, as well as detailed directions and resources that support the learning process should be considered an integral component of the instructional design process. Only when the students have the foundational knowledge and experience to a subject area, can they build on that to begin project-based learning.

This is fascinating!

Thansk for sharing.

Kathy . 

Hi Kathy - For my PD growth this month, I'm reading a book called Telling Ain't Training by Stolovitch and Keeps, ASTD Press, 2nd ed. It's a very practical, conversational guide to developing effective and efficient training - full of useful research-based strategies. The book has been around a while, but it's new to me, and I'm finding it engaging and challenging. I recommend it to PD providers. 

Looking forward to hear what others are reading! 

Hi Anita, 

I haven't read that yet. Do you have any highights or tidbits that resounded with you? I think the title says it all, professional development is so much more than disseminating information.

Thanks for sharing. 
Kathy Tracey