The materials in this section are from the following
Effective Inservice: Ask Dr.
Moursund, D.G. (1989). Effective Inservice for
Integrating Computer-As-Tool Into the Curriculum. Eugene,
This book focuses on Computer Integrated Instruction
(CII)--the full integration of information technology (IT)
into the regular classroom. While much of the book is out of
date, most of the ideas presented in Chapter 2.3 have stood
the test of time.
Questions and Answers: Ask Dr. Dave
This chapter contains a number of questions that are
frequently raised by computer-integrated instruction
inservice providers. For each question I give a discussion
of the underlying ideas and an analysis designed to help you
formulate an answer appropriate to your inservice situation.
You should be aware that there is a substantial difference
between the "theoretical best" way to design and present an
inservice, and the reality of what most inservice providers
face. Generally speaking, an actual inservice in a carefully
orchestrated collection of compromises. As with all
teaching, you take advantage of your strengths and you do
your best under the circumstances.
Q1. What are your major goals when you organize and run
I always hold three goals in mind.
- (For Myself) I expect to learn, to grow, and to have
fun from the workshop.
- (For Participants) I expect participants will learn
and grow from the experience of being in the workshop.
They will be facilitated in making changes to their
knowledge, attitudes, and skills that are relevant to
improving their teaching.
- (For Students) I expect that our educational system
will be better, and that students will get a better
education, as a consequence of my organizing and
facilitating a workshop. That is, I expect that
participants will make changes in what they teach and how
they teach it.
Notice that I have considerable control over the first
goal, less control over the second goal, and even less
control over the third goal. With this set of goals, there
is always room for improvement.
Q2. In your opinion, what is the most effective type of
I like to think of two general categories of inservice.
First, there is the traditional large group inservice. Here
a group of teachers come together in a class-like setting,
and they receive instruction from an inservice facilitator.
This can be successful if it is carefully done and if
adequate follow-up support is available. There is a
substantial body of research literature on how to design and
conduct an effective large group inservice.
A second approach, which I believe is far more effective
on average, is one-on-one inservice conducted in the
participant's school--indeed, in his or her classroom. Most
often in this case the inservice facilitator is a fellow
teacher within the school building or school district. The
overall activity may consist of the following sequence of
- A teacher approaches the inservice facilitator and
indicates a desire to learn.
- The teacher and inservice facilitator discuss the
general area of desirable knowledge, attitude, and
skills, that might be expected as an outcome of working
in this area, why it is important, how long it might
take, what each might contribute to the process,
- The inservice facilitator models the desired
behavior, either in the teacher's classroom or with some
other set of students. The teacher participates as a
- The teacher spends time learning the skills through
study and practice, and receives the needed help from the
- The teacher practices the desired behavior in his or
her classroom, with the inservice facilitator serving as
an assistant and as a source of feedback.
- The teacher spends additional time studying the new
material and lesson plans provided by the inservice
facilitator, and may work on modifying these lesson
plans. Help is available as needed from the inservice
- The teacher tries out the new lessons in his or her
- Additional help is available from the inservice
facilitator as needed.
At first glance, this approach to inservice education
appears to be much more expensive than the large group,
traditional approach. However, it is much more likely to
produce the desired change in a teacher. Moreover, it is
possible to organize a school's faculty so that this type of
inservice is commonplace and may have very little cost. The
idea is that every teacher in a school building should have
some inservice responsibilities. That is, every teacher
should have one or more areas of inservice expertise. As
part of their professional responsibility, they are to
remain current in their inservice specialty areas and to
provide one-on-one inservice to their fellow teachers.
School and district inservice funds are provided to help
each individual teacher develop and maintain their areas of
Some schools use this approach to inservice. It builds a
high level of professionalism and collegiality. However,
this approach to inservice is by far the exception, rather
than the rule. Thus, the remainder of this chapter focuses
on traditional, large group inservice.
Q3. What are some of the major failings in traditional
large group inservice for integrating computer as a tool
into the curriculum?
There are many flaws in the design of most such
inservices. Her are a few of them:
- The inservice is not based on an adequate needs
assessment, with the needs assessment firmly rooted in
long-range planning for computer use in schools.
- Often a "one shot" approach is used, or there is only
a very limited amount of inservice available. Research
suggests that one shot inservices are rarely effective.
Change literature suggests that educational change takes
a long time and substantial effort. Generally it takes a
great deal more inservice than is provided, and it needs
to be spread out over a period of years.
- Most CII inservice does not provide adequate
- Most CII inservice focuses almost entirely on helping
teachers learn to use the particular computer tool under
consideration. Little or no time is provided to study
needed changes in the curriculum, learn to deal with new
classroom organization and management situations, develop
and critique lesson plans, etc.
- Most CII inservices focus on single individuals (one
person per school, or one per school district) rather
than concentrating attention on a critical mass of
teachers in a single school. It is essential to define
the educational unit of change (large department, a grade
level, a school) and have a critical mass of inservice
participants from that unit.
- Most CII inservice does not have realistic
expectations for desired outcomes. For example, an
elementary school teacher is taught how to do process
writing in a word processing environment. But there are
only four computers in that teacher's school. Or, a
secondary school math teacher is taught how to use a
spreadsheet to present a variety of math topics and solve
a variety of problems. But the computer lab in the
teacher's school is at the other end of the building and
is heavily scheduled for computer programming and
computer literacy classes. Also, the school's mathematics
instructional focus is dominated by the state mandated
standardized tests, and computers cannot be used on these
- The nature and extent of the handout material is
inadequate. The actual inservice time is quite short.
Handout materials should be designed to help make maximum
use of that time. Inservice participants are expected to
carry what they are learning back to their own
classrooms. Thus, sample lesson plans are important.
Inservice participants are expected to continue to learn
on their own after the inservice ends. The handout
materials should facilitate further, independent
- There is little or no direct support from the school
administration or school district administration.
(Research strongly supports the contention that little
classroom change is apt to occur without such explicit
This list could easily be extended. The major point is
that there is a lot of room for improvement. We should not
be surprised by the fact that previous CII inservice has not
been particularly effective in producing change in our
Q4. In light of the previous question and answers, might
we be better off if we just quite offering computer
inservices? Perhaps they are doing more harm than good.
Perhaps the CII inservice effort would better be spent
addressing some other school issue.
This is a hard question to respond to. I suspect every
computer inservice facilitator can point to both successes
and failures. Sometimes a failure has long term
consequence--a teacher is turned off from computers for many
Moreover, many of the successes may be the early
adopters--the small percentage of teachers who are very
quick to learn new ideas and to integrate their use into the
classroom. Thus, there is some basis for asking whether we
should discontinue the major push on CII inservice.
However, I feel this would be a major mistake. The key
issue is that the computer as a tool is of growing
importance in our society, and for educated people who make
use of their education. Computers are at the heart of the
technological change that is driving our society. Our
schools have just barely scratched the surface of the
educational problem of tool uses of computers. All of the
inservice that has been done so far is a tiny percentage of
what needs to be done. We know how to do effective CII
inservice. There are many teachers who are qualified to be
effective CII inservice providers. I am confident that
carefully designed and appropriately facilitated CII
inservices will do far more good than harm, and they will
help to improve our educational system.
Q5. How can I get to be an inservice provider?
Here are three answers. I am sure that you can think of
- Find someone who is a very good inservice provider
who does the types of inservices you want to learn to do.
Participate in that person's workshop. Then participate a
second time, but as a volunteer assistant. (You may need
to participate still a third time, as an assistant who is
taking on a substantial amount of the responsibility of
facilitating the inservice.) Then you are ready to try it
on your own.
- Take a course on how to organize and run an effective
inservice. As part of the homework for that course,
organize and run a short inservice under the supervision
of course participants and the course instructor.
- Get yourself put into a position where you are
committed to doing an inservice. For example, when you
see that teachers in your school or district would
benefit from an inservice covering topics that you know
quite well, volunteer to organize and facilitate such an
inservice. (Typically you should not expect to be paid
for this work. The first couple of times you do an
inservice you will probably learn more than the
Q6. How much time should I expect to spend to prepare
for an inservice presentation?
I assume that you are highly knowledgeable and
experienced in the topic area of the inservice. How much
time it takes to be adequately prepared varies substantially
with the nature of the content to be presented, the nature
and quantity of handouts, and so on. Roughly speaking, you
should plan on spending 10-20 hours preparing for each hour
of inservice the first time you do a particular inservice.
The second time you do the same inservice plan on spending
about 5-10 hours of preparation time for each hour of
inservice. Subsequent presentations of the same inservice
may require 2-4 hours of preparation for each hour of
Of course, there are some professionals who do the same
inservice over and over again. Indeed, some make a living
from offering a small repertoire of inservices. The
preparation time in this case gradually decreases. Even
here, however, it is highly desirable to spend a reasonable
amount of time examining new ideas, new materials, and ways
to improve the inservice.
Q7. What are necessary or desirable qualifications to be
a good computer-integrated instruction (CII) inservice
This question is too broad to give a really good answer.
However, a good answer would address several major
- Teaching and inservice facilitation skills. The
inservice facilitator should be a good teacher and should
be especially skilled in working with his or her peers.
"People" skills, good interpersonal skills, are
essential. For CII inservice, a good balance between
"high-tech" and "high-touch" characteristics is highly
- Knowledge of the inservice topic. The inservice
facilitator should be highly knowledgeable and
experienced in the topic of the inservice. A broad based
background, much broader than just the topic to be
covered, is highly desirable.
- Leadership for educational change. The inservice
facilitator should be an experienced educator and an
educational leader with a vision of how CII will lead to
better and more appropriate education for students.
Q8. What is an appropriate balance between hands-on and
off machine activities in a CII inservice?
Any inservice should be designed to accomplish specific
educational objectives. If the goal is to change the
classroom teaching behavior of the participants, then the
inservice should be carefully designed to help participants
learn the behavior that is expected of them and to practice
the desired behavior.
For a CII inservice, the underlying goal is for
participants to return to their classrooms and integrate
tool uses of computers. This requires a change in course
content and philosophy, as well as having students actually
learn to use computers. Surveys of CII inservice
participants suggest that they most prefer that
approximately 2/3 to 3/4 of an inservice be spent in a
hands-on mode. However, chances are that this is far too
much time to spend in that mode. It leaves too little time
for working on the changes in course content and underlying
philosophy that are essential parts of the desirable
Remember, a good inservice session includes most or all
of the following:
- An overview presentation of the general topic and
- Demonstration of desired performance.
- Participants learn to use the materials and practice
- Participants discuss potential applications in their
classrooms, how the CII tool being studied fits in with
their curriculum, and how it leads to changes of their
- Participants practice working with materials that the
will use as they implement their new knowledge and skills
in the classroom.
- (Of course, a good inservice also has follow-up
activities, but that is not pertinent to this particular
A careful analysis of the above considerations suggests
that there will often be a conflict between the desires of
participants and the best judgment of the facilitator. The
inservice facilitator should be aware that the actually
inservice meeting time is quite limited and should strongly
encourage participants to do some of the needed computer
practice on their own, outside of the formal inservice
meetings times. However, the inservice facilitator should
also be aware that teachers are very busy and many have
difficulty finding the necessary time to practice what is
being covered in the inservice.
Q9. How important is it that inservice participants
develop collegiality and a peer support system?
Collegiality and peer support are very important.
Research suggests that inservice is more effective if it
focuses on a specific educational unit such as a large
department, a school, or a school district as a unit of
change. Once a unit of change has been determined, it is
very important to get the educators in that unit to work
together to accomplish the change.
We also know that teachers very much like to observe
other teachers performing the desired behavior with students
in their regular classrooms (visit other teachers'
classrooms, or have other teachers come to their classroom
and demonstrate). This is facilitated by having a number of
teachers from a school be involved in an inservice.
Q10. I notice that you emphasize discovery-based methods
of instruction in your workshops. Why, and how does this
relate to effective CII inservice?
The computer is a very powerful aid to problem solving.
Problem solving is a higher-order skill, one that involves
careful thinking, persistence, taking the initiative, being
independent, etc. These are all characteristics that are
fostered through discovery-based learning. In my inservice
facilitation, I attempt to model the behavior that I want
inservice participants to learn.
The CII inservice facilitator is a key educational change
agent. Many of the changes that would make education better
are not centered around computers. Discovery-based learning
provides a good example. Whether or not computers are
available to students, discovery-based learning is very
important. The CII facilitator then has the opportunity to
simultaneously focus on two key topics--discovery-based
learning and computer tools.
This illustrates why it is important that the CII
facilitator be an experienced and highly knowledgeable
educator. The CII inservice is a vehicle for simultaneously
addressing computer issues and a number of other topics
related to school improvement.
Q11. Can you give me another example of how you use the
time in a CII inservice to teach a non-computer topic?
I think my favorite example is WAIT TIME. The research on
wait time strongly suggests that most teachers don't give
students enough time to think before calling on a students.
Indeed, the typical teacher asks a question to the class and
then waits for less than a second before calling on a
student volunteer. That isn't enough time for a student to
formulate a deep answer. Rather, this type of teacher
behavior fosters rote learning of lower-order skills.
Thus, in my CII inservices I deliberately provide a long
wait time whenever I have the opportunity to do so. Also, I
openly discuss the need for such a long wait time, and how
it contributes to developing higher-order skills.
Incidentally, there is good evidence that most teachers
call on volunteers far too often. More and better learning
occurs if the teacher calls on volunteers only a small
percentage of the time. The CII inservice facilitator should
model such appropriate behavior.
Still another example is provided by cooperative
learning. The research literature in support of cooperative
learning is very solid. Thus, cooperative learning
techniques should be used in CII inservices. Their use and
value should be made explicit to CII inservice
Q12. Is it all right to mix elementary school and
secondary school teachers in a CII inservice? What about
mixing teachers from a broad range of secondary school
While this is frequently done, it is most often a
mistake. Think for a minute about the basic goal in a CII
inservice. It is to have the participant learn to integrate
tool use of computers into their classrooms. The classrooms
and teaching situations of elementary school teachers are
quite different from those of secondary school teachers. The
elementary school teacher has a self contained classroom and
deals with the same set of students all day, for the entire
school year. The secondary school teacher deals with five or
six times as many students in a single day, and may see new
sets of students at the start of each new semester or
The inservice facilitator needs to establish close
rapport with participants. The facilitator needs to
understand the teaching situations faced by participants and
to directly address these teaching situations. A substantial
amount of the instruction needs to focus on lesson plans
suited to the needs of participants, as well as classroom
management, changes in the curriculum, etc. that CII brings
about. For these and other reasons it is highly desirable to
have homogeneous groups of inservice participants.
Q13. Should the inservice sessions be held in the
The general inservice research literature suggests that
it is desirable to conduct inservice sessions in the schools
of the participants. This increases the credibility of the
inservice and makes it easier for participants to transfer
their new knowledge and skills from the inservice setting to
their classroom settings. This is particularly true if the
school computer lab is similar to that which most of the
participants have in their own schools -- which would
certainly be true if all participants are from one school
and the inservice is done in that school.
However, there are many reasons why computer-integrated
inservice is often conducted at other sites. For example,
the nature and amount of computer facility available at
school sites may be inadequate and inappropriate for the
nature and number of participants. The location of school
computer labs might not be as convenient as the location of
a district inservice center computer lab. The participants
may come from widely varying schools with widely varying
computer facilities, so that no school computer lab is
representative of the facilities that most of the
participants face in their particular schools.
In any event, site selection is important. An inservice
should be held in a facility that is conducive to learning.
It is easy to give examples of poor facilities. These
include facilities that are too cold or too hot, too noisy,
have poor seating arrangements, are difficult for teachers
to get to, and so on. Most inservice facilitators have
themselves participated in a large number of inservices. The
inservice facilitator should ask "Would I be happy
participating in an inservice in these facilities?"
Q14. How important is it that participants in a CII
inservice be volunteers?
At first glance it seems evident that more learning will
occur, and that there is increased chance that participants
will make use of what they learn, if they are
However, I am not aware of any solid research literature
that backs up this position. Moreover, it is difficult to
define what one might mean by a "volunteer." For example,
suppose that an inservice coordinator for a large school
district has just enough resources to offer a particular
inservice to teachers in three schools. The inservice
coordinator may ask for schools to volunteer. If a principal
volunteers a school, does that make the teachers volunteers?
Suppose that the requirement is that at least 10 teachers
participate from a school. If five teachers initially
volunteer and manage to coerce five of their colleagues to
volunteer, are the latter five actually volunteers?
The literature on volunteer participation is also mixed
because a good inservice can easily change a participant
from an unwilling to a willing participant status. Many
(most) teachers feel uncomfortable when they are placed in a
position of being expected to learn a lot of new material
and ideas, and then implement it in their classrooms. But
once they make some progress in doing so, most teachers feel
quite good about themselves and are motivated to continue
Q15. What can you tell me about when to hold an
inservice, how long the sessions should be, when to have
breaks, how long breaks should be, and so on. Also, what
about refreshments, and who provides them?
To a large extent the answer is "Use common sense." Most
inservice facilitators have themselves participated in a
large number of inservices. They know what they like, so
they know what their fellow teachers like. However, her are
a few specific suggestions.
- No matter what time you schedule an inservice, it
will not be the most convenient time for many of the
participants. In the needs assessment phase before the
inservice begins, you can gather information about times
that will be absolutely impossible for potential
participants and times that have historically proven
acceptable. Don't make the mistake of scheduling an
inservice at a very bad time such as the afternoon or
evening of the day before end of term grades are
- An inservice session might be as short as an hour or
as long as a full day plus evening. To the extent
possible, the length of a session should be appropriate
to the nature of the content. For example, a one hour
session is probably too short for most hands-on
inservices. Sessions longer than three hours are too long
if the material is vertically structures--that is, if the
material builds on material covered earlier in the
- Provide three distinct types of breaks:
- Change of pace and change of topic
breaks. As a rough rule of thumb, these might occur
every 15-25 minutes. This type of break may be as
short as a few seconds.
- Refreshment and rest room breaks. As a rough rule
of thumb, these might occur every 1 1/2 -2 hours and
be 15-20 minutes long. They provide time for
collegiality, and that is very important.
- Lunch/dinner breaks. Time can be saved by bring
lunch or dinner into an inservice session. But it is
important that the break be long enough to provide a
major change of pace (let the brain cells rest a bit)
and time for collegiality.
- Refreshments are very important. Perhaps ideally, a
good range of appropriate refreshments would be available
as participants arrive, and would continue to be
available throughout the inservice session. The nature of
appropriate refreshments seems to vary in different parts
of the country. However, in addition to coffee with and
without caffeine, tea, juices, and soda pop are usually
welcome. Fruit, cheese, and crackers are often much to be
preferred over donuts and cookies.
If an inservice is to have a sequence of sessions,
participants can be organized to provide their own
refreshments. Indeed, if the inservice facilitator is
cleaver enough, a competition can be started between various
groups of participants, so that refreshments will get better
and better as the sequence of inservice sessions
Q16. Is it necessary to have an assistant when doing a
Hands-on inservices are difficult to do. The reason is
simple. It is nearly impossible (and probably not desirable)
to lockstep a number of participants, keeping all of them
exactly in the same place as they examine a piece of
software. Even with carefully written directions, in just a
few minutes participants will be doing a wide range of
different things, many totally unrelated to the set of
directions they are supposed to be following. As they run
into trouble, they will begin to ask questions. Many of the
questions will not easily or appropriately be answered by
the statement "Just read and follow your handout." Instead,
individual attention must be paid to a number of
Thus, the need for one or more assistants is evident. But
these do not necessarily have to be paid assistants who are
officially serving as assistant facilitators. For example,
in most inservices there are some participants who know a
great deal about the topics being covered. The thing to do
is to learn to make effective use of these people. Since
they are experienced teachers, they are generally well
qualified to serve as assistants.
Still another important idea is having participants work
in pairs or small groups. Cooperative learning is effective,
and a hands-on inservice is a good place to model this type
of teaching behavior.
Q17. What is the most desirable number of participants
per machine in a typical hands-on inservice?
Two people per machine is generally better than one
person per machine. However, if there are enough machines
and some participants want to work alone, generally you
should allow them to do so. (In some cases you may be
emphasizing paired learning and what it is like to learn in
that environment. Then you will insist that all participants
work in pairs.)
Try to pair up more experienced users with less
experienced users. Let the more experienced users know that
they are functioning in a dual role of inservice assistant
Q18. How important is it to have school and district
administrative support and participation?
There is substantial need for support from the school and
district administration. The research on this is solid. The
goal in a CII inservice is change in the participants'
classrooms. But such change seldom occurs without the
explicit backing of the school administration.
The other side of the coin is that the school
administration can play a strong role in fostering change.
If a principal participates in an inservice, the principal
will be thoroughly familiar with the classroom changes that
are being advocated. The principal can then work with
teachers to provide needed encouragement, support, and
feedback to help them implement the desired change. Some of
this may well be built into the evaluation of the
Q19. Are there major differences between teaching
teachers and teaching other students?
Yes. Many successful precollege and college teachers are
quite unsuccessful in teaching teachers. It could well be
that teachers are the most critical of all potential
It's not just that teachers are adults, and that teaching
adults is different than teaching children. Teachers know a
great deal about teaching and learning. They have done a lot
of introspection, so they know what will help them learn and
what is relevant to their needs. They are busy people, often
quite over worked.
Perhaps the key thing that an inservice provider needs to
keep in mind is that the goal is to help the participants
make changes in their classrooms. Making such changes is
both threatening and difficult. The inservice facilitator
must do what ever possible to make it "reasonable" that the
participants make the desired changes in their
Q20. Have you ever heard of "power dressing?" Is this
important for an inservice facilitator?
As far as I can tell, the idea of "power dressing" comes
from the business world. It has to do with dressing
appropriately to fit various business meeting situations.
For an inservice facilitator, it is generally desirable to
dress as well or a little better than the participants.
The main thing is that one's dressing habits should not
distract from the learning process. Of course, there are
exceptions. Some inservice facilitators have eccentricities
(perhaps carefully cultivated) that are part of the show
they put on.
Q21. How should one attempt to deal with obnoxious
Almost every inservice contains one or more participants
who seem to have an agenda of showing the facilitator and
the other participants how much they know--indeed, that it
is only through some mistake that they are not facilitating
the inservice. There are many other types of inappropriate
behavior that you will encounter. Some inservice
participants insist on talking to each other during
presentations, spending their time grading papers or writing
letters, wandering in and out of the inservice, etc.
Such behaviors on the parts of the participants are
particularly trying to a relatively inexperienced
facilitator. Overall, the situation is not too much
different from what a new teacher experiences as they begin
their teaching careers. There are a few coping strategies
that can be taught, and there are many that one acquires
through trial and error. What works for one facilitator
might not work for another.
One characteristic of the "know it all" is raising
detailed questions that are clearly beyond the scope of the
materials being covered. The inservice facilitator can
acknowledge the question and set a time later during the day
when a private meeting will be held to discuss the answer.
There should be a clear implication that the question is
beyond the scope of the inservice and a strong hint that no
further questions of this sort should be raised. However, it
is easy to make the mistake of discouraging questions that
would be appropriate. Thus, use care in discouraging
An overall lack of professionalism on the part of
participants (such as talking, not paying attention, not
participating) can be directly addressed. "I notice that
some of you are spending your time talking to each other
rather than participating in the inservice. I believe this
is disturbing other participants, and it disturbs me. I'd be
happy to spend some time discussing what is going on. Would
one of you be willing to help us work our way through this
Another approach is to say "I notice that some of you are
not paying attention, and that are keyboarding when I have
asked you to stop and to pay attention to what I am saying.
Each of you knows how you deal with your own students in
this type of situation. Please be aware that I don't allow
such inappropriate behavior with my students. Don't force me
to write your name on the board, keep you in after school,
or send you to the principal's office."
Q22. Are there particular difficulties associated with
doing an inservice for one's fellow teachers as
distinguished from doing an inservice outside of one's own
There is a major advantage in doing inservice with your
fellow teachers. You know them, the problems they face, and
the nature of their work situations. You can design the
inservice to pay particular attention to their specific
needs. However, you know that you will have to continue to
associate with the participants--they are your colleagues.
Thus, you need to be very careful to make the inservice
quite useful and appropriate to their needs. They will tend
to tolerate your inexperience (if your are inexperienced).
You can take advantage of your personal contacts and the
fact that you are available on a formal or informal basis
for follow-up support.
When you do an inservice outside of your own school
district, you automatically become an outside expert. You
are not expected to have detailed knowledge of the district
and its teachers. Instead, you are expected to be more
knowledgeable and/or skillful than the participants. You are
expected to bring to the inservice ideas and materials that
are not readily available within the district.