Making the Familiar Seem New Again: Using Principles of Engagement to Design Effective Professional Development

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

How do you provide professional development on a topic that everybody thinks they know about? Incorporate learner engagement and specific, practical recommendations. A discussion of our online lesson on addressing bias in university selection committees will launch an exploration of instructional strategies that can be scaled up or down.

Sponsored By


Dr. Marcellas has more than fifteen years of experience in designing instruction for classroom-based, DL and blended learning environments. Her main role at the ETI is ensuring that the team understands faculty members’ needs, and that the team designs and develops products that meet those needs. Her work at the ETI has included front-end analysis, content design, course evaluation, and conducting research on instructional interventions. She has led professional development sessions at USU on topics including the development of effective learning objectives, the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy to guide assessment, and techniques for creating an effective learning environment. Dr. Marcellas has been involved with many instructional and educational technology initiatives at National Defense University (NDU) as well as USUHS. Dr. Marcellas is the co-author of "Instructional Designers and Learning Engineers", a chapter in the book "Modernizing Learning: Building the Future Learning Ecosystem." She has made presentations at numerous national and international conferences, including the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, the Association of American Medical Colleges Annual Meeting, the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference, the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference, the Open Apereo (Sakai) Conference, Educause, the IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering Conference (ICICLE), and the Association for Advancement of Computing in Education's E-Learn and EdMedia Conferences.
Dr. Kurzweil is the Director of the ETI and has worked at USU since 2006. In this capacity, she provides strategic direction for the ETI, instructional and educational technology support for faculty, supervision of ETI personnel, and management of the ETI office. Prior to that, she worked at the National Defense University providing direction and vision of the instructional team supporting the Center for Educational Technology. She also is a faculty member in the Health Professions Education program at USU. She has served on numerous committees and task forces examining a wide range of topics including educational technologies, interprofessional education, professional development for K12 and higher education faculty, learning management systems, program assessment and evaluation, instructional design, and teaching/faculty support paradigms. Dr. Kurzweil has presented at international, national, and regional conferences, including American Educational Research Association (AERA), multiple conferences offered by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation & Education Conference (I/ITSEC), the Open Apereo (Sakai) Conference and AAMC.

Extended Abstract


How do you provide professional development on a topic that everybody thinks they know about already? The keys are giving the learners a variety of opportunities to engage with the material, and providing learners with specific, practical recommendations that help them incorporate what they have learned into their existing knowledge base and everyday practice. This session will use a case-based exploration of the instructional decisions made by the speakers in the course of putting together a professional development session as a springboard to an exploration of application of principles of engagement and the effective use of instructional technology.

Session Outcomes

Participants should come to the session with a professional development topic they could teach to peers (or support teaching to peers), or a need that they think could be filled by professional development.

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Apply principles of the ARCS model and Knowles’s theory of andragogy to plan engaging learning activities for a professional development session

  • Given a specific goal, identify high, medium and low resource technology- based activities to meet that goal

  • Implement strategies for navigating professional relationships, organizational structures, group dynamics, and shared goals.

Description of Session, Handouts and Learner Engagement

This session will open with a discussion of the approach we used to create an online lesson addressing the prevention of bias in University selection committees. We will provide general principles of engagement and discuss the specific ways that we applied them in our work.  As well, given that we were creating this lesson for an online learning environment, we will share the rationale for the choices we made about how and where to incorporate technology into the lesson. We will also explore ways that technology usage could be scaled up or scaled down depending on an institution’s needs and available resources. Finally we will discuss specific strategies for engaging leadership, navigating relationships and identifying shared goals in order to gain institutional acceptance of the "new" approach.

Within the session, we will engage the audience in a number of ways. First, when discussing principles of engagement and technology use during a large group discussion, we will encourage input from the group by bringing up a principle of engagement and asking participants to provide suggestions about different possible learning activities that would incorporate that principle to keep learners engaged. In order to give participants a starting point for this discussion, we will provide a handout about aligning engagement principles with learning activities.

After we have discussed the specifics of our project, we will ask the participants to take part in a modified think-pair-share activity, in which they get together in small groups (rather than pairs) to take on one of the following challenges:

  • Consider a professional development topic that needs to be addressed at your institution. How could you help potential participants see that it is an issue, and then what techniques could you use when developing a lesson to help them feel that they can step in and address the issue effectively? Share with your group and get their perspective on other techniques that could be used

  • Consider one element of ARCS and one technique you would use to attain it in the context of a professional development session, then work with your group to come up with a way you could attain the same goal with a higher or lower level of effort / use of resources.

  • If you have an idea or, better yet, a plan for a new professional development session, where do you go to get it started? How do you approach the people who can help it move forward, and convince them to do so? Come up with answers to these two questions, and then share with the group and see if they have any suggestions about your approach.

Description of Our Project

When the Uniformed Services University (USU) Diversity Officer (DO) came to USU’s Education & Technology Innovation (ETI) Support Office to discuss collaborating on an online lesson about addressing bias in University selection committees, the project seemed like a great opportunity, but it also had some possible pitfalls. The DO and the ETI agreed that this needed to go beyond a basic discussion of bias, which most faculty members would already have seen many times. The DO wanted instead to focus on the selection committee process, explaining ways that bias could creep in. The ideal lesson, in his view, would make the learners want to take action. It would both enable them to identify problems in the selection committee process and also give them the opportunity to practice strategies to address those problems.

Principles of Engagement

Once the DO and the ETI had agreed upon the overarching goals, the ETI team began considering how to create a lesson that would meet those goals. Because changing the learners’ attitudes as well as behaviors would be crucial to making this topic feel “new,” the team focused on instructional strategies that would keep the learners deeply engaged, at an emotional as well as a logical level. The team turned primarily to Keller’s ARCS model of motivation (1987) and Knowles’s theory of andragogy (1984) to help shape the instructional approach.

Keller’s ARCS model (1987) posits that learners are motivated by instructional material that gains their Attention, makes clear its Relevance, gives them Confidence that they can master the objectives, and provides Satisfaction by reinforcing the learners’ knowledge and their success in attaining the objectives. Knowles’s theory of andragogy (1984) overlaps in important ways, primarily by emphasizing the need for content to be relevant (as in ARCS), but also by encouraging authentic practice with content and materials.

The topic of bias is a hidden factor in behavior that requires a learner to first recognize the possibility of bias before addressing the steps required to change the behavior. The team’s focus on engagement and principles of andragogy during the design process helped make the lesson an exercise in self-discovery and the development of skills the individual learner needed in order to help them analyze the selection committee process and help them move selection committees in a more inclusive direction. In this session, we will discuss the elements of the ARCS model and the theory of andragogy with reference to specific ways that we incorporated those theories into the lesson to take them on this journey. One example (more will be discussed during the session) is that we allowed learners to choose which optional elements of the lesson to complete, so that they could focus on what was the most relevant to them. Likewise we will discuss the significance of providing specific, practical tips that can be used to incorporate the new knowledge into practice, giving participants confidence that they can indeed use what they have learned, in this case, to improve the overall selection committee process.

Choices in Use of Technology

By virtue of being an online lesson, this project incorporated a certain baseline level of technology. The use of a LMS provided many options, since its built in tools allowed us to, for example, provide knowledge check questions that required people to engage more deeply with the material, and allowed us to use discussion  boards to enable them to engage more deeply with other participants in the course. Yet we also tried to use these tools in unique ways that made it a process of self discovery, such as by providing knowledge check feedback that encouraged the learners to think more deeply about a topic rather than making them think that answering the question meant that they “knew it all” and could move on. In this section of the presentation, in addition to discussing the way that technology has enabled engagement, we will discuss ways to think creatively about technology as well as to scale technology use use to ensure it is aligned with department mission and available resources. In order to support this discussion, we will provide a handout that presents different levels of technology solutions for a variety of learning activities.  


This session is designed to describe how decisions about learning activities and technologies made in the course of a project about bias in selection committees made a familiar topic “new again” for learners, and to encourage session participants to start planning ways they could apply principles of engagement and technology usage to do the same for their own professional development work.


Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of motivational design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), pp. 2-10

Knowles, M.S. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.