LESSONS LEARNED FROM FIVE YEARS OF VIRTUAL FIELDWORK-CENTERED EDUCATOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The program’s first workshop was in 2009, and the tenth and final cohort is now completing their work. The nature of VFE development and of the PD has changed over the course of the program. VFEs were initially conceived to be inquiry-oriented materials and seen as a major outcome of the program. They remain important, but the experience of creating them, learning to create them, and the learning that comes through creating them is now seen as just as important. Further, while aspects of VFEs can nicely facilitate inquiry, the practice of making them is where deeper learning, and meaningful inquiry takes place. The collaboratively created VFEs are now seen more as models of, rather than vehicles for inquiry. Working together in educator cohorts, we investigate the project’s driving question, “Why does this place look the way it does?” in the making of workshop site VFEs. Then these jointly authored resources can be used to tell the story of a landscape and serve as models to emulate for educators and students to create VFEs of their local environments.
Our appreciation for the amount of time it takes to learn how to create substantive VFEs and then create them led us to invite back alumni from earlier years. This has proved valuable as the returning alumni serve as excellent mentors to their colleagues, deepening the learning for all concerned. The presentation will share jointly and individually authored VFEs and analyze the ways in which VFE development serve as evidence of effective PD.