3CSN’s Design Principles for Powerful Professional Learning: Building Knowledge

Knowledge-building is a core element of 3CSN’s approach to professional learning.  Our learner-centered approach is based on theory and research about how learning works and is guided by the following fundamental principles:

1. We start by creating the conditions for deep learning  

We plan backward to ensure that all 3CSN events include common components designed to create learning environments in which our participants can thrive, learn, and connect. We build in time and activities designed to build trust and normalize what Zaretta Hammond refers to as “productive struggle.” We create authentically welcoming, interested, appreciative, playful, and joyful learning environments. We build knowledge-building pathways where participants can engage with the network in multiple ways. Participants can “drop in” to attend a short, one-hour session designed to build skills or a 90-minute deeper dive session that includes skills and practice time. Those who are interested in going deeper can attend 6-hour design labs or long-term communities of practice and inquiry groups that continue to meet and grow.

2. Reflection and metacognition are at the center 

Reflection, transparency, and metacognition are at the center of 3CSN learning environments. We recognize and make transparent the multi-faced and complex nature of knowledge, and we create spaces for the complex, iterative nature of learning: We dedicate time to reflect on our identities as learners and as educators and to re-focus ourselves on why we do what we do.  We design dedicated space to create meaning and context from the information we are presented with. We build bridges between the need to learn tools and skills that we need for immediate us and the knowledge and relationships that sustain us long term. We make our facilitation protocols transparent so that participants can take these routines and concepts and apply them in their own context among their own colleagues and students.

 3. Learner centered routines, modalities, and activities (text sets, Google docs, etc.; assessments that we do in the sessions)

Participants’ experiences, needs, and strengths are always at the center of our work. 3CSN events are always driven by learner-centered routines and activities. We design routines like small group discussion, collaboratively created documents and tools, text-sets, and other activities that encourage learners and facilitators to learn together. We build community agreements, where participants and facilitators alike can participate in co-creating environments that respond to the needs of the learners in any context.We take the time to share our individual experience of what is learned, and we tailor our sessions to the needs and strengths of those experiences. 

4. Knowledge is co-constructed

Rather than trying to “hand down” knowledge from “expert” to “novice,” 3CSN aims to co-construct knowledge along with the statewide community of educators that we serve. We recognize, honor, and leverage the experience and expertise of our participants, and we understand that knowledge-building is an ever evolving process. 3CSN coordinators are themselves practitioners; we are faculty and staff members at community colleges who authentically participate in the learning alongside participants. In this way, the teaching and learning philosophy of 3CSN is always evolving.