Facilitators of Group Subscriptions Manual

Prepared by Ann Zweber Werner, PhD
Founder and President
Whitewater Learning, LLC

Copyright: Whitewater Learning, LLC. 2015.
Minneapolis, MN
All rights reserved.

Substantial workshop content embodies a number of characteristics. It exemplifies quality, is relevant and reflects best practices, can be individualized, increases competence and self-confidence, and leads to increased student success. Whitewater Learning® E-Education for Educators is an example of a library of professional development content that embodies all of these characteristics, and, when used to its full extent, can help not only build a foundation for professional learning but can create a process and incentives to encourage educators to take deep dives into robust streams of learning. This allows individual educators and collaborative teams to go beyond one-session workshops to engage in multiple ways of embracing and engaging in the professional development tool and its content.

 Let’s Begin With an Interview of How One District Got Started…

Moving into blended professional development for the first time, or even changing to a different format, is an example of CHANGE. And, as research has extensively shown, change does not come easily, no matter one’s age. To help you formulate ideas for initiating a successful full adoption of a district or a school’s Whitewater Learning unlimited subscription, included are interviews with two individuals, Chris Hansen and Joy Whitehead from SouthWest Metro Education Cooperative, Shakopee, MN. Both are assigned to implement their districts’ adoption. Here is one district’s feedback on how they stated the process of incorporating Whitewater Learning into their district, followed by a step-by-step summary of recommendations for implementation.

Note that these statements were predicated on Whitewater’s decision to include all staff in a group subscription. With a paid group subscription for all licensed and licensed-like positions, such as community education program and classroom leaders, cultural competency coordinators and the like, Whitewater Learning will absorb the cost of subscriptions to the entire Whitewater library for non-licensed staff, including clerical, food service, paraprofessional/educational assistants, custodial, and transportation staff for the duration of the paid subscription.

Meet Chris Hansen, special education coordinator, and Joy Whitehead, staff development facilitator SouthWest Metro Education Cooperative


                             Darren Kermes                          Chris Hansen                                  Joy Whitehead

Chris Hansen stated:

The process of assuring a successful implementation actually began before the purchase of a group subscription. In the initial stages (before signing the contract) our education district’s executive director, Darren Kermes, sent out an email to all staff introducing Whitewater as a possible format for ongoing professional development for our district and he asked for feedback.

We also have a staff development advisory group that I meet with quarterly. We demonstrated Whitewater and asked for feedback prior to initiating a contract.  In this way we had staff buy in even before the contract was signed.  It was not exclusively a top-down decision.  It was also through this process that we became even more aware of the needs for training options for our clerical team.

Joy Whitehead provided context on other wise strategies that are in place to provide incentives for every member of the staff to embrace ongoing professional development for both licensed and non-licensed employees. She said:

One of the reasons Whitewater Learning professional development will work well for us and why our non-licensed staff are so excited about getting started is because we already have in place a wage incentive for both licensed and non-licensed staff to move up their pay scales as recognition for completing professional development clock hours on their own time. Using Whitewater Learning, here is how it works:

Staff can use any Whitewater clock hours towards lane advancement (teachers) or wage incentive (non-licensed staff including paraprofessionals, office staff, custodial, food service, and transportation personnel), as long as the course is taken outside of their contract time.  Staff cannot use a personal day to take a course and have that count toward a wage incentive, because that is technically on contracted time.  They can take a course during the evening, on vacation, on the weekend, and in any location where they have Internet and have it apply to lane advancement/wage incentive as long as the hours are completed outside of their contracted hours.  The clock hours also, of course, apply towards relicensure.

Previous to Whitewater online learning, it was harder for non-licensed staff to earn their training hours without having to take a vacation day in order to access opportunities that were only available during their workday. As Whitewater is online, they can easily complete the requirements outside of their work hours and fulfill the pay incentive requirements.

Chris went on to explain…

In our district, non-licensed staff can use 100 percent of their professional development toward their wage incentive as long as the hours are accumulated on their own time. Licensed teachers can use professional development clock hours for up to 40 percent of the 30 credits [one credit is generally 15 clock hours of course work] required for lane change. The remainder must be credits that appear on an official university transcript. [Whitewater content can be used for both with their agreements with universities to earn transcript credits using Whitewater Learning content.]

Joy added… Access to strong professional development for non-licensed staff helps them be more successful in their jobs and increases their understanding of why some students do some of the things they see, like damaging a door that the employee now has to repair. The custodian might think the student is undisciplined until he or she has a better understanding of various aspects of learning for students with cognitive or behavioral disabilities.   Or, if an employee is coming into school on a later shift and sees the lights down and teachers dealing with a student in crisis, the employee will know what to do to not escalate the situation, such as to take entrance at another location. Knowledge is power!

Whitewater Learning® Group Subscription Implementation Steps

Stage One

First Steps

1.     As described in the interviews with Chris and Joy, begin by gaining buy-in from members of your school or district.

2.     Purchase at the district or school level, but facilitate at the building level.

3.     The district and school leaders must determine how Whitewater content will be able to be used by the subscription holder in your district ahead of time. Note that in the interviews above, this district will allow both licensed and non-licensed employees to earn salary lane advancement for completing Whitewater content as long as it is completed outside of their contract work hours.  Other examples of options for use that must be decided by leadership are:

a.    Support the performance review process.

Whitewater content is an excellent way to support staff when suggesting areas for improvement during a performance review or for the employee to document his or her efforts to improve. It provides an opportunity for tangible documentation of all levels of the review process.

b.    Induct new hires into already established professional initiatives.

Induction is ESSENTIAL for shared practices in an educational organization. Whitewater can be assigned to new hires to become familiar with concepts already embedded into the practices of a school district. Will time be allotted before school starts for new hires to review essential content or will this be a hiring expectation? 

c.    Support for professional teams and learning communities.

d.    Flipped learning.

e.     Just-in-time learning when questions arise.

f.     Clock hours for renewing professional licenses.

g.    To take the place of employees reporting to the official work when it is unsafe to travel, e.g. snow days, dangerous cold or heat, etc.

This item will have to be discussed and agreed upon by management and perhaps staff units prior to announcing the opportunity.

h.    To take the place of employees reporting to the official work site on professional development days. Can Whitewater be used in place of reporting to a building location on professional development days in preparation for its use in staff meetings, small learning communities, in child study meetings, and the like?

When implementing this option it is important for principals, mentors, coaches, and PLC colleagues to incorporate concepts gained from completing Whitewater content into team, staff, student, and parent meetings on an ongoing basis.

i.     Support cost benefit initiatives such as health and wellness programs, and annual instruction, i.e. bloodborne pathogens, etc.

Some insurance companies will negotiate with large organizations to lower rates when wellness initiatives are embedded into their work culture.

j.     Create online college or university courses or to supplement courses with portions of modules.

This applies to higher education.

k.    For lane change when completing college or university transcripted courses supported by Whitewater Learning modules.

4.    Identify the leadership team and administrators responsible for implementing the initiative. Name a minimum of two leaders per school so there is sharing of ideas and backup in the absence of one. Duties:

a.    Facilitates the implementation, including:

b.    Receives and resolves subscriber questions as first line communicator with Whitewater Learning staff for the group account

c.     Manages staff accounts for new hires

d.    Accesses to all subscriber accounts to monitor use and provide follow-up with rewards and reports designed to shape robust use of the Whitewater library

e.     Reports progress to building/district leadership

5.    After the contract has been signed submit all of the names, email addresses, and job classification to the TIES support personnel assigned to the contract and copy to Whitewater Learning.  PROVIDE A TIME, AFTER THE SUBSCRIPTION ANNOUNCEMENT, TO ACTIVATE THE ACCOUNT SO THAT EMPLOYEES DO NOT DELETE THE USERNAME AND PASSCODE INFORMATION AS JUNK MAIL.

6.    District or school leaders make a formal announcement at an all-staff meeting or other formal gathering in a celebratory manner. Frame access to strong professional learning as a positive opportunity for every member of the team included in the subscription. Emphasize incentives for completion. Put the agreements for parameters for use in writing and send to each employee in an email after the announcement has been made.

7.     Make sure that all employees learn how to access Whitewater Learning using a computer.  Invite anyone on the entire staff who would like help to an open computer lab time staffed by individuals who could help them learn and feel comfortable accessing the content on their own time. It will be important to offer more than one facilitated open lab time because different contract groups may have different work schedules that must be accommodated. Southwest Metro Education Cooperative did this and said not many took advantage of this opportunity, but it was available for those who needed it.

8.    As soon as the account information is disseminated, the facilitators must be watching for questions staff members send their way regarding any aspect of using Whitewater. If the facilitators do not know the answer, he or she must quickly contact a member of the Whitewater team and then get back to the person with the question as soon as possible.

The HELP section of the website will have the answers to most questions. If not, or more information is needed contact TIES and Whitewater for content questions. New questions that apply to universally to districts will be added to the HELP website.

9.     Facilitators start watching their online data reports to see who has completed modules (a “module” is Whitewater’s term for a mini-course) so that those individuals can be recognized for their initiative immediately.

10.   If starting a group subscription at the beginning of a new school year, the opening day’s workshops are traditionally full of activities, but take a small amount of time to reintroduce Whitewater and describe how they will be using it throughout the year. Your goal is to keep the interest and momentum moving forward.

Stage Two

Create a Shared Understanding of Professional Learning Teams, Scaffolding, and Badging

 The point of using Whitewater Learning professional development modules are to:

·      Learn new content or take a deeper dive into previous learning

·      Practice implementation of new ways of doing or being on a daily basis

·      Add context during discussions in staff meetings, professional learning teams, and when seeking more effective practices for individual students.

Whitewater allows the learner and the school or district to flip the attainment of the information to an independent process thereby allowing more time to discuss and create deeper meaning of the new information in collaborative settings.

Or, depending on the needs of the group, for example, non-licensed groups who are not accustomed to formal professional development processes, may choose to use Whitewater Learning topical content using a traditional delivery format in a group setting with a facilitator.

The flexibility of online professional learning using the Whitewater format allows for maximum flexibility.

In either case, here are suggestions for increasing the success of whichever delivery approach chosen by the individual learner or the directives of the subscription provider:

1.    Create excitement associated with committing to involvement in online learning.

2.    Carve out time for small learning communities to meet. There was an article in Education Week about creating a professional development room for staff to meet. It had amenities like coffee and healthy snacks and was only open to staff who wanted to enter into professional conversation with their team or others. The staff lounge remains for staff breaks.

3.    Include everyone! Licensed and non-licensed staff alike. That makes a difference.

4.    Differentiate to accommodate various levels of comfort with technology.

5.    Create an open line to your school’s facilitators to ask questions – as many times as is need to move forward alone.

6.    Use facilitators, sometimes individuals trained in a special topic, such as a special education licensed teacher facilitating a learning community as it studies Special Education Essentials for Every Educator© by Karen Hammel, EdD to lead learning community work spread over a semester while discussing one layer of content each week. This module was written to inform paraprofessionals/teaching assistants hired to serve special education students are general education teachers who have special education students assigned to their classrooms. Other times facilitators can be rotated among members of a learning team.

7.    Create a shared understanding of Professional Learning Communities. Two good sources to are:

Shaping Professional Learning Communities for Success© by content expert Dan Cahill and Characteristics of Professional Learning Communities in High School© by content expert Becca Lindahl, EdD.

8.    Encourage use of Whitewater modules to scaffold skills and achievements diving more deeply over time. Use the Streams Grid to identify module titles that align under categories of content. This is particularly useful in professional assignments that do not carry a license or for which one can benefit from deeper understanding without earning another full license. An example is a general education teacher or a classroom education assistant earning a special education or an ELL badge without seeking a full license through a university.

In addition to earning badges, here are two other examples:

•Lane changes

•Resume building, particularly as one gains knowledge and skills in essential leadership areas that do not require a license

Stage Three

Facilitators Shape Desired Behaviors for Robust Use of Professional Development

People of all ages and positions do thing for positive rewards. These may be tangible, such as pay or other things of a monetary nature. Or, often more powerful, social rewards such as a note, a smile, a positive recommendation or comment about a job well done to others with meaning to the recipient. It is recommended that facilitators of group subscriptions learn and use a system of positive reinforcements to “shape” the desired behavior of robust use of online professional development within your learning organization. Here are some tips:

1.    The individuals assigned to serve as your Whitewater facilitation leaders “catch” staff using the online Whitewater Learning modules (mini-courses). With access to an administrator passcode the facilitators monitor the data that provides the names of the staff as each completes designated or self-selected content.

2.    Use the cards provided on the Whitewater website to recognize staff for getting started and for increased use.

3.     Identify other tools such as early out or later arrival tickets for completing professional development on one’s own time

4.     Set goals, chart involvement, and then celebrate success

5.     When someone witnesses a staff member using something learned from module content, mention it in the daily bulletin, a newsletter, the individual’s performance review, or other ways that have meaning.

Best Practices Topics for Facilitators

Best Practice: Know the elements of a successful meeting

In co-authors Bridget Gothberg, Tom Lisec and Bob Wittman’s Whitewater Learning® module titled: Public Process: A Tool to Inform and Enhance the Work of Educators, 2nd Ed., two traits found in effective groups are presented. They are effective climate and that members feel valued.

To create an effective climate, a number of interesting indicators are presented that are applicable to the preparation of most any type of professional or civic group activity. Seven of the eight identified in that source will apply as you plan your opening of school workshops and all of your staff and small learning community meetings. Written bylaws are unique to a particular kind of gathering and not applicable for a workshop. The remaining indicators are:

1.    Common goals

2.    Group rules and norms

3.    Trust among members

4.    Welcoming and inclusive

5.    Supportive

6.    Positive

7.    Sense of community

The six descriptors of the second trait, that members feel valued, are:

1.    Two-way communication

2.    Contribution from all members

3.    No power plays

4.    Group work is not token

5.    No putdowns or gossip

6.    A sense of team

And to these, Gothberg, et al added three key factors that contribute to effective groups:

1.    Group members experience a sense of belonging

2.    The work of the group is significant, meaningful, and relevant

3.    Individual group members feel a sense of personal satisfaction and unique contribution

There is much that can be said about each of the above, but most important is to recognize that every concept is significant and will increase the success of your workshops. Planfully consider each in preparation for your opening meetings.

Best Practice: Continued use fostered by positive reinforcement

This section is based on a powerful program called Performance Management, a system designed by Aubrey Daniels International out of Atlanta, GA. It is, in its simplest definition, a system of Behavioral Leadership. The foundational framework is based on pinpointing the desired behaviors for adults or students (setting your goal), identifying rewards, charting increases in the desired behaviors, and celebrating success by providing positive consequences, also called rewards.

Of course there is a lot more to the science of this process that leads to a deeper understanding of why someone gets off the desired course and how a leader (teacher, administrators, paraprofessional, or anyone else who has followers) can bring him or her back to successfully complete the designated goal.

The Whitewater Learning module titled Performance Management: A PBIS Compatible Framework to Changing Behavior to Increase School Effectiveness provides more information on techniques used to perform behavior-shaping strategies leading to greater individual, and thereby greater organizational success. They are powerful tools to increase desired behaviors for both students and adults.

As an opening-of-year function, when all of your staff is present, it is suggested that you start with an activity that can be a good ice- breaker and also provide those assigned to lead your professional development initiative essential information.

1.    Begin by explaining the difference between social and tangible rewards. A social reward is something that costs less than $5 and is given to someone for achieving a goal. A tangible reward has a higher cost and again, is given to someone for achieving a goal.

2.   Identify a professional development goal for the time frame specified.

3.   In small groups, make two lists: one for the adults in your school, and the other for students. First, list all the ways that are available to the employees to reward or recognize each other that are social (they are free or cost less than $5). If desired, you can repeat the process to create a separate list with students in mind.

4.   Discuss each list and then give them to a designated person for word processing and place each item in a one to five Likert scale assessment format.

5.   Before everyone leaves at the end of your workshop pass out the adult lists, now in the form of a survey. It is essential that everyone include his or her name. Have each employee complete the survey and turn it in to those administering your professional development for the year.

6.   The purpose for this activity is to be able to distinguish for whom a reward is positive and therefore may be used to increase a desired behavior and for whom the very same reward may be a punishing item or activity and result in the employee either decreasing or stopping a desired behavior. Rewards must meet individual needs and desires. If not, your efforts to increase a targeted behavior will be in vain.

For extensive information on this and other components of behavior leadership see the book, Daniels, A. C. and Bailey, J. S. (2014). Performance Management: Changing Behavior That Drives Organizational Effectiveness, Fifth Edition. Atlanta, GA: Performance Management Publications.

Examples of Professional Learning Communities Using Whitewater Learning Topics

1. Goal: Increase individual educator’s capacities to use best practices when teaching English Language Learners as measured by the number of ELL- designated modules completed by each individual while participating in his or her small learning community.


This first goal is a building-wide commitment to a topic that will be discussed throughout a school year in the employees’ learning communities that meet within the contracted workday.

Implementation model: To create common language, four specific modules are assigned for the year (or it could be one each semester for longer and more complex topics). One module is addressed each quarter (or semester). The out-of-learning community time commitment is to view the assigned layer videos prior to the learning community meeting. Typically, a layer takes three to 12 minutes to view. This viewing can be done anytime and anywhere prior to the group discussion.

If a staff member wishes to earn clock hours for an entire module for license renewal, to meet a school or personal goal, or to earn a badge or for university credits, he or she must complete the entire module, including its support materials. Note: Many districts require that professional development used for compensation incentives must be done outside of the workday.

1.    Introduce your building commitment to the topic at an all-staff meeting. Facilitators or other staff may do this. Direction pertaining to any policy or contractual consideration is best coming from a building or district administrator.

a.    Create a positive climate by offering beverages and a light healthy snack for all. Remember to consider anyone on the staff with allergies or other food restrictions and honor their presence with a choice that meets their needs.

b.    Provide an opportunity for staff to gather in their small learning communities:

2.    As an icebreaker to the topic, they might identify examples, best practice discoveries, or other topics that help generate a need to commit to the topic. Share with the whole group.

3.    Discuss individual learning community’s logistics for studying the topic:

a.    When and where they will gather?

b.    Who will facilitate each discussion – one person, or will each member take a turn?

c.    Identify their group norms/covenants. See the first section of this article.

d.    Expectations prior to each gathering.

e.    Provide time for any questions.

4.    Proceed with the meetings. Recognize and reward teams that are working well and provide assistance for teams that need additional direction and instructional support on how an effective adult learning team works. This step is essential!

5.     Include the content that is found in the module wherever possible so that its language and practices become embedded in your organization prior to moving to the next topic.

6.     Celebrate successes!!! Recognize and celebrate!!! Recognize and celebrate!!! Have fun.

2. Goal: Increase teachers’, and all other staff who are not licensed as special education professionals, knowledge, skills, and ways of being as applied to the laws and 13 categories of special education that may be present in children learning in your school.


This goal and variation of strategy is designed to increase the staff assigned to teaching or supporting students who receive special education services and their parents, but are not licensed in a special education certification area. Because of the technical nature that special education can sometimes present, it will be beneficial to have a licensed special education teacher or support staff such as a school psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist, or the like, to serve as the small learning community facilitator when discussing each component of the overview module Special Education Essentials for Every Educator. One of the Authentic Practice Sets in this module goes into detailed steps on how to conduct a learning community using someone licensed in special education as a facilitator.

After completing this module, the learning community may choose modules included in the Whitewater library that address other aspects of special education. The special education licensed member of the team, may or may not continue with the learning community or may choose to work in other teams addressing areas that stretch their professional growth. As with other modules, when questions arise, members must seek answers using the multiple resources available within a school and district.

Again, the professional development facilitators must monitor and provide positive consequences to support ongoing professional development. Self-reporting through school-wide charts and celebrations can be very effective tools.

3. Goal: Maintain the continuity of past professional development initiatives for the school and school district by using online modules to provide previous content to new hires. Success will be measured by reviewing the data on completions of assigned topical Whitewater modules by each new hire and by mentor observations and discussions with the employee.


Districts expend a lot of financial and people resources to provide professional development to staff for its designated set of initiatives every year. But what happens when the district moves on from one initiative to the next? By using “Whitewatered” content, the previous initiatives do not have to slowly fade away. In only five years, the membership of a staff can change significantly and void the effectiveness of a significant initiative. But, with online professional learning, when a new hire is added, he or she can be assigned to complete the modules that will provide continuity of language and practice among all staff, no matter their date of hire.

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