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Professional Development of Teachers Teaching to the Standards

Abstract

Susan Loucks-Horsley discusses the professional development of teachers who are teaching to the standards; originally presented at the conference: 'Using the NSES to Guide the Evaluation, Selection, and Adaptation of Instructional Materials' in November 1996

There are a couple of themes that [are] near and dear to my heart -- issues around professional development. One is that we have to do it and we have to do more of it. Another is that we have to do it differently and it has to mirror the way we think about kids' learning. We have to think about our own learning and the learning of the adults around us in the same way. The final theme is that we have to break out of the professional development equals in-service workshops and institutes format.

As I thought about professional development [as it relates to] curriculum materials, it seemed like there might be some different ways of thinking about professional development, depending on what the issue was with the materials.

For example, if there are no materials available, what kind of professional development makes sense? If you use the example of the content standards related to the knowledge of inquiry (helping kids understand how scientists go about their work), one would expect that there would be fewer materials available; [at least fewer materials available than] for other things. If there are no materials available, how do we help teachers think about places in their curriculum, program, or instruction where they can point out [the ways in which] scientists do their work?

I could imagine coaching as a format for that kind of professional development. I could imagine study groups that use videos. Rodger [Bybee] and I did a series of focused discussions at the regional NSTA [conferences] and used a video of teachers doing an inquiry lesson. We asked the question "What are the opportunities kids have to learn about inquiry?" Not just learn in an inquiry - based way. There are many opportunities to point out to teachers what teachable moments are for kids and have them come back with their own ideas.

[Another scenario is] if there are incomplete materials, that is, materials [that] fall short of their potential to be standards- based. One good example is that they don't use an inquiry-based way of instruction. Just as some teachers can teach anything, even the best inquiry based materials, in a transmission way, so could we imagine some materials that are much more didactic, but [are] taught in a more inquiry-based way.

How do we help teachers understand inquiry, know how to do it, practice it? One way that would contribute to this is to immerse them in their own inquiries so they will understand and come to learn in that way. Only then can they help the kids learn in that way. The immersion strategy [for professional development] would be a way of dealing with that particular example of incomplete materials.

Any set of materials has to be adapted for a given classroom, a given set of kids. We've tried making teacher-proof materials and that experiment failed many decades ago. We know the teachers need a lot of opportunities to learn new materials; to learn how to use them in their own settings. This is more of the curriculum implementation strategy when it comes to professional development.

Those of you who know the Concerns-Based Adoption Model know that we have to help teachers in some ways mechanically use materials before they will become comfortable with them and know how to adjust them for the needs of their own kids. [It is important for teachers] to think more and study more deeply how the kids are affected by [using the materials]. [It is important] to help teachers not only learn the moves that need to be made in adapting any set of materials, even the best materials for their own classrooms, but also to learn deeply about how they are affecting their kids. [And to learn] how they might adjust [these materials] and adapt them over time as they use them more and more.for the needs of their own kids. [It is important for teachers] to think more and study more deeply how the kids are affected by [using the materials]. [It is important] to help teachers not only learn the moves that need to be made in adapting any set of materials, even the best materials for their own classrooms, but also to learn deeply about how they are affecting their kids. [And to learn] how they might adjust [these materials] and adapt them over time as they use them more and more.

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