Archive for December, 2011

Teacher Professional Development Theories

Policy makers are setting ambitious goals for student achievement that depend heavily on the work of teachers in and outside the classroom.

  • In the last two decades, research has defined a new paradigm for professional
    development—one that rejects the ineffective “drive-by” workshop model of the past in
    favor of more powerful opportunities (Stein, Smith, & Silver, 1999).
  • Professional development that focuses on student learning and helps teachers develop the
    pedagogical skills to teach specific kinds of content has strong positive effects on practice
    (Blank, de las Alas, & Smith, 2007; Wenglinsky, 2000).

Teachers’ professional development should be refocused on the building of learning communities.

To revolutionize education and achieve learning goals for students, teachers require a great deal of learning, support and guidance ( Ball & Cohen, 1999; Putanm & Borko, 1997).

“Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action” – a report released by The Teaching Commission( 2004) reminds us of the important role played by the teachers and calls for provision of “ongoing and target professional development” to help teachers meet the new demands.

Saxe, Gearheart, and Nasir (2001) compared three types of support for teacher learning:
(1) traditional professional development workshops, (2) a professional community-based
activity that offered support to teachers using new curriculum units, and (3) the Integrated
Mathematics Assessment (IMA) approach, which directly engaged teachers in learning
the mathematics in the new curriculum and developing pedagogical content knowledge
necessary to teach the curriculum.

Professional development is more effective when schools approach it not in isolation (as in the traditional one-shot workshop) but rather as a coherent part of a school reform effort.

 

Research on effective professional development also highlights the importance of collaborative and collegial learning environments that help develop communities of practice able to promote school change beyond individual classrooms (Darling- Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Hord, 1997; Knapp, 2003; Louis, Marks, & Kruse, 1996; Perez et al., 2007).

McLaughlin and Talbert (2006) have been studying school-based learning communities for more than 15 years. Their seminal work has taught us that school-based communities are uniquely situated between “macro-” or system-level directives and resources and the “micro”realities of teachers’ classrooms.

The design of professional development experiences must also address how teachers
learn. In particular, active learning opportunities allow teachers to transform their
teaching and not simply layer new strategies on top of the old (Snow-Renner & Lauer,
2005). These opportunities often involve modeling the new strategies and constructing
opportunities for teachers to practice and reflect on them (Garet et al., 2001; Saxe et al.,
2001; Supovitz et al., 2000).

In addition, teaching practices and student learning are more likely to be transformed by
professional development that is sustained, coherent, and intense (Cohen & Hill, 2001;
Garet et al, 2001; Supovitz, Mayer, & Kahle, 2000; Weiss & Pasley, 2006). The
traditional episodic, fragmented approach does not allow for rigorous, cumulative
learning (Knapp, 2003).

In a review of nine studies, Yoon, Duncan, Lee, Scarloss, and Shapley (2007) found that
sustained and intensive professional development was related to student achievement.
The three studies of professional development lasting l4 or fewer hours showed no effects
on student learning, whereas other studies of programs offering more than 14 hours of
sustained teacher learning opportunities showed significant positive effects. The largest
effects were found for programs offering between 30 and 100 hours spread out over 6–12
months.

Number of researchers highlight the effectiveness of sustained, jobembedded, collaborative teacher learning strategies. An approach that meets these criteria, and that has been increasingly featured in the literature, is the professional learning community. In this model, teachers work together and engage in continual dialogue to examine their practice and student performance and to develop and implement more effective instructional practices

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Teacher learning

  • In the last two decades, research has defined a new paradigm for professional
    development—one that rejects the ineffective “drive-by” workshop model of the past in
    favor of more powerful opportunities (Stein, Smith, & Silver, 1999).

 

  • We are coming to understand that learning rather than being solely individual (as we have taken it to be) is actually also social. It happens through experience and practice. In plain terms—people learn from and with others in particular ways. They learn through practice (learning as doing), through meaning (learning as intentional), through community (learning as participating and being with others), and through identity (learning as changing who we are).

 

  • Professional development that focuses on student learning and helps teachers develop the
    pedagogical skills to teach specific kinds of content has strong positive effects on practice
    (Blank, de las Alas, & Smith, 2007; Wenglinsky, 2000).
  • Boroko,  Whitcomb and Liston(2009) described the use of technology in teacher learning as “wicked problem” suggesting that it is a really difficult problem that cannot be resolved by one size fits all solutions.
  • Brown and Adler(2008) argued that we must pay attention to social learning as a new model learning rather than traditional knowledge transfer from teacher to students. They believe that we should move to learning 2.0( just as we moved to Web 2.0) which is a demand-pull learning that removes the fine line between formal and informal learning.
  • Today’s teachers are asked to teach 21st century skills to students and thus need to take on new skills and concepts.
  • Teachers must be life long learners who are adaptive and continuously growing and developing new skills throughout their career( Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005).
  • Abundance of computers and digital media in schools and emphasis place on technology integration highlight the importance of teacher learning and professional development that support new modes of learning( Whitehouse, 2011).
  • Constructionism- theory combining earlier theories such as Piaget’s constructivism and Vygotsky’s situated learning.
  • How people learn ( Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2002).
  • Situated learning( Glazer, Hannafin, Polly, & Rich, 2009).
  • Whitehouse(2011) suggested teacher learning for technology integration can be done by using “Learning by Design” similar to the more familiar project-based or inquiry-based learning.
  • In constructionism, given design project drives the technology use, and technology skills are learned in an integrated way, along with the domain of the creative activity. This way technology serves as a means to lead to a deeper more transferable acquisition of knowledge.
  • Constructionism incorporates elements of the social cognitive theory of Vygotsky, thus social and cultural interaction is vital in knowledge construction and learning.
  • Some researchers argue that teacher learning is best supported using Lave and Wenger’s(1991) situated learning theory and by formation of communities of practice( Wenger, 1998).
  • Whitehouse(2011) and Kafai & Resnick(1996) argued that both the process and the product are important for developing technology professional development research agenda and for developing effective teacher learning contexts.
  • “Blurred” learning environments created by networked learning contexts where learners are often working sychronosly across distance and at the same time working face-to-face with a group. Thus the meaning of being “present” blurs as one works across time and distance.
  • Teachers may use computers as “partners”( p. 4) in cognition because computers can perform certain functions more quickly and accurately than humans( Salomon, Perkins and Globerson, 1991).
  • According to Bransford, Brown and Cocking(2002) new findings on students learning also apply to how adults learning. Eg: metacognitive reflection( Hammerness et. al, 2005).
  • Whitehouse(2011) recommended  four dimension of teacher learning by combining  the Dimensions of Effective Learning (DEL) developed by Bransford, Brown and Cocking(2002) and teacher professional development research literature. The four dimensions named as ” Teacher Dimensions of Effective Learning- TDEL” intersect with learners, pedagogy and technology drawn from the work of Borko(2004).
  • The three variables crossed with TDEL create an analytical for framing teacher professional development.

Peer observations of practice. Teachers in professional communities often make regular
visits to one another’s classrooms and provide feedback and assistance (Hord, 1997).
Critical friends groups trained to use protocols designed by the National Reform Faculty
have successfully engaged in this type of professional learning (Dunne, Nave, & Lewis,
2000). Teachers can also videotape their teaching to make aspects of their practice open
to peer review, to learn new practices and pedagogical strategies, and to analyze aspects
of teaching practice that may be difficult to capture otherwise (Sherin, 2004). Research
has found that this kind of work can change teachers’ practices, knowledge, and
effectiveness (Lustick & Sykes, 2006; Sato, Wei, & Darling-Hammond, 2008).

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Online Schools is at the “peak of inflated expectations” – Larry Cuban

I read a blog post by Larry Cuban talking about the hype of online learning especially at high school level and what drives the hype. He referred to the news coming from Stanford University where the Stanford Online High School graduated 30 seniors this year.

What struck me was the explanation of the hype cycle and the causes. Many have commented on his post and as expected there are many who are not fully convinced on the promises of such technological innovation and radical changes to the teaching and learning.

As a classroom teacher, I feel like taking the side of the teachers but as a technology enthusiast and learning sciences researchers I am somewhat convinced that technology can make a difference and teachers need to learn to live with it. That being said, I agree that teachers will and should play a vital role in the learning experiences of high school children regardless of the medium( virtual or in a physical classroom). Effective teachers should and would be able to teach with or without technology.

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Now You See It

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