Archive for category ProfessionalDevelopment

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

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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Teachers views on factors affecting effective integration of IT in the classroom.

It’s been a while since I last documented my readings and research on this blog, not because I didn’t read, but because I was not able to sit down to write a post. Over the past few weeks, I read several articles and a few chapters from Cambridge Handbook of Learning Sciences. I have several excerpts that I would like to document here and I wish to do that over the next couple of days.

At work, this is a difficult time as I am developing two new courses, Java Programming( intro level) and Flash Programming ( Intro level) for seniors at King’s. In addition to developing new curriculum for these courses, I am also trying create a setup for the computer science classroom and obtain software licenses such as Adobe CS5 for class use. Thus far, this has been a challenging task, in terms of convincing the administrators and negotiates with the IT department to facilitate the process.

Yesterday, I read an interesting article from the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education on “ teachers’ views on factors affecting effective integration of information technology in the classroom” by two Israeli researchers. This article reports on an exploratory, longitudinal study which examined six teachers of grades 4, 5 and 6 for three years. Based on the individual case studies of four teachers and the case study of the entire group, the researchers found two patterns of views on the factors affecting technology integration: views concerned with the sources of influence or “human factor”and: the nature of influence when using technology ranging from technical to cognitive transformations.



Levin, T., & Wadmany, R. (2008). Teachers ’ Views on Factors Affecting Effective Integration of Information Technology in the Classroom : Developmental Scenery. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 16(2), 233-263.

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Professional Development & Technology

  • Over the years, there has been numerous calls for the reform of teacher professional development (Darling-Hammond, 1997; Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Hawley & Valli, 1999; Lewis, 2002; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2003; Wilson & Berne, 2001).
  • The need for providing teachers with on-going high quality PD.

PD today are still based mostly on:

  • “deficit model of knowledge” (Hawkes, 2000 p. 268).
  • top down approaches
  • based on lectures
  • with limited opportunities for the teachers to collaborate, share experiences, and build new knowledge  [Adsit, J. N(2004). p. 7]

Adsit(2004) argues that professional development for teachers opportunities for “social collaborations”(Marx et al., 1998) among “robust” peer supported networks.

new models of professional development have attempted to harness the power of computers and Web-based technologies to foster the following:

  • Teacher change and improvement (Ellett et al., 2002; Marx et al., 1998; Soloway et al., 1996)
  • Collaboration and community-building (Hawkes, 2000a; Moore & Barab, 2002; Schlager, Fusco, & Schank, 2002)
  • Professional development reform efforts (Gross et al., 2001; National Staff Development Council & National Institute for Community Innovations, 2001; Wang & Hartley, 2003)

A growing body of evidence points to benefits of using technology to provide PD programs( e.g: TAPPED IN):

  • Reduced teacher isolation ( e.g: when using electronic communication) [Dimock & Rood, 1996; Hawkes 2000a; Jinks & Lord, 1990; Ruopp, Gal, Drayton, & Pfister, 1993],
  • Access to a broad range of resources for improving teaching and learning [Ball, 1998; Ellett et al., 2002]
  • Opportunities for collaboration and professional growth [Fusco, Gelbach, & Schlager, 2000; Schlager & Schank, 1997; Schlager et al., 2002].


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Rogers, Graham, & Mayes(2007) – Cultural competence and instructional design

Research questions explored the study are:
(1) Are they aware of the differences between themselves and the cultural group for whom they are designing instruction?
(2) If so:
(a) How did they become aware of these differences?
(b) What importance do these differences assume in their thinking?
(c) How does understanding cultural differences affect instructional design practice?

Cultural characteristics are often vaguely defined and measured based on national level rather than more measurable features. The authors agreed with Maitland and Bauer’s conclusion, ‘‘national level characteristics must not be interpreted at the individual level’’ (p. 90). Although some attempts have been made at creating and using measures to reveal individual placement on some of these scales (see Clem, 2005; Neuliep, 2003), automatically imposing generalized frameworks, especially those derived from other fields, should be approached with caution.

The authors argue that we need:

“a more dynamic approach” …..that would  “account for both the complexities of the learners’ cultural predispositions as well as their individual uniqueness and ability to change.”(p. 4)


As Schwen, Evans, and Kalman (2005) elaborated, ‘‘The fault, if there is any, is not with the practitioners who are of necessity practicing at the edge of the professions knowledge. Rather the scholars in the community should
be attempting to make sense of especially sophisticated practice’’ (p. 13). For this reason, there is a gap, and more exploration is needed by researchers into the complex reality of practitioners.

Grounded theory was chosen to inform the methodology of this study because it is ideal for this type of exploratory research, allowing the complex multi-faceted issues to emerge without pre-imposing rigid definitions, and for future theory and research to be more grounded in real-world, lived experiences of actual practitioners (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Goulding, 2002).


culture can influence your expectations of yourself as a learner, and then your expectations of the teacher; those are the most basic ways that culture influences learning.

What is the process by which learners change and adapt to instructional techniques and approaches that are foreign to them—and how can we help to bridge the gaps more effectively?
• How can we find more ways to prove that being culturally responsive is worth it in the long run (for both financial and ethical reasons)?


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Guidelines for effective Professional Development

The author collected and analyzed 13 recent lists of characteristics of “effective” professional development and came to three conclusions. First, little agreement is apparent among researchers or practitioners on criteria for effectiveness. He urges going beyond evidence based on teacher self-reports to focus instead on the end goal of student achievement. Second, statements about effective development programs generally include “yes, but” qualifiers, frustrating policymakers and practitioners seeking simple answers. Yet, he agrees, the complexity of real-world context makes one-size-fits-all statements impossible. Finally, he says, while the promise of research-based decision making on professional development remains unfulfilled, it does not need to remain so. He urges identifying the strategies of effective teachers in each school and sharing them with colleagues as a basis for highly effective professional development in that context.


According to Guskey(2003), there is no explicit formula for generating effective professional development. There are a number of factors, such as differences in communities, cultures, socio-economic status, teacher turnover, and student turnover, that affect the whether or not a program will be successful. Due to these powerful contextual influences, broad-brush policies and guidelines for best practice may never be appropriate or accurate (Guskey, 2003).


Guskey, T. R. (2003). Analyzing lists of the characteristics of effective professional development to promote visionary leadership. NASSP Bulletin, 87(637), 4

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