1. How can using and conducting research help you to differentiate in your classroom? Explain ( Teacher Learning for this question)2. Is it important for families and communities to be involved in action research projects? Should they be involved in the evaluation of research you are conducting in the schools? What can you do, as an educator, to engage families and communities in research you may be conducting?
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Research Review
Teacher Learning:
Research shows how
schools can create more
powerful professional
development
experiences.
Linda Darling-Hammond
and Nikole Richardson
T
o help young people leam
the more complex and
analytical skills they need
forthe 21st century,
teachers must leam to teach
in vi’ays that develop higher-order
thinking and performance. To develop
the sophisticated teaching required for
tbis mission, education systems must
offer more effective professional leaming
tban has traditionally been available.
What does research say about the kind
of professional leaming opportunities
tbat improve instruction and student
achievement?
High-Quality Professional
Development: A New Definition
In the last two decades, research has
defined a new paradigm for professional
development—one that rejects the ineffective “drive-by” workshop model of
ihe past in favor of more powerful
opportunities (Stein, Smith, &r Silver,
1999), Research has begun to create a
consensus about the content, context,
and design of high-quality professional
development (Hawley & Valli, 1999).
What Matters?
I
I
o
^
Content: Centered on Student Leaming
The content of professional development can make the difference between
enhancing teachers’ competence and
simply providing a forum for teachers to
talk. The most useful professional development emphasizes active teaching,
assessment, obser’ation, and reflection
rather than abstract discussions
(Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin,
1995). Professional development that
focuses on student leaming 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).
In a recent national survey (Garet,
Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon,
2001), teachers reported that their
knowledge and skills grew and their
practice changed when they received
professional development that was
coherent, focused on content knowledge, and involved active leaming.
Hands-on work that enhanced teachers’
knowledge of the content and how to
teach it produced a sense of efficacy—
especially when that content was
aligned with local curriculum and
policies.
Saxe, Gearheart, and Nasir (2001)
compared three types of support for
teacher leaming: (1) traditional profes-
sional 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 leaming the mathematics in the new
curriculum and developing
pedagogical content knowledge necessary to teach the
curriculum. Students whose
teachers had participated in
the IMA program showed the
greatest gains in conceptual
understanding. These
teachers attended a five-day
summer institute and then
met once every two weeks
throughout the year to
discuss their practice and to
problem solve. They looked at samples
of student work or videotapes of
students involved in problem solving,
leamed to assess student motivation,
and developed specific pedagogies that
included how to lead whole-class
discussions, assess student work with
rubrics, and create assessment tools of
their o\Ti, which they shared with one
another
Context: Integrated
with School Improvement
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
A S S O C I A T I O N FOR SUPERVISION A N D C U R R I C U L U M D E V E L O P M E N I
47
Collective work in trusting environments provides a basis for inquiry and
reflection, allowing teachers to raise
issues, take risks, and address dilemmas
in their own practice (Ball & Cohen,
1999; Br>’k, Camburn & Louis, 1999;
Uttle, 1990).
Design: Active, Sustained Learning
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).
of a school reform effort. To avoid
disparities between what teachers learn
in professional development work and
what they can actually implement in
their classrooms, schools should seamlessly link curriculum, assessment,
standards, and professional learning
opportunities.
Active learning
opportunities allow
teachers to transform
their teaching.
This kind of linkage happened in
Ohio when the National Science Foundation’s Project Discovery offered
sustained professional development
linked to systemwide changes in science
standards and curriculum. Teachers
attended intensive six-week summer
institutes covering science or mathematics content and then participated in
six seminars throughout the school year
that focused on curriculum equity and
authentic assessment. In addition, they
received on-demand support and site
visits from regional leaders and contact
vÀÛï peers through newsletters and
annual conferences. These efforts led to
a significant, long-term increase in
teachers’ use of inquiry-based instruc-
tional practices (Supovitz, Mayer, &
Kahle. 2000).
Research on effective professional
development also highlights the importance of collaborative and collegia!
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). When whole grade
levels, schools, or departments are
involved, they create a critical mass for
changed instruction at the school level.
Teachers serve as support groups for
one another in improving practice.
48
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP/FLIBRUARV 2009
Cohen and Hill (2001) describe two
approaches that proved successful in
California’s statev^dde reform, which
introduced a new mathematics
curriculum and assessments. Both
approaches gave teachers opportunities
to actively leam about new mathematics
content as well as to practice and share
their new knowledge.
The first professional learning activity
engaged teachers in learning the mathematics in the new curriculum units.
Teachers then taught the units and
returned to share their experiences with
other teachers and to problem solve
while preparing to teach subsequent
units. In the second effective approach,
teachers evaluated student work on
assessments directly linked to the
reform curriculum. The teachers were
guided through conceptual roadblocks
students faced on the assessments, and
they learned how to anticipate and
address these misunderstandings.
ln addition, teaching practices and
student learning are more Ukety to be
transformed by professional development that is sustained, coherent, and
Professional development lasting 14 or fewer
hours showed no effects on learning. The
largest effects were for programs offering
30-100 hours spread out over 6-12 months.
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).
Although time is not the only variable
that matters, it is often a prerequisite for
effective ¡earning. Two separate evaluations found that teachers who had 80 or
more hours of professional development
in inquiry-based science during the
previous year were significantly more
likely to use this type of science instruction than teachers who had experienced
fewer hours (Corcoran, McVay, &r
Riordan, 2003; Supovitz & Turner,
2000). Further, increased student
achievement was associated with
teachers’ more intense participation in
the professional development and
students’ greater exposure to the
resulting retorm-based instruction
(Banilower, 2002).
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 14 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.
Professional Learning
Communities: The New Paradigm
Taken together, the research described
here points to the effectiveness of
sustained, job-embedded, 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. In ongoing opportunities for collégial work, teachers learn
about, try out, and reflect on new prac-
tices in their specific context, sharing
their individual knowledge and
expertise.
In the United States, efforts to
develop professional ¡earning communities bump up against indi%idualistic
norms and school structures that
sharply limit time for collaborative planning. Teachers and reformers do not
always have images of how teachers can
work and leam effectively together.
The productive teacher learning
communities studied by Little (1990)
engaged in what she came to call joint
work—”thoughtful, explicit examination
of practices and their consequences”
(p. 520) that emerged from collaboration on concrete tasks such as
curriculum development, problem
solving around students and their
learning, and peer observations. These
communities created norms that valued
mutual aid above privacy They shared
responsibility for instructional improvement and supported teachers’ initiative
and leadership with regard to professional practice. Because effective collab-
Research Supports Professional Development That
• Deepens teachers’ knowledge of content and how to teach it to students.
• Helps teachers understand how students learn specific content.
• Provides opportunities for active, hands-on learning,
• Enables teachers to acquire new knowledge, apply it to practice, and reflect
on the results with colleagues.
• Is part of a school reform effort that links curriculum, assessment, and standards to professional learning.
• Is collaborative and collégial.
• Is intensive and sustained over time.
Research Does Not Support Professional DevelopmentThat
• Relies on the one-shot workshop model.
• Focuses only on training teachers in new techniques and behaviors.
• Is not related to teachers’ specific contexts and curriculums.
• Is episodic and fragmented,
m Expects teachers to make changes in isolation and without support.
• Does not provide sustained teacher learning opportunities over multiple days
and weeks.
ASSOCIATION
FOR S U P E R V I S I O N AND C U R R I C U L U M
DEVELOPMENT
49
The Old Paradigm
Like rrjany schools in its large urban district, Kennedy High
School was facing low levels of achievement in 9th grade
algebra. To address the problem, the principal dedicated two
of the five professional development days that year to
improving algebra instruction. She brought in experts to help
her math department leam teaching strategies that would
help improve algebra scores.
At the beginning of the year, the 16 math teachers were
eager to spend concentrated time on improving math
instruction. On the first professional development day, the
consultant introduced an exciting new research-based
program. Teachers spent four hours listening to and
watching the consultant demonstrate how using manipulatives and projects could engage students. They watched
videos in which teachers praised the
program and students were visibly
involved in learning math. The school
invested heavily in new materials to
support the program.
At the end of the two-day workshop,
teachers were asked how they would
incorporate the new strategies into their
classrooms. Many said they would try the
strategies the next week. Several teachers
left feeling they wanted to leam more and
that their students would enjoy working
with the program’s hands-on materials.
But they also left with questions and
doubts: How will this new approach help
us align our curriculum with the state
standards? This program looks great, but
how will my students handle it? How will I
change what I’ve been doing to incorporate this new approach?
When the math teachers came
together for a second meeting in the spring with the
consultant, teachers confessed that they had made little
progress with the new approaches. Teachers said they did
not really understand how to teach with the materials. Some
had tried, with limited success: others simply couldn’t find
time in the curriculum, given the pressure to cover all the
standards. The teachers were frustrated about spending
time on “yet another new flavor of the month” for math
when they could be figuring out ways to prepare students
for the exam later that month. They spent the next few
weeks focusing on test prep, drilling students on sample
test items and formats. At the end of the year, no gains had
been made in student achievement and the principal was
stumped as to how to improve math instruction and student
learning in her school.
50
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP/FEBRUARY 2009
oration requires much more than simply bringing teachers
together, we need to learn how schools can form and support
teacher learning communities that engage in joint work.
Conditions Thai Support Joint Work
Louis, Marks, and Kmse (1996) examined the conditions
necessary for such communities. In terms of structure, they
found that smaller school size and common planning time
were key. They also found that lower siaifing complexity
(more staff who were directly involved in teaching and
learning) and the empowerment of teachers as decision
makers were highly correlated with professional community.
The human and social resources needed for professional
community included supportive leadership, mutual respect
steeped in strong professional knowledge, and a climate that invited risk
taking and innovation.
These broad structures give some idea
of the prerequisites for a professional
learning community, but a finer lens is
required to examine the types of interactions and processes that foster teacher
learning in such a community. An
understanding of the particular ways
teachers talk and collaborate can
provide insight into the role of professional learning communities in
improving teacher practice.
Researchers who have studied the
process of forming a community have
found that it is often slow and fraught
S with conflicts, silences, and misunderI standings. Persistently working through
and reflecting on these challenges
creates avenues for community io
emerge. Grossman, Wineburg, and Woolworth (2001) documented how social studies and English teachers in one urban
high school slowly developed a professional learning community. Participants gradually began to accept shared responsibility for ÍTidi’idual growth, formed a group identity and
norms of Interaction, and leamed to use difference and
conflict productively.
Like all professional development, a professional learning
community’s interactions should focus on improving instructional practice. To identify problems, group members must
make their practice public to colleagues and take an inquiry
stance. Change occurs as teachers leam to describe, discuss,
and adjust their practices according to a collectively held standard of teaching quality (Little, 2003). The process of learning
The New Paradigm
with colleagues in small, trusting, supportive groups makes
the difference (Dunne, Nave, & Lewis, 2000).
Structured dialogue as pari of a group’s inquiry cycle can
provide the necessary opportunities for a continual focus on
improving practice. HoUins, Mclntyre, DeBose, Hollins, and
Towner (2004) documented bow elementary teachers coUaboratively inquired about improving literacy development
among their black students. In a five-step process, they identified a challenge, selected an approach, implemented and
evaluated the approach, and tben reflected on their experiences to guide future practice. In the course of two years, the
teachers developed more posirive views of their students’ abilities, developed new instructional strategies, and watched
their students improve.
Smaller school size
and common planning
time were key.
A Variety of Community Structures
A number of different types of collaborative, job-embedded
professional learning activities can improve teacher practice
and student achievement.
In just tbree years, Pine Hills Elementary School went from
having two-thirds of its primarily low-income students
reading below grade level to having two-thirds reading at or
above grade level. The principal and teachers attribute this
transformation to the redesign of professional learning opportunities at the school.
Pine Hills teachers were given the opportunity to create
their own professional development plan on tbe basis of
goals they selected for their students. They decided to focus
on literacy and sent a cadre of teachers to a three-week
summer literacy institute sponsored by a local university. The
institute helped them learn to integrate reading and writing
instruction with strategic assessments and teaching of
essential skills to students as needed.
The six teachers who attended the institute worked with
two district-funded instructional coaches to design professional development for the rest of the staff. Tbe coaches,
who were selected by the teachers, had substantiai, deep
l
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