Our professional development efforts are not having much impact in classrooms
Many of our teachers take advantage of a range of development opportunities. They enroll in well-established and popular graduate programs at a local university. They attend NCTM regional, state and national meetings. And they take advantage of district sponsored summer workshops. Our teachers clearly grow, as people and as professionals. However, the impact on the classroom experiences of students in our schools is disappointing. Could we do better and, if so, how?
Give professional development more impact
This strategy involves designing a professional development program at the district level built on general principles that research suggests are key to influencing teachers’ beliefs and reshaping their instructional practices. It requires a shift in the curriculum, pedagogy and discourse of professional development from simply giving teachers things to do in their classroom toward providing support for more reflective approaches to teaching, learning and assessment.
Districts that adopt high quality curriculum materials, especially NSF programs, will find it necessary to engage their teachers with intense and on-going professional development support. Because this work is grounded in classroom practice, the professional development with the program usually pulls together the multiple issues of teaching and connects them directly to the classroom.
Coaching in the classroom
Content-focused coaching is a strategy that is used by many districts to deepen teachers' content knowledge and improve aspects of teaching, learning, and assessment practices used in classrooms. It is based on a premise that teachers need ongoing professional development opportunities to grow and develop their teaching practice during the service of instruction.
This strategy is based on the use of rich assessment tasks as a tool for stimulating professional and system development. Such tasks, when used with specific rubrics and examples of student work, can communicate vividly to teachers and their students the essentials of the planned reform - in performance, content, process and pedagogy.