The Professional Development – Teaching Connection
At FETC this past week, I had a great discussion about education with Don Hall, CIO of the Muskogee County School District in Columbus Georgia, and Cory Linton, Executive Vice President of School Improvement Network.
We had just attended a focus group on School Improvement Network that was put together by the BLE group. School Improvement Network is a client of ours. Their fastest growing service is PD360, on demand online professional development based on The Video Journal of Education’s 17 years of publishing 8–12 PD videos a year. Don had been a member of the focus group, and the three of us just got into a discussion on our vision of how PD should fit within comprehensive education framework.
Don led our talk, and most of these ideas come from his vision. Don started out describing the following diagram of how good instructional material works with teachers, students, and classrooms.
A teacher looks at a student, and can start at any of three different places. She can look at what he needs to learn, or learning standards. She can start by using specific resources or methods to teach him what she believes he should learn next. Or, she can employ an assessment to find out what he knows, and what he has yet to learn. As an industry, we’re starting to do a good job of integrating those three, assessments are starting to point out what learning standards have and have not been achieved, while also pointing to learning resources that will help the student achieve the next step. Learning resources are being linked to specific learning objectives, with the goal of then fitting in with the way the students will be assessed.
The other side of the issue is to ensure that the teacher has the knowledge and skills to be able to use the standards, resources, and assessments to achieve superior results. Existing development plans and support resources include district wide professional development, coaching, and learning communities.
But the idea of integrating the specific information a teacher needs, at the time she needs it, in the way that she is most receptive to learning, is the next step and is illustrated by the diagram below.
How might this work?
Let’s say a new teacher, who has been schooled in the ideal world of classroom teaching, confronts her first real life hurdle. Wouldn’t it be great if she could pull up a resource that would tell her about different ways to handle the hurdle? And then, what if she could watch an exceptional teacher actually employ one of those solutions in a classroom? And then, if she wanted, learn why that method works?
Historically, the teacher would go ask the teacher next door for advice. But, as Don pointed out, couldn’t this be the continual perpetuation of bad teaching practices?
The ideal situation would be, for all teachers, to have experts available to describe what to do, show how to do it, and explain how to do it, right when they need it most, and tied to the learning standards, instructional resources, and assessments that they use every day. This diagram might look like this:
A teacher would thus be able to obtain the information about the standards each student needed to achieve, what he needed to learn, and would be able to skillfully use the available resources to fashion an appropriate intervention in an effective manner at the right time.
Wouldn’t that be great?
If you want to continue the discussion, Don Hall is at the Muscogee County School district, http://www.mcsdga.net. Cory Linton can talk more about how School Improvement Network is working with publishers, education experts, and school districts, and can be reached via http://www.schoolimprovement.com, or we welcome comments to these articles at http://academicbiz.typepad.com.