ERIC Identifier: ED383695
Publication Date: 1995-06-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher
Education Washington DC.
Reconceptualizing Professional Teacher Development. ERIC
The challenges and rewards of the teaching profession have never been
greater. The range and type of information that students need to know far
exceeds that of previous decades, and the academic expectations for all students
are increasing in virtually every state and community. The nation's schools are
more racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse than at any other point in
history, and there is much discussion about how all students will meet the
emerging subject-matter standards. Most school systems seek to transform their
schools to respond to a host of issues, ranging from these increased student
expectations to the conditions that students must confront in their communities.
It is clear that caring and competent teachers are vital to the success of each
of these initiatives and equally clear that preservice and inservice teacher
professional development must change to equip teachers to meet these challenges.
This Digest highlights ways in which new and seasoned teachers are developing
a repertoire of skills and knowledge that complement education reform efforts.
NEW CONCEPTIONS FOR TEACHER DEVELOPMENT
In order to be of
greater value to teachers and students, preservice and inservice professional
development must be reconceptualized. Rather than seeing each stage of a
teacher's professional life as distinct and separate, a more holistic view of
the development of a teacher from novice to advanced practitioner is needed. In
order to establish a rich learning environment for teachers throughout their
careers, a number of prevailing concepts must be abandoned. Smylie and Conyers
(1991) suggest that we must recast inservice programs to reflect the following
From deficit-based to competency-based approaches in which teachers'
knowledge, skills, and experiences are considered assets. Professional
development organized according to this approach will, in Smylie and Conyers'
view, shift teachers away from dependency on external sources for the solution
to their problems and toward professional growth and self-reliance in
instructional decision making. This concept has emerged as crucial in initial
teacher education as prospective teachers become increasingly diverse in
background, age, and experience. Such a model also helps teachers understand the
diverse K-12 student population (Zimpher & Ashburn, 1992; Delpit, 1988).
Well-designed case studies, which allow practicing teachers to learn from and
value the experiences of others, are becoming more common as training
From replication to reflection, in which practicing teachers focus less on
the transfer of knowledge and strategy and more on analytical and reflective
learning. Smylie and Conyers suggest that this reflective approach will sharpen
teachers' skills in problem solving, determining students' needs, and conducting
action research that is designed to develop new knowledge and skills related
specifically to their schools and classrooms. Providers of inservice programs
need to consider, however, that teachers have little time during the school day
to pause, reflect on practice, or conduct research. Ways need to be found to
provide practicing teachers with such time.
Reflection has proven useful in the preparation of prospective teachers who
are asked to maintain student journals and portfolios. Guided by seasoned
professionals, beginning teachers use these tools to understand their own
teaching strengths and weaknesses. Journals and portfolios also show promise for
experienced classroom teachers and for college faculty to examine their beliefs,
knowledge, and experiences over time.
From learning separately to learning together, in which practicing teachers
are jointly responsible for their work in classrooms, and their wisdom and
experiences are perceived as professional resources. Smylie and Conyers (1991)
note that this conception has important implications for how schools are
organized, in other words, as places for teachers to learn as well as to teach.
This paradigm shift addresses one of the most pervasive conditions of
classroom--teachers isolation, or the inability to learn and to communicate with
colleagues in the place where it counts most--the school. Perhaps one of the
most popular mechanisms for "learning together" is the professional development
or clinical school. These professional development sites offer practicing
teachers, prospective teachers, and college faculty the opportunity to exchange
pedagogical knowledge and ideas at school.
From centralization to decentralization, in which the role of a school
system's central administration shifts from identifying and organizing staff
development activities to supporting and facilitating those that school-based
staff have determined are important and necessary. Decentralization allows for
more tailored professional development activities and has implications beyond
the topic and content of the activity. One characteristic of this approach is
that professional development, inservice in particular, increasingly is being
conducted in and by school systems rather than in colleges and universities.
As Little (1993) notes, restructuring professional development around such
concepts is easier said than done because the current system often contradicts
or fails to accommodate new requirements and initiatives. Newly informed
professional development calls not only for training, but also for the adequate
opportunity to learn within a teacher's day-to-day work. On the other hand, in
the absence of a good fit between the nature of a reform and the nature of
professional development, schools and school systems are inclined to do
something, and that something is likely to look like the existing menu of
NEW MODELS FOR PREPARATION, INDUCTION, AND DEVELOPMENT
the past decade, scholars, prompted by education policymakers, focused much
attention on reconceptualizing the manner in which we teach prospective teachers
and ensure the continuing learning of practicing teachers. Genuinely new
concepts have emerged from these deliberations so that today teacher education
is talked of as a lifelong experience that extends from program admission to
retirement. A number of new formats for such development have also emerged, not
the least of which are professional development, partner, or clinical schools
that are designed to train prospective, nurture novice, and refresh seasoned
teachers on the school site (Darling-Hammond, 1994). Mentoring programs pair
novice teachers with outstanding experienced teachers who can explain school
policies and practices, share methods and materials, and help solve problems.
Mentors may also guide the professional growth of new teachers by promoting
reflection and fostering the norms of collaboration and shared inquiry
(Feiman-Nemser & Parker, 1992).
Societal issues such as crime, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, homelessness,
and child abuse have also influenced how teachers practice and the nature of
their training. It is becoming increasingly evident to many educators that
greater collaboration among social service providers is necessary in order to
meet the first National Education Goal--that all children in America will start
school ready to learn--and to ensure effective academic careers for all
students. Consequently, there are a number of comprehensive service or
cross-professional training programs under development involving schools of
education, medicine, law, nursing, criminal justice, and social work.
Asayesh (1994) states, "Over the past 5 to 10
years, more and more school districts have reorganized to give power to those
most responsible for educating children" (p.2). Despite budget cuts, educators
perceive that this decentralization, or site-based management, has created new
opportunities for growth, particularly among school staff. According to Miller,
Lord, and Dorney (1994), most school systems presume that an investment in
professional development will pay off in teachers' implementation of innovations
or in prescribed changes in their classroom practice. This view, while seemingly
fair, is also limiting; it calls for results more definitive or immediate than
can sometimes be expected.
Professional development is an aspect of school reform that is receiving
enormous attention. It is also an area about which surprisingly little is known,
with only a handful of studies that document its provision, costs, and effect.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in
microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.
Asayesh, G. (1994, Summer). The changing role of central office and its
implications for staff development. Journal of Staff Development, 15(3), 2-5.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1994). Professional development schools: Schools for
developing a profession. New York: Teachers College Press. ED 364 996
Delpit, L. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating
other people's children. Harvard Education Review, 58, 280-298. EJ 378 426
Feiman-Nemser, S., & Parker, M. B. (1992, Spring). Mentoring in context:
A comparison of two U.S. programs for beginning teachers. NCRTL Special Report.
East Lansing, MI: National Center for Research on Teacher Learning, Michigan
State University. ED 346 091
Little, J. W. (1993). Teachers' professional development in a climate of
education reform. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15(2), 129-151. EJ
Miller, B., Lord, B., & Dorney, J. (1994). Summary report. Staff
development for teachers. A study of configurations and costs in four districts.
Newton, MA: Education Development Center.
Smylie, M. A., & Conyers, J. G. (1991, Winter). Changing conceptions of
teaching influence the future of staff development. Journal of Staff
Development, 12(1), 12-16. EJ 431 936
Zimpher, N. L., & Ashburn, E. A. (1992). Countering parochialism in
teacher candidates. In M. Dilworth (ed.), Diversity in teacher education: New
expectations (pp.40-62). San Francisco: Jossey Bass. ED 349 312
This ERIC Digest was adapted from the article:
Dilworth, M. E., & Imig, D. G. (1995, Winter). Professional teacher
development. The ERIC Review, 3(3), 5-11.