ERIC Identifier: ED383694
Publication Date: 1995-06-00
Author: Dilworth, Mary E. - Imig, David G.
Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Professional Teacher Development and the Reform Agenda. ERIC
The designation of "teacher education and professional development" as one of
the National Education Goals (added to the original six in mid-1994) is genuine
recognition that well-prepared teachers are essential to educational reform
By the year 2000, the nation's teaching force will have access to programs
for continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to
acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all American
students for the next century.
The goal suggests that practicing teachers are key to the transformation of
schools and that in order for teachers to lead the reform efforts, they need to
be offered expanded and enriched professional development experiences. Such
experiences should be tied directly to the emerging student performance
standards and be continuous, site-based, teacher-designed, and organizationally
focused. Professional development programs with these characteristics have to be
viewed as essential or core activities that are less vulnerable to budget cuts.
Professional development is an integral part of current efforts to transform
and revitalize education. The promise of a high-quality education for all
children is dependent not only on a total restructuring of schools, but also on
the knowledge and commitment of practitioners to restructuring. As school reform
proponents Ann Lieberman and Lynne Miller state, "for school restructuring to
occur, a combination of factors must be present at the same time and over
time--including leadership, a shared mission, school goals, necessary resources,
the promotion of colleagueship, and the provision of professional growth
opportunities for teachers" (Lieberman & Miller, 1990).
CHALLENGES TO TEACHERS
Although education reform
initiatives offer great promise, researchers suggest that they also pose
significant challenges to teachers as individuals and as members of a wider
professional community. According to Judith Little (1993), "one test of
teachers' professional development is its capacity to equip teachers
individually and collectively to act as shapers, promoters, and well-informed
critics of reform" (p.130). At the same time, Little cautions against leveling
full responsibility for implementing education reforms on teachers. She has
identified five areas as being integrally tied to enhanced teaching and
therefore essential to professional development: reforms in subject-matter
teaching; equity for diverse student populations; changes in the nature, extent,
and use of assessment; the social organization of schools; and the
professionalization of teaching. Each suggests the need for teachers to gain new
knowledge and enhanced skills.
Authors Mark Smylie and John Conyers (1991) contend that rapid changes in the
characteristics, conditions, and learning needs of students will continue; that
knowledge about teaching and learning will expand dramatically; and that schools
will face ongoing pressures for accountability and reform. They conclude that
"these conditions will create unprecedented demands for the development of
teachers' knowledge and skills" (p. 12).
TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AS REFORM
In order to expand professional development and have it fulfill its promise
of transforming teaching and learning, new relationships between schools and
schools of education must be established. As teachers take greater
responsibility for their own professional development and for the operation of
their schools, they find less time and desire to pursue university instruction
based in large measure on research. At the same time, faculty at colleges and
universities find less access to the schools and to practitioners who validate
new forms of pedagogy and practice. In this situation, neither party fully
benefits from the knowledge of the other. Education school faculty, school
district staff developers, and other providers of inservice experiences need to
rethink their roles and relationships. Programs that develop or enhance the
capacity of these providers are particularly important. Action research and
professional development schools are among the emerging concepts that support
collaborations among faculty, staff, and field-based practitioners.
Not surprisingly, the policy community, in a reform posture, is currently
focusing much attention on professional development and the establishment of new
regulatory policies for licensing and relicensing teachers. Guided by emerging
state content or subject-matter frameworks for students, state policymakers are
seeking to align all facets of teacher development with these standards. Many
states are currently:
Restructuring the format for licenses, e.g., by developing initial or
probationary licenses for the initial year(s) of teaching and reconsidering
standards for advanced practice or specialized areas of practice.
Sponsoring alternative providers of continuing education credits, including
teacher organizations and for-profit enterprises.
Developing or adopting performance-based licensure assessments (such as the new
NTE "Praxis" examination) that accompany initial licensure or are used as part
of relicensure based on subject-matter standards.
Considering or establishing relationships between how graduates perform on
licensure examinations and how teacher preparation programs are evaluated.
Establishing or working with established teacher professional standards boards
that participate in or control the licensure and relicensure function.
Considering new forms of salary differentiation for teachers that correspond to
new licensure formats.
Considering or establishing linkages between the licensure process and national
accreditation of teacher education. More than half of the states have
established linkages between the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher
Education (NCATE) and program approval; all states will have the option of
linking NCATE with the state licensure system.
One of the major implications of these developments is a new perspective on
the state's accountability function for the continuous performance of teachers.
By requiring and supporting induction programs, states are implicitly
recognizing that their licensure function means both public accountability and
responsibility for support and improvement of teaching practice. The previously
separate functions of assessment and professional development are being merged
into a new state role that establishes higher, more performance-related
standards and takes responsibility for ensuring that teachers can meet the
standards. This trend holds promises for increased collaboration among state
departments of education, schools, and teacher preparation institutions. The new
state role also raises potential concerns, such as conflict of interest in the
assessment process and inequities in the licensure system resulting from the
uneven conditions of schooling across different districts.
Teacher Certification. The term "teacher certification" has recently come to
have the same meaning in education as it does in other professions a designation
of advanced practice in a specialized area, based on a voluntary system of
application and assessment. Since the mid-1980s, a comprehensive national
certification initiative for teaching has been operating with substantial
funding from private and corporate foundations and the federal government. The
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which represents a reform
mechanism that contributes to the continuing professional development of
teachers, is developing a comprehensive system of national certification
assessments that began operating in late 1994. The National Board, which draws
membership and support from both major national teacher unions and a wide range
of education constituents, has the potential to affect a broad range of issues
through certification. These include:
* a nationally agreed-upon definition of advanced teaching practice in the
individual disciplines and grade levels;
* state incentives for teachers to apply for certification, including
differentiated pay scales;
* school district hiring practices that would recognize national
* equity in the distribution of nationally certified teachers across school
districts within a state;
* differentiated staffing in schools to recognize distinct roles for
certified teachers; and
* reciprocity arrangements across states to recognize the status of
nationally certified teachers.
The individualized professional development process associated with National
Board certification will likely have an impact on traditional preservice and
inservice programs. States may use data on teacher performance on the
certification assessments to make judgments about teacher preparation programs.
The certification process may also trigger changes in K-12 schools as teachers
align their instructional and assessment practices with professional standards.
The National Staff Development Council's Standards for Staff Development (1994)
offer additional guidance for teacher development and school change.
In the current climate of systemic reform, the
professional development of teachers has taken on new prominence. There are a
host of reasons for this new urgency, ultimately centering on the importance of
the classroom teacher in promoting successful student learning. Without the
continuous improvement of teaching (and of professional teachers), the reforms
will fail. Professional development must serve the purpose of promoting
teachers' continuous learning of integrating new knowledge about teaching and
learning within the social contexts in which teaching takes place.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
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microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.
Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (1990, June). Restructuring schools: What
matters and what works. Phi Delta Kappan, 71(10), 759 764. EJ 410 181
Little, J. W. (1993). Teachers' professional development in a climate of
education reform. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15(2), 129-151. EJ
National Staff Development Council. (1994). Standards for staff development.
Oxford, OH: Author.
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
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.