ERIC Identifier: ED400259
Publication Date: 1996-10-00
Author: Abdal-Haqq, Ismat
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Making Time for Teacher Professional Development. ERIC Digest.
For many years, teachers and other educators have
used district-sponsored staff development or university course work to improve
individual skills, qualify for salary increases, and meet certification
requirements. Professional development rewarded educators with personal and
professional growth, greater job security, and career advancement. Schools
benefitted primarily at the classroom level through whatever added value the
learning experience gave to an individual teacher's practice. However, in recent
years we have seen growing appreciation for the potential impact of professional
development on the overall school, not just individual classrooms.
Awareness of professional development's value in advancing school improvement
is evident in several state and national reports, as well as in research reports
on school restructuring initiatives. The 1994 National Education Commission on
Time and Learning (NECTL) report, Prisoners of Time, indicates that what
teachers are expected to know and do has increased in amount and complexity. A
National Governors' Association report (Corcoran, 1995) notes that systemic
reforms place many demands on teachers improving subject-matter knowledge and
pedagogical skills; understanding cultural and psychological factors that affect
student learning; and assuming greater, and in some cases new, responsibilities
for curriculum, assessment, outreach, governance, and interagency collaboration.
In an Indiana Department of Education report, Bull, Buechler, Didley, and
Krehbiel (1994) point out that meeting these demands may be particularly
stressful for America's aging teaching force, which averages 14.5 teaching
years. For the most part, these teachers received their training at a time when
teaching did not routinely require many of the skills that are needed to
function effectively in restructured schools. Redefinition of teacher work has
led to reconceptualizing professional development and to increased regard for
its role in many quarters, particularly when large-scale systemic reform
initiatives are launched (Kentucky Education Association, 1993).
Teachers, researchers, and policymakers consistently indicate that the
greatest challenge to implementing effective professional development is lack of
time. Teachers need time to understand new concepts, learn new skills, develop
new attitudes, research, discuss, reflect, assess, try new approaches and
integrate them into their practice; and time to plan their own professional
development (Cambone, 1995; Corcoran, 1995; Troen & Bolles, 1994; Watts
& Castle, 1993). Cambone (1995) points out that teachers, as adult learners,
need both set-aside time for learning (e.g., workshops and courses) and time to
experience and digest new ideas and ways of working.
This Digest outlines what research and best practice tell us about effective
professional development for teachers working in restructured, learner-centered
schools. It considers the implications of traditional scheduling patterns for
implementating effective professional development and shares some approaches
that various schools and districts have taken to finding time for professional
WHAT ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
Effective professional development addresses the flaws of
traditional approaches, which are often criticized for being fragmented,
unproductive, inefficient, unrelated to practice, and lacking in intensity and
follow-up (Bull et al., 1994; Corcoran, 1995; Professional Development, 1994).
Effective professional development:
includes training, practice, and feedback; opportunities for individual
reflection and group inquiry into practice; and coaching or other follow-up
is school-based and embedded in teacher work;
is collaborative, providing opporunities for teachers to interact with peers;
focuses on student learning, which should, in part, guide assessment of its
encourages and supports school-based and teacher initiatives;
is rooted in the knowledge base for teaching;
incorporates constructivist approaches to teaching and learning;
recognizes teachers as professionals and adult learners;
provides adequate time and follow-up support; and
is accessible and inclusive.
DO TYPICAL SCHOOL SCHEDULES SUPPORT EFFECTIVE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS?
A major theme in Prisoners of Time (1994), the
NECTL report, is that U. S. students and teachers are victims of inflexible and
counterproductive school schedules. Professional development and collaboration
generally must take place before or after school or in the summer, thus imposing
on teachers' personal time; during planning or preparation periods, which cuts
into time needed for other tasks; or on the limited number of staff development
days. Teachers who sacrifice personal time or preparation time often experience
burn-out from trying to fulfill competing demands for their time.
Professional development has not been widely seen as an intrinsic part of
making teachers more adept and productive in the classroom (Watts & Castle,
1993); thus, school schedules do not normally incorporate time to consult or
observe colleagues or engage in professional activities such as research,
learning and practicing new skills, curriculum development, or professional
reading. Typically, administrators, parents, and legislators view unfavorably
anything that draws teachers away from direct engagement with students. Indeed,
teachers themselves often feel guilty about being away from their classrooms for
restructuring or staff development activities (Cambone, 1995; Raywid, 1993).
A number of researchers have contrasted this pattern with the approach found
in foreign countries, particularly in China, Japan, and Germany where time for
collegial interaction and collaboration are integrated into the school day
(NECTL, 1994). For example, in many Asian schools, which generally have larger
class sizes than U.S. schools, teachers teach fewer classes and spend 30-40% of
their day out of the classroom, conferring with students and colleagues or
engaged in other professional work. Donahoe (1993) suggests that such set-aside
time is particularly important when significant school improvement plans are
underway and advises states or school districts to formally establish
"collective staff time," just as they set minimums for class time and teaching
HOW DO SCHOOL DISTRICTS MAKE MORE TIME FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
In a study of regional and national innovative school
groups, Raywid (1993) found three broad approaches to finding time for teachers
to collaborate: (1) adding time by extending the school day or year, (2)
extracting time from the existing schedule, and (3) altering staff utilization
patterns. Given below are examples of the five types of time created for teacher
development that Watts and Castle (1993) identified in a survey of schools
involved in National Education Association initiatives.
Freed up time using teaching assistants, college interns, parents, and
administrators to cover classes; regularly scheduled early release days.
Restructured or rescheduled time lengthening school day on four days, with
early release on day five.
Better-used time using regular staff or district meetings for planning and
professional growth rather than for informational or administrative purposes.
Common time scheduling common planning periods for colleagues having similar
Purchased time establishing a substitute bank of 30-40 days per year, which
teachers can tap when they participate in committee work or professional
Block scheduling can also make it easier to carve professional development
time from the school day (Tanner, Canady, & Rettig, 1995). For example,
Hackmann (1995) describes a middle school block schedule that frees one-fourth
of the faculty to plan or engage in other professional work during each period
of the day. At least one day a week, teachers in the Teaching and Learning
Collaborative in Massachusetts have no teaching duties. They can use this
Alternative Professional Time to pursue professional interests or alternative
roles, such as writing curriculum, conducting research, supervising student
teacher interns, or teaching college classes. This arrangement is facilitated by
the presence of full-time teaching interns and team-teaching. (Troen &
Bolles, 1994). Newer technologies, such as Internet and video conferencing, can
give teachers access to instructional resources and collegial networks
(Professional Development, 1994).
There may be opposition to some of the above mentioned strategies. Adding
more pupil-free professional development days can be costly and may provoke
opposition from financial managers or legislators. Cambone (1995) points out
that schools do not exist in a vacuum, isolated from the larger community.
Extending the school day and school year to accommodate more professional
development time can upset parents' child care arrangements and family
vacations. If schools remain open during the summer and teenagers are not free
for summer jobs in places like amusement parks, the local economy can be
affected and commercial interests may object to such a schedule change. School
maintenance agendas, which often schedule big projects over the summer, may also
be affected by extending the school year.
Perhaps the most formidable challenge to institutionalizing effective
professional development time may be the prevailing school culture, which
generally considers a teacher's proper place during school hours to be in front
of a class and which isolates teachers from one another and discourages
collaborative work (NECTL, 1994). It is a culture that does not place a premium
on teacher learning and in which decisions about professional development needs
are not usually made by teachers but by state, district, and building
administrators. Paradoxically, implementing a more effective pattern of teacher
professional development requires struggling against these constraints, but it
may also help to create a school climate that is more hospitable to teacher
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. References followed by an SP
clearinghouse number were being processed at the time of publication. Journal
articles (EJ) should be available at most research libraries; most documents
(ED) are available in microfiche collections at more than 900 locations.
Documents can also be ordered through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service:
Bull, B., Buechler, M., Didley, S., & Krehbiel, L. (1994). Professional
development and teacher time: Principles, guidelines, and policy options for
Indiana. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Education Policy Center, School of Education,
Indiana University. ED384112
Cambone, J. (1995). Time for teachers in school restructuring. Teachers
College Record, 96(3): 512-43. EJ505811
Corcoran, T. C. (1995). Transforming professional development for teachers: A
guide for state policymakers. Washington, DC: National Governors' Association.
Donahoe, T. (1993). Finding the way: Structure, time, and culture in school
improvement. Phi Delta Kappan 75(4): 298-305. EJ474290
Hackmann, D. G. (1995). Ten guidelines for implementing block scheduling.
Educational Leadership, 53(3): 24-27.
Kentucky Education Association, & Appalachia Educational Laboratory.
(1993). Finding time for school reform: Obstacles and answers. Frankfort, KY:
National Education Commission on Time and Learning [NECTL]. (1994). Prisoners
of time. Washington, DC: Author. ED366115 [Available on-line:
Professional development: Changing times. (1994). Policy Briefs, Report 4.
Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. ED376618
Raywid, M. A. (1993). Finding time for collaboration. Educational Leadership,
51(1): 30-34. EJ468684
Tanner, B., Canady, R. L., & Rettig, R. L. (1995). Scheduling time to
maximize staff development opportunities. Journal of Staff Development, 16(4):
Troen, V., & Bolles, K. (1994). Two teachers examine the power of teacher
leadership. In D. R. Walling (Ed.), Teachers as leaders. Perspectives on the
professional development of teachers (pp. 275-86). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta
Kappa Educational Foundation. ED379283
Watts, G. D., & Castle, S. (1993). The time dilemma in school
restructuring. Phi Delta Kappan 75(4): 306-10. EJ474291