ERIC Identifier: ED465495
Publication Date: 2001-07-00
Author: Lee, Hea-Jin
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Enriching the Professional Development of Mathematics Teachers.
In recent years, there has been growing dissatisfaction with traditional
approaches to teacher education. Educators have indicated that teacher education
programs are not adequately preparing teachers for future conditions and needs
of students. In the early 1970s, the goal of inservice teacher education was to
bring outside expertise to teachers to increase their knowledge. In the 1980s,
an overly technical and simplistic view of teaching was dominant. The current
focus of professional development has widened to include not only teachers but
also the organizations to which the teachers belong (Loucks-Horsley, 1995).
Since, the traditional ways in which professional development has been provided
are now considered inadequate, this Digest will focus on recent strategies for
enhancing professional learning as well as developing effective professional
CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE PROFESSIONAL
Professional development is a critical ingredient of mathematics
education reform. Effective professional development experiences are designed to
help teachers build new understandings of teaching and learning through direct
experiences with strategies that help students learn in new ways. Many educators
and organizations have endeavored to clarify the characteristics of effective
professional development in mathematics education (Clarke, 1994; Loucks-Horsley,
Stile, & Hewson, 1996; Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love, & Stile, 1998;
National Staff Development Council, 1994, 1995a, 1995b; NCTM, 1989).
Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love, & Stile (1998, p.36) listed the following
principles that shape effective professional development experiences. Such
Are driven by a well-defined image of effective classroom learning and teaching;
Provide opportunities for teachers to build their knowledge and skills;
Use or model with teachers the strategies teachers will use with their students;
Build a learning community;
Support teachers to serve in leadership roles;
Provide links to other parts of the education system; and
Are continuously assessing themselves and making improvement to ensure positive
impact on teacher effectiveness, student learning, leadership, and the school
CRITICAL ISSUES ENHANCING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
ago, Jones et al. (1992) discussed major concerns regarding the need for
professional development programs, programs that:
Actively promote "individually guided" teacher activities;
Generate the conditions for significant follow-through and feedback on new
Provide opportunities for teacher input and involvement in establishing and
developing the professional development program;
Support an inquiry approach for addressing teachers' pedagogical problems; and
generate a knowledge base for effective teacher decision- making.
Although these concerns are still critical to success, several new issues
should be considered when designing professional development programs. These
include: ensuring equity, building professional culture, developing leadership,
building capacity for professional learning, scaling up, generating public
support, supporting the effective use of standards and frameworks through
professional development, finding time for professional development, and
evaluating professional development.
It is important for educators to understand that professional development
cannot be prespecified in a standard format; the environment in which a program
is implemented is critical. Designers need to consider contextual factors as
they plan programs. Factors such as students, teachers, the physical
environment, policies, resources, organizational culture, organizational
structures, and the local history of professional development, along with
parents and the community, must be considered when developing new programs.
STRATEGIES FOR PROFESSIONAL LEARNING
development does not occur as an isolated strategy. Every program uses a variety
of strategies in various combinations. According to the National Staff
Development Council (Sparks & Loucks-Horsey, 1990), five different models of
effective staff development for teachers were identified: training,
individually-guided staff development, observation/assessment, involvement in
development/improvement process, and inquiry. These can be used singularly or in
Loucks-Horsley et al. (1998) discussed specific professional development
strategies (learning experiences) with different purposes indicated by Brown
& Smith (1997). These strategies correspond to the professional development
models adopted by several different institutions or organizations. For the
primary purpose of building teacher knowledge, recommended strategies are:
engaging in the kinds of learning that teachers are expected to practice with
their students; participating in workshops, institutes, courses, and seminars;
interacting in person or through electronic means with other teachers to discuss
topics of common interest; and using various kinds of technology to learn
content and pedagogy.
Creating new instructional materials and strategies to meet the learning
needs of students is suggested for the purpose of translating theory into
practice. For the best effect when using this strategy, voluntary participation,
clear expectation, an established procedure, content knowledge, and district or
school administrative support are critical.
Strategies related to practice teaching include curriculum implementations
(learning, using, and refining use of a particular set of instructional
materials in the classroom), curriculum replacement units (implementing a unit
of instruction that addresses one topic and incorporates effective teaching and
learning strategies to accomplish learning goals), coaching and mentoring
(working with experienced teacher to improve teaching and learning through a
variety of activities, including classroom observation and feedback,
troubleshooting, and co-planning), and nurturing professional developers
(building the skills and knowledge needed to create learning experiences for
Lastly, action research, case discuss, examining student work (and thinking),
and study groups can be used as the strategies for the promoting reflection. To
achieve desirable outcomes when using these strategies, access to research
resources, time, administrative support and an atmosphere conducive to
experimentation, and opportunities to share the results of their research should
For the 21st century, professional development
of mathematics teachers must address several challenges, such as the need to
educate an increasingly diverse student population, the change required by new
goals for schooling, and the necessity for teachers and other educators to
function well and create new organizations as needed. The paradigm shift in
professional development suggests a change in emphasis from transmission of
knowledge to experimental learning; from reliance on existing research findings
to examining one's own teaching practice; from individual -focused to
collaborative learning; and from mimicking best practice to problem-focused
learning (Loucks-Horsley, 1995; Sparks, 1994).
Following are a few items that teacher educators and teachers should keep in
mind to enrich professional development programs.
Professional learning must be lifelong and relevant to student learning.
Schools must stop counting hours or programs that a teacher participates in
professional development, and start measuring what happens as result of their
Teachers should stop receiving one-shot workshops and become active decision
makers in the process of designing and choosing professional development
Planning professional development should start with the end (outcomes) in mind
and encourage teachers to be involved in the planning process.
Professional development initiatives in mathematics should have an appropriate
level of challenge and support, provide activities demonstrating new ways to
teach and learn, build internal capacity, use a team approach, provide time for
reflection, evaluate the effectiveness and the impact of the activities, and use
humor and have fun.
Follow-up to professional development should be provided--such as opportunities
for practice in the classroom.
The professional development designer's challenge is to assemble a combination
of learning activities that best meet the specific goals and context.
Remember that professional development alone cannot carry a reform effort.
Professional development should be viewed as a critical component of reform.
It must be linked to those same clear goals for students as well as assessment,
preservice teacher education, school leadership, resources, and staffing.
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