Monday, April 26, 2010

Making practice public: teacher learning in the 21st century.

Making practice public: teacher learning in the 21st century.(Report)
Lieberman, Ann, and Desiree Pointer Mace. "Making practice public: teacher learning in the 21st century." Journal of Teacher Education 61.1-2 (2010): 77+. Educators 200 Collection. Web. 13 Apr. 2010.


The authors argue that new technology beckons teachers forth into a new era of social networking and professional development. The argument is prefaced by a thorough review of the research, and they discuss the growth of professional communities as they exist in schools today. The article presents the 10-year experiment at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in detail, and how new techniques with technology were used in both preserve and professional development to make practices public.


The authors’ focus on examining student work and making practices public makes me reflect on the professional community that already exists at my school. Although we do not make use of all the technology that our students use, we do a great deal of sharing our students’ work with one another. This makes the school-wide exhibition of projects all the more important, because it is a singular occasion where all classrooms display student work for the public. However, I also wonder about what would happen if we did this more intentionally? It’s been several years since we’ve examined different artifacts of student learning.


“Many of us now have daily access to computers, cell phone cameras, and other multimedia tools. We use them to connect with our friends and families, but we have yet to capture the potential of these connections for professional learning. If teachers each start small--scanning a piece of student work, videotaping a conversation with a student, envisioning how they might share the events and artifacts of their practice--and then take the first step of asking a colleague (next door or online) to examine it with them, new conversations happen. Together, teaching professionals consider the subtleties of relational practice and strategize about how to improve student learning. Teachers don't have to wait for a monthly release inservice hour to reflect on their practice; doing so emerges from one's teaching and becomes part of daily practice. If a teacher can find time to reunite with former students, friends, and classmates online, it's a small next step to engage in conversation about teaching and learning.”

“What we have proposed in this article is a vision for professional learning initiatives that is democratic, participatory, and inexpensive. "Growing your own" professional development means granting value to the everyday decisions that shape teaching and learning in classrooms. Just as a local-foods gardener is invested in the daily care to grow food that will grace the tables of his or her community, teachers can access a greater investment in their own knowledge and expertise by sharing the fruits of their labors with each other. This task is not intended to result in one standard for teaching and learning (like the search for a perfectly round tomato) but to recognize the different heirloom varietals of accomplished teaching practices already in place, refining themselves over years and decades in schools. This vision of professional learning is intentionally local, humble, sustainable, and intended to nourish both individuals and their communities. But it is predicated on a vision of sharing your practices with others, which starts with each of us.”

"For many years, researchers have written about the isolation of teachers and the harm that it brings to their continued learning and development (Lieberman & Miller, 1984; Lortie, 1975; Sarason, 1982). More than 25 years ago, researchers began to look at the importance of collegiality among teachers (Little, 1982, 1986) to see whether it made a difference in the professional development of teachers. Little's (1982, 1986) seminal work showed that teachers who planned and worked together over time built commitment not only to each other but to further learning. Even the act of "struggling" together at the same time in the same ways helped teachers to master new practices. Some researchers warned that without the necessary supports, collegiality could be "contrived" (Hargreaves, 2003, p. 165). Policies, Hargreaves (2003) argued, could get in the way of collegiality by putting too many requirements and restrictions on allowing teachers to grow the necessary relationships and shared work."

"It has been only quite recently that researchers and policy makers have recognized that our current mode of providing professional development for teachers needs radical change (Borko & Putnam, 1995; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009; Fullan, 1995; Knapp, 2003; Lieberman & Miller, 2001). Researchers have played an important role in not only critiquing professional development that promises real change with only a few workshops but also bringing a new language and new evidence of what it will take to turn the isolation of teachers into professional learning communities. McLaughlin and Talbert (2001) studied high schools in Michigan and California and have provided us with the first in-depth study of communities of teachers in secondary schools. They found that subject matter departments were either "moving" or "stuck," referring to their openness to change or their sticking to the status quo. Departments were either "weak," "strong-traditional," or "strong innovative." They either "enacted tradition," "lowered standards and expectations of students," or "innovatively engaged students." The idea of a professional community encompassed collegiality but gave us a more nuanced picture, not only of how teachers learn to work together but also of how teaching and learning are connected differentially in various types of communities."

1 comment:

Stacey Caillier said...

I love how you are reflecting on the relevance of these ideas for your own practice and your research question. Your question below is powerful and worth pursuing...the intentionality piece seems key to what you are after with PD at your school!

" However, I also wonder about what would happen if we did this more intentionally? It’s been several years since we’ve examined different artifacts of student learning.

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