Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Professional Practice Schools: Linking Teacher Education and School Reform

Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (1992). Teacher development in professional practice schools. In M. Levine (Ed.), Professional practice schools: linking teacher education and school reform (pp. 105-123). New York City, NY: Teachers College Press.

Summary/ Analysis:
Lieberman and Miller provide a historical perspective for teacher development. Starting in the 1950s, they saw development termed "inservice training" as a deficit model that attempted to create "teacher-proof" curricula and to train teachers in using externally developed instructional materials. While they believe this approach to be a failure, they recognize that schools continue to hire outside "experts" to transmit their knowledge to a room full of teachers acting as passive recipients of the information. In the 1970s, they recognize a shift towards having "staff development" where the link was better made between the development of teachers as individuals and the growth of the school. In this model, schools worked with "at least a portion of a staff over a period of time with the necessary supportive conditions." (p. 106) Like the "inservice training" model, this new way of training teachers was not ideal because it continued to require and focus teachers on being able to adopt and internalize an externally designed curricula. The authors focus on a third and more recent model which they call "teacher development" where the teacher is seen as a reflective practitioner who grows and improves by ongoing inquiry, analysis, reflection and self- evaluation. In essence, this model is one of continuous culture building among a staff.

This type of teacher development requires five essential elements: norms of colleagueship, openness and trust; opportunities and time for disciplined inquiry; teacher learning of content in context; reconstruction of leadership roles; and networks, collaborations and coalitions. These ideals create the atmosphere of "shared work, shared problem solving, mutual assistance, and teacher leadership in curriculum and instruction" (p. 108) that is critical to inquiry and growth. The authors call the types of schools that engage in this work, "professional practice schools."

In professional practice schools, teachers are engaged in study groups, curriculum writing, teacher research projects, peer observation, case conferences, program evaluation and documentation, trying out new practices, developing teacher resource centers, and participation in outside events and organizations. In terms of teacher observations, teachers make informal contracts to visit one another's classroom and observe one another's teaching in partnerships. These observations can be geared towards helping their colleague in a specific area of concern, supporting their work with an individual student or group of students, or some other pre-determined focus. The visiting teacher always provides descriptive feedback to the teacher he or she observed. In this type of contract, it is teacher-initiated, teacher-driven and can be altered or terminated when both teachers agree for that to happen. Professional practice schools seem to combat the isolation that can exist for teachers in certain schools. Explicit connections need to be made between improving an adult culture and improving student achievement.

Relevant Quotes/ Concepts:
"In a school where teachers assume leadership in curriculum and instruction and where reflective action replaces routinized practice, providing opportunities and time for disciplined inquiry into teaching and learning becomes crucial... the research sensibility must be infused into the daily life and work of the school. Such an infusion takes time and commitment. It begins with an acknowledgement of the importance of norms of colleagueship and experimentation; it builds on shared problem identification and a mutual search for solutions; it depends on taking a risl in the classroom; and it requires the support of colleagues." (p. 108-109)

"Networks, collaborations, and coalitions take many forms. They may be informal collections of people, or they may be more formalized partnerships among institutions... In the past 2 years, groups of teachers have dealt with issues of equity, teachers' leadership, restructuring schools, grouping practices, early childhood education, and at-risk students. The groups' power stems from the fact they they are self-directed, define their own agendas, and provide the opportunity for teachers of like-mind and like-disposition to exchange experiences and ideas in an atmosphere of support and common understanding." (p. 115)

No comments:

Post a Comment