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08. Teacher Learning

        Teachers' roles are changing mostly to deal with more challening work.  Teacher learning is mostly, but not fully, consistent with research on facilitative learning.  
        Teachers learns through their own experience, action research, from other teachers (formally and informally), professional meetings, in-school professional development, graduate programs, and from non-teaching situations such as parenting.  Despite all this, schools barely invest in formal professional development of their teachers - a fact unheard of in relation to other professions. 
        From a learner-centered perspective, PD (proessional development) must be sensitive to the needs of teachers. 
        From a knowledge-centered perspective, PD must be sensitive to pedagogical-content knowledge.  In one case, PD taught new pedagogy, but this entailed different types of thinking in the subject, which teachers didn't get.  As a result, the PD failed to acieve change.  In some PDs, teachers actually re-write their curriculums.  One challenge is that teachers generally see themselves as those in control and not needing revision.  Such attitudes must be addressed or can impede progress. 
        From an assessment-centered perspective, PD must be sensitive to the understandings of teachers by using formative assessments.  Further, reflections play an important part in getting the teacher to reflect on and actually make changes.  
        From a community-centered perspective, creating a community where teachers collaborate and watch each others' practice is important.  They should look together at teacher and student work.  Collaborative discussions are most effective when teachers togehter make sense of learning.  In short, 2 things are needed: shared experiences and discourse around text or data on student learning.  
        Pre-service training has traditionally consisted of 4 elements: teacher knowledge, pedagogy, considering student readiness, and social reconstructionism towards equality and justice.  The National Commission on Teaching and Americas Future noted some problems: Inadequate time, fragmented arragements, uninspired teaching methods, superficial curriculum.  These impede lifelong learning in 2 ways: they send the mesage that educational research is irrelevant and that teachers dont need deep knowledge of the subject.  Schools often reinforce this with "cover the curriculum" philosophies.  
        It is no surprise teacher turnover is so high- not only does preservice training often fall short, they are often given too many extra responsibilities as young teachers.  Many PD are antithetical to good teaching - workshops occur once, they deal with decontextualized information, and they dont meet teachers' needs.  The best PDs are extended over time and encourage development of teachers in learning communities.  They must involve teachers.  This has a big impract on teachers attitudes to use students-centered, construcitivist, depth-over-breadth approaches.  Oftentimes the school they grew up in influences their philosophy too.  
        Creating successful learning environments for teachers clearly has many challenges, yet is not an impossible task.  


As you are reading/listening/watching, make note of things that you find interesting, important, or insightful.  When you finish, choose 3 of these items that most stand out for you.

  • For one of these, choose a colour that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.
  • For another one, choose a symbol that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.
  • For the other one, choose an image that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.

With a partner or group first share your colour and then share the item from your reading that it represents.  Tell why you choose that colour as a representation of that idea.  Repeat the sharing process until every member of the group has shared his or her Colour, Symbol, and Image.

1.  Color - Grey
I chose this for the idea that it is quite sad how schools so often get professional development wrong.  Teachers are trained poorly, they pick up bad habits from their school, and unlike other professions, deep training isn't done effectively.  As grey is a color that represent bleakness, it is appropriate. 

2.  Symbol -
I chose this symbol because it represents the idea of going "and inch wide, mile deep" instead of what usually happens, going "a mile wide, inch deep."  In the frantic rush to do so much, the largest mistake it seems PD makes is trying to do everything at one.  Rather, a slower approach to PD, where teachers can go into depth into fewer topics, is more effective.  

3.  Image -
I chose this image because Gandhi is someone that practiced what he preached.  Most school PDs do quite the opposite.  They will lecture, for example, on how you need to do more group activities.