Professional Development

Do you oversee a school whose hardware, software, and networking equipment are state of the art but, sadly, not used to their potential? It takes a new vision of professional development to enable teachers to take full advantage of computer technology in teaching and learning.

chool after school has learned the hard way that simply having computer equipment doesn’t matter if teachers don’t know how to use it. If the problem is that teachers don’t know how to use the technology, the solution must be professional development, right? Of course. But conventional, intermittent staff development workshops that focus on only the mechanics of using computer technology are not the answer. Recent studies have shown that they simply don’t work or, at best, are of benefit to only a few teachers. Grant (1996) notes that simply sending teachers to learn specific technologies has not yielded the desired results: Too often the results of these sessions have fallen short of hopes: there has been little carryover into the classroom, and new technologies have remained on the periphery of school life and been used only sporadically by teachers, despite the high expectations of trainers, reformers, and the teachers themselves. Effective integration of technology into education calls for a new vision of professional development—not one that attempts merely to add technology to an established system but one that takes a fresh look at teaching and learning in general. Professional development composed of a few days of inservice workshops every year must be replaced by ongoing programs that are tied to your school’s curriculum goals, designed with built-in evaluation, and sustained by adequate financial and staff support. Sparks and Hirsh (1997) make compelling recommendations for “a paradigm shift in staff development,” driven by what they call “three powerful ideas”: results-driven education, in which students come to know and be able to do; systems thinking, which emphasizes organizational structures and the dynamic interactions among all elements (including technology) involved in the education system; and constructivism, which views each learner as the active builder of his or her own knowledge through active exploration, inquiry, discussion, reflection, and application. As Sparks and Hirsch make clear, the focus of professional development should ultimately be the student, not the teacher. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. Loucks-Horsley and Sparks (1994), for example, recommend moving from too much focus on teacher needs, individual development, and pull-out training to more focus on student learning outcomes, individual and system development, and job-embedded learning.
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P R I N C I PA L L E A D E R S H I P . interpret. The program requires after-school time for which the teachers should be paid. Successful study group programs usually involve small groups that meet regularly (at least one hour a week) and typically research and practice new methods for meeting student learning goals. an application form. study groups. which can be tense.) Following are three models for effectively integrating technology into the curriculum through staff development– peer coaching. they alter their practices to provide new and innovative opportunities for their students to learn in challenging and productive new ways. • The teachers need not be from the same grade level.. • After the coaches have visited one another’s classes. and help one another solve problems. and synthesize information (as opposed to rote memorization and the acquisition of isolated skills). Indeed. and discuss school policy is another effective method of developing partnerships among educators. topics to stimulate discussion and exchange between the coaches. The resulting professional culture would be one in which teachers “collaborate with colleagues and participate in their own renewal and the renewal of their schools” (Lieberman and Miller 1990. (For more on this process. or disseminated in a variety of other ways as determined by the program’s structure. The same person should handle this task at each meeting to ensure continuity. Unlike performance-review visits. see Meyer and Gray 1996. • The proceedings of each meeting should be carefully recorded. The steps outlined above can be adapted to many situations.) 44 Having teachers and administrators form study groups to exchange ideas. Using study groups to integrate technology into teaching: • Study groups of no more than six people work together to plan technology-integrated instructional units and research uses of technology in teaching and learning. even if it is only a token amount. Peer Coaching • Host an orientation meeting to explain the program in greater detail. Study-groups are flexible and can vary according to need. see Jones et al. including technology integration. answer questions. These models support learning and emphasize the ability to access. Peer coaching provides an opportunity for teachers to help one another and to share the ups and down of teaching. Peer coaches’ observations can be summarized in a report.g.. flyers.) Applying peer coaching to technology integration: • Publicize your peer coaching program among your teachers (using newsletters. Meyer and Gray’s packet provides the coaching teams with “self-assessment questionnaires” to stimulate exchanges between the participants before the first class visit. visits from peer coaches are stress free and even enjoyable because the process is based on mutual support. bulletin boards. To bring this about.g. the courses will naturally be technology related—and when they will visit one another’s classes. so it is adaptable to just about any discipline. and evaluate practices that have the potential to meet the needs of their students. (For more on engaged learning.) • Have the participants choose partners and determine which classes they want their partners to attend—if the programs’ focus is technology integration. as a result. they meet to discuss their observations. and offer participants a small stipend. we must make fundamental changes in the system. Murphy and Lick (1998) note: The professional study group process allows teachers the freedom and flexibility to explicate. Peer coaching is not subject-specific. and a short write-up about research on peer coaching. Give general information about the program. and other channels of communication). and thematic curriculum.. discuss what went on. Peer coaches attend one another’s classes. teachers would be encouraged—and empowered—to move beyond a “cover the curriculum” mindset to a broader teaching approach that challenges students to be successful both in and out of the classroom. students would be thoroughly engaged in the learning process. and generate interest. What would a system that unleashes the potential of technology to improve academic achievement look like? First. teachers would be given the time and resources to learn new strategies and concepts. 1994. invite interested persons to an orientation meeting. As teachers work together in these study group approaches. p. it would do much more than provide sporadic “development” for teachers. (This is especially important. (Meyer and Gray’s model includes a brief explanation of the program and how it works. by approaching subjects from a multicultural perspective) and to make connections between subjects (e. by exploring the workplace applications of academic subjects). As they explore the role of technology in teaching and learning.If technology is to become a significant factor in student success. 1051) and in which. They also provide forms to be filled out by the coach and the teacher after each visit.. but the groups should be formed with a view toward selecting people whose schedules permit regular meetings. distribute handouts. presented to other faculty members. Study Groups Peer coaching is a process by which teachers work together to enrich the curriculum and pedagogy within subjects (e.. invent. plan lessons. it would be a system in which public schools “weave continuous learning for teachers into the fabric of the teaching job” (NFIE 1996).

and delivering a unit in the classroom generally takes several weeks. • Educators can focus their discussions on technology integration into individual courses. The process stems from the belief that conventional education is too much like an assembly line. creating a more collaborative and coherent educational environment for the future. concrete examples and applications. “just as an automobile travels down a predetermined path with workers adding part after part to its frame. They can share lesson plans. exchange ideas. see Finch et al. develop collaborative units. integrating technology) for breadth and depth of coverage. Parents can play an important role by sharing their experience and expertise. creating webpages.• Participation in a group should be mandatory for all teachers and administrators. using the Internet. teachers involved in the thematic curriculum process are encouraged to explore broad. (1997) put it. and application. students in traditional educational settings move from course to course and end up some time later gathering all the required ‘parts’ to qualify for graduation. Because the learning is integrated and collaborative. .) • Be sure that the theme provides opportunities for critical thinking. The goal of these meetings is for educators to learn from one another. momentum builds and sustains motivation. 1997. content area concepts. • An overview committee composed of teachers and administrators plans the content and topics of discussion ahead of time.” In contrast to the assembly-line approach. Planning thematic units can be time-consuming.) Steps in planning a thematic curriculum: • Select the theme (in this case. • Select key concepts or principles to cover. Businesses. The curriculum and methods used by other teachers can be used and implemented in their own classrooms. (For more on this process. or any of numerous other concepts involving technology integration. As Finch et al. Thematic Curriculum The term thematic curriculum refers to a process by which teachers develop teaching strategies by working together as members of self-directed professional teams. (This could be technology applications. • Develop a word bank of relevant vocabulary. organizations. • Use community resources so students have an opportunity to see real-world connections. and other entities can offer resources that extend and enrich the unit by providing practical. and discuss and develop new technology instructional methods. • Assess the group’s prior knowledge of the theme. • Allow plenty of time. museums. inclusive curriculum themes.

1996. A paradigm shift in staff development. 1990. NFIE. Box 30001 Dept.. New Mexico State University.html. J . a teacher for 15 years and a former technology director.berkeley . G. and L.. a n d T. New York: MacMillan. Hirsh. 1996. is a training and development specialist at CORD. Teachers take charge of their learning: Transforming professional development for student success. Administrative support and involvement are crucial to the successful integration of technology into the curriculum. and D.. Aneke.edu/org/tcc_conf96/meyer. Thousand Oaks. old challenges.org/readingroom/books/sparks97book. Sparks. Miller. A new vision for staff development. 1998. Gr a y.. J. ❏ Murphy. ❏ Me ye r. Education Week. Lieberman and L. Sparks.Research has shown that.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. new realities. and support necessary to do so. Information packets on this peer coaching model are available from the Department of Criminal Justice. S. NM 88003-8001. C. Paper presented at online conference Innovative Instructional Practices. Professional development in a technological age: New definitions. Valdez. teachers are open to these kinds of recommendations. Available online at http://vocserve. PL P R I N C I PA L L E A D E R S H I P . 1994. 1996. B. R. and C. M. “want to learn to use educational technology effectively. Nowakowski. In Staff development for education in the 90’s: New demands. 1997. Studies show that the commitment and interest of the principal are the most critical factors for successful implementation of any school innovation—especially technology. O. Debra Beavers (dbeavers@cord.: Corwin Press. 1991. Whole-faculty study groups: A powerful way to change schools and enhance learning.. Calif. Rasmussen.kcc. and S. new perspectives. Available online at http://leahi.ascd . Mooney. 16 March. ❏ Lieberman. ❏ Lieberman. new resources.” This is where principals come in.html ❏ Grant. and L.: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. New York: Teachers College Press. Designing learning and technolog y for educational reform. U. D. access. Adapted from D. ❏ Sparks. especially with regard to technology. Revisiting the social realities of teaching. Stage a well-designed Saturday session and they will come! Technology Connection 3 (3): 13–14. . ❏ Guhlin. 6th edition. Technology infusion and school change: perspectives and practices.htm. Ill. according to Guhlin (1996). 1996. W. Lick. Encyclopedia of educational research. Kapiolani Community College. Las Cruces. TERC.C. but they lack the time. N. M. ❏ Jones. May 1994.. References ❏ Finch. 1997.org).nfie.html. 46 1994.org/publications/ takecharge. Most teachers. A. Washington. Professional development of teachers. Available online at www. and N. ❏ National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE). Miller.. Peer coaching: An innovation in teaching. Presentation developed for the Goals 2000 Conference. edited by A. and D. ❏ Loucks-Horsley. Available online at www.hawaii. by and large.edu/AllInOne/MDS-956. Frantz.R. Oak Brook. Alexandria. #3487. M. D. C. A. Designing the thematic curriculum: An all aspects approach. Miller. Va. C.