describe very different professional development programs, from Lillian’s university courses for prospective teachers, to immersion in inquiry in a science museum, to a three-year masters program. Yet all share some attributes of effective professional development programs.
First, they offer coherent opportunities for teachers to learn over time. Three-year masters programs and long-term curriculum implementation help teachers to gain new knowledge and apply it to their teaching with support by colleagues, their schools, and districts. Second, many of these professional development programs were the product of a collaboration of many people and organizations. Partnerships between educators, universities, and research institutions involved scientists in creating opportunities for teachers to conduct scientific research — an activity so critical to their teaching that it merits inclusion in both preservice and inservice programs. Finally, all of the programs illustrated here had a clear commitment to the vision of the National Science Education Standards, which call for giving teachers the knowledge and abilities they need to address the science literacy needs of all their students. All of the programs viewed inquiry as a set of abilities and understandings that teachers themselves needed to have, and their students needed to learn — as well as being a vehicle through which subject matter could be learned, and learned well. This lies at the heart of the Standards’ view of inquiry. All of the programs helped teachers learn science subject matter, develop inquiry abilities, and do so through their own opportunities to inquire.
Professional development for inquiry-based teaching and learning is critical to the future of science education as envisioned in the Standards, which note:
The current reform effort requires a substantive change in how science is taught; an equally substantive change is needed in professional development practices (National Research Council, 1996, p. 56).
Long-term, comprehensive, inquiry-based professional development is an absolute requirement for the success of standards-based reform.