KEY POINTS

  • Professional development becomes a lifelong process directed towards catalyzing professional growth.

  • Assessment offers fertile ground for teacher professional development across a range of activities because of the close integration of assessment, curriculum, teaching and learning. There is no “best” place to start and no “best” way to proceed.

  • Professional development should be rooted in real-world practice.

  • Regular and sustained reflection and inquiry into teaching is a start towards improved daily assessment.

  • Collaboration is necessary, as is support at the school and broader systems level.

BOX 5-4 Some Basic Features of Professional Development

  • Change begins with disequilibrium—a perception that current practices and policies cannot help the teachers achieve their goals. If that perception does not exist, then any voluntary project will have to create it.

  • Teacher networks can be powerful. Describing the effects of setting up networks, one project reported: “Exposure [to other ideas, resources, and opportunities] broadens teachers' awareness of possibilities for change and fosters a sense that alternatives to traditional knowledge and beliefs, classroom practices, and professional involvement are available and within their reach.”

  • Teachers react against ideas and materials that are theoretically sound but do not function in the classroom. They seek proof that other professionals with whom they identify are making new methods work. Such existence proof—the fact that others can do it—gives them moral support and challenges them.

  • Demonstrating an idea to teachers in action in a real context deepens their understanding in powerful, subtle, and manifold ways. Such modeling adds to the existence proof the proof of the teacher's own experience.

  • Innovation is risky. Personal support—which much be both knowledgeable and close at hand—is then essential, as the isolated teacher can easily lose direction and lose heart when the inevitable, often unexpected, difficulties arise.

  • It is most often the case that the whole environment of schools which demonstrably promote effective professional development also encouraged experimentation.

  • We know from research into teachers' professional development that change without reflection is often shallow and incompetent. Such reflection must follow on experimentation, however well or badly an experiment may turn out. Yet teachers are rarely given the time or stimulus for reflection.

SOURCE: Black and Atkin (1996).



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