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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
behavioral objectives; in the 1970s, they were taught Madeline Hunter’s lesson structure; and currently, they are offered such topics as constructivism, alternative assessments, and cooperative learning. Teacher enhancement programs funded by federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, tend to organize training by subject area and are often tied to innovations in curriculum or pedagogy.
Fourth, many teachers enroll in graduate programs. Some states require a master’s degree or continuing education to maintain certification, and most school districts tie teachers’ salaries to their level of education (Renyi, 1996). For the most part, teachers take graduate courses in education rather than in the subject matter of their teaching because of the lack of disciplinary graduate courses that are offered after school hours or during the summer.
Finally, teachers also learn about teaching in ways that are separate from their formal professional work. They learn about intellectual and moral development in their roles as parents. They learn about nondidactic forms of instruction through such activities as coaching (Lucido, 1988) and other youth-related work in their communities.
Because of the wide variety of ways in which teachers continue to learn about teaching and learning, it is difficult to generalize about or judge the quality of the teachers’ learning experiences. One fact is clear, however: there are relatively few opportunities available if measured in financial terms. Overall, there is minimal public investment in formal opportunities for professional development for practicing teachers. Most school districts spend only between 1 and 3 percent of their operating budgets for professional development, even with salaries factored in. This lack of investment in personnel is unheard of either in leading corporations or in schools in other countries (Kearns, 1988).
QUALITY OF LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Even when resources are formally provided for teachers’ continued development, opportunities for effective learning vary in terms of quality. In this section we analyze the quality of teachers’ learning experiences from the perspectives on learning environments discussed in Chapter 6—namely, the degree to which they are learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered (see Figure 6.1 in Chapter 6).
As noted in Chapter 6, environments that are learner-centered attempt to build on the strengths, interests, and needs of the learners. Many efforts to facilitate teacher learning fall short in this regard; they often consist of required lectures and workshops that are not tailored to teachers’ needs.