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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
much more guidance. They knew many facts about the colleagues’ programs, but did not know how to translate them into action (see Chapter 2 for discussions of conditionalized expert knowledge). Without extended opportunities for more information and feedback, the researchers did not know how to proceed.
After several months, the researchers and their teacher collaborators began to feel comfortable with their attempts at implementation. The colleagues who had developed the new programs visited the classrooms in the researchers’ city and provided feedback. There were numerous errors of implementation, which could be traced to an inadequate understanding of the new programs. The experience taught all participants a valuable lesson. The colleagues who had developed the programs realized that they had not been as clear as they should have been about their ideas and procedures. The researchers experienced the difficulty of implementing new programs and realized that their errors would have remained invisible without feedback about what was wrong.
Certification programs are being developed that are designed to help teachers reflect on and improve their practice. Suggestions for reflection help teachers focus on aspects of their teaching that they might otherwise have failed to notice. In addition, teachers preparing for certification often ask peers to provide feedback on their teaching and their ideas. Billie Hicklin, a seventh-grade teacher in North Carolina, was one of the first teachers to participate in the National Board certification process (Bunday and Kelly, 1996). She found that the structured reflection that was required for certification resulted in her making significant changes in her teaching practices and in the ways that she interacts with colleagues (Renyi, 1996).
Community-centered environments involve norms that encourage collaboration and learning. An important approach to enhancing teacher learning is to develop communities of practice, an approach that involves collaborative peer relationships and teachers’ participation in educational research and practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Examples include the Bay Area Writing Project (1979); the Cognitively Guided Instruction Project (Carpenter and Fennema, 1992; Carpenter et al., 1989, 1996); Minstrell and Hunt’s (Minstrell, 1989) physics and mathematics teacher group; the Annenberg Critical Friends Project; and Fredericksen and White (1994) “video clubs,” where teachers share tapes of lessons they have taught and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of what they see.
As part of these communities, teachers share successes and failures with pedagogy and curriculum development. For example, the Annenberg Institute’s critical friends groups are led by a teacher/coach, trained in pro-