The design of professional development

All the consortium partners have expertise in in-service or pre-service teacher education. Each partner’s design principles for professional development are probably well established. However, we are not confident that as a consortium we agree on these. This section provides some examples from the literature of such design principles, which may serve as a starting point for our discussion.

Karen Marrongelle and her colleagues (2013) generated a set of recommendations related to creating, sustaining and assessing professional development to support teachers of mathematics in aligning their teaching to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics in the US. While not all these principles are relevant in the context of the FaSMEd toolkit, it is perhaps worth listing them all. We suggest that many can be adapted to FaSMEd’s context, such as, for example, the first. This could be adapted so that the substance emphasized would be formative assessment.

The principles, taken directly from p.296 of the article, are outlined below.

  1. Emphasize the Substance of CCSSM Professional Development:
  2. Create and Adapt Materials for Use in Professional Development Aligned With CCSSM
  3. Design CCSSM Professional Development Based on Features That Support Teacher Learning
  4. Build Coherent Programs of Professional Development Aligned With the CCSSM
  5. Prepare and Use Knowledgeable Facilitators for Professional Development Aligned With the CCSSM
  6. Provide CCSSM Professional Development Tailored to Key Role Groups, in Addition to Teachers
  7. Educate Stakeholders About the CCSSM: Members of the general public need to be apprised on how the CCSSM will impact instruction and learning in our nation’s classrooms.
  8. Continuously Assess CCSSM Professional Development: Professional development programs are regularly assessed to provide formative information for program improvement and revision and to establish the effectiveness of the programs.
  9. Create CCSSM Professional Development Consortia

Whereas these principles relate to the strategic organization of professional development at a quasi-policy level, the report by the Researching Effective CPD in Mathematics Education (RECME) (Joubert, Back, DeGeest, Hirst, & Sutherland, 2009) project provides a set of recommendations more related to the content of professional development. The excerpt below is taken directly from the text of their final report (p. 6).

Developers and providers of CPD should:

  • take into account the experience and expertise of teachers and build on these as opposed to adopting a  ‘deficit model’
  • encourage teachers to try out new ideas in the classroom by giving them ‘permission’ to do so
  • build adequate time into the programme for teachers to try out new ideas and reflect on their learning
  • consider the support, both intellectual and emotional, that teachers need in order to cope with adjusting to learning that challenges them intellectually and professionally
  • include stimulating and challenging mathematical activities within the CPD programme
  • include opportunities for teachers to develop knowledge about mathematics and ways of teaching mathematics within the CPD programme. This should include focusing on theoretical concepts when appropriate
  • pay explicit attention to students’ mathematical learning,  acknowledge that this is not easy and build in time and opportunities within the CPD for teachers to develop their capabilities to recognise and talk about mathematical learning. This could involve the dissemination of relevant supporting research findings
  • take into account a combination of factors, including teacher learning, change in teacher attitudes, the extent to which engagement in the CPD seems to evoke passion, changes in teachers’ practice and changes in student learning within processes of self-evaluation
  • be explicit about research underpinning the design of the CPD and the ways in which changes in classroom.

Korthagen et al (2006), draw on a set of programmes designed by themselves for initial teacher education to develop a set of principles about learning to teach. Again, while all these are not directly relevant to FaSMEd, some can be adapted. The principles, outlined below, are taken directly from their paper.

  • Learning about teaching involves continuously conflicting and competing demands: ….. teacher preparation needs to focus on how to learn from experience and on how to build professional knowledge.
  • Learning about teaching requires a view of knowledge as a subject to be created rather than as a created subject ….. teacher educators should actively create situations that elicit the wish for self-directed theory building in their students.
  • Learning about teaching requires a shift in focus from the curriculum to the learner…The learning of student teachers is only meaningful and powerful when it is embedded in the experience of learning to teach. As teacher educators we need to be actively creating situations where this can occur and for it to be a natural part of teacher preparation.
  • Learning about teaching is enhanced through (student) teacher research … actively researching their own practice can be a catalyst for student teachers to come to ‘‘see differently,’’ to reframe a situation (Scho¨ n, 1983, 1987), and to thereby gain insights into how they might come to better understand that situation and act within it.
  • Learning about teaching requires an emphasis on those learning to teach working closely with their peers…if, in teacher education, students get used to learning in collegial relationships, this will help to bridge the gap between what is done in teacher education and what those learning to teach actually need in their future practice.
  • Learning about teaching requires meaningful relationships between schools, universities and student teachers … When we explore the question of what principles shape teacher education programs and practices in ways that are responsive to the expectations, needs and practices of teacher educators and student teachers, it is our conclusion that close cooperation is needed, not only in the sense of school–university partnerships, but also in three-way cooperation among teachers in schools, teacher educators in universities, and those who are learning to teach.
  • Learning about teaching is enhanced when the teaching and learning approaches advocated in the program are modeled by the teacher educators in their own practice … Making the pedagogical reasoning for practice clear, explicit and understandable for student teachers is an important aspect of modeling teaching in teacher education.

In terms of materials designed to support teacher learning, Rebecca Schneider (2012) suggests that not enough is known about how to design materials to support teacher learning, explaining that the purpose of her work was to ‘inform the design of teacher educative science materials’ (p. 325). She concludes that materials designed to support teacher learning need to:

  • Encourage teachers to think about and reflect on student thinking; (e.g. by including tasks that make the thinking of students visible to teachers)
  • Provide help to create environments that support student learning;
  • Engage teachers in planning and teaching;
  • Develop pedagogical content knowledge; and
  • Match the learning needs of teachers.

There are many other lists of recommendations and principles as well as many syntheses of these such as the one by Joubert and Sutherland (2009).

Although the FaSMEd partners have extensive experience in designing professional development (as stated above), we suggest that it is nevertheless important a) to refer again to the recommendations above and b) to be explicit about their own principles.

One thought on “The design of professional development”

  1. Thanks for this very helpful discussion. I agree that the focus must now move to a consideration of a website design which draws on what is known about effective online professional development and our case studies as resources. Can we draw partners’ attention (particularly WP3 leaders) to this so that our discussions are well informed?

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