The best way to help your teachers is to identify what they really need to ensure student success and to improve their teaching practice. How do you do this as a professional developer? Many times we do not have the luxury of time to get to know our teachers. Yet there may be a way we can do this as part of the professional development.
Research can be a valuable component of professional development for teachers to improve their teaching practice. Traditional educational research may not be useful for classroom teachers, but research that helps teachers become better teachers is very useful. You can facilitate this research process:
- Help your teachers decide on a focus or problem upon which they would like to reflect. It could be their teaching practice or a curriculum area about which they are uncomfortable teaching.
- Collect evidence over a specified time period. This will help the teachers examine what they are trying to accomplish in their teaching practice. Some evidence could be videos of classroom practice, samples of student work, and interviews with students and colleagues.
- Analyze the evidence by looking at themes or patterns. One way you could do this is to input evidence into a database with fields for pictures, student work, average test scores, etc.
- In a document stored in their portfolio record what the teachers found from the evidence with the steps to take for improvement or an explanation why something worked or did not work.
To take teacher research a step further, you can use strategies from the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) model. There are times when a teacher believes they are reaching all of their students. In reality, during a classroom observation a mentor or coach sees that several of the students are off-task. New teachers then get support as they examine, reflect on, and improve their teaching practice.
- Visit their classroom.
- Record without judging what actually happened in the classroom, using video, digital images, notes, metaphors, or drawings.
- Share what you found with the teachers and help them reflect on the findings.
- Use what you found to modify how teachers teach.
When you work with a teacher in a classroom, you can see how they teach, set up their classroom, and interact with their students. Use some of the following non-threatening strategies with your teachers:
- Find out what curriculum area or standard they will be teaching in the next few weeks.
- Create a Website with links to resources that are appropriate for their students and that meet the standards.
- Develop a presentation that can be shown on the TV hooked to the computer in the teacherâ€™s classroom or on a Website that students can access from any computer.
- Set up the technology so everything works.
- Make step-by-step instructions that show how to use and troubleshoot the technology.
- Show one or two students in the class how to do the lesson and to use the technology so they can help their peers and the teacher.
- Observe the lesson and provide constructive feedback.
- Set up an appointment to develop another lesson around the curriculum.
As professional developers, we can facilitate building â€œCommunities of Practiceâ€ where teachers help each other, students become mentors, and everyone is sharing and learning from each other.
Email: Barbara Bray
This article first appeared in OnCUE, February 2004 Issue — Vol 26. No. 1