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Assembling Our Knowledge of Teacher Learning: The State of Our Understanding and Practices Suzanne M Wilson Michigan State University November 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Assembling Our Knowledge of Teacher Learning: The State of Our Understanding and Practices Suzanne M Wilson Michigan State University November 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Assembling Our Knowledge of Teacher Learning: The State of Our Understanding and Practices Suzanne M Wilson Michigan State University November 2009

2 In Search of the Pressure Points  Improving Education  1980s: The organization  1990s: Standards, assessments, and aligning the system  2000s: Teacher quality, including  Measures of quality (value added)  Professional development  Induction  Teacher preparation  The System Focuses on What it Can Control

3 Opportunities to Learn  A lot of activity:  1200+ university-recommending teacher education programs  130+ alternative routes  100s of induction programs  Who knows how many professional development programs (15000+ school districts)  A lot of stakeholders:  Foundations, universities, informal learning institutions, school districts, state and federal government. Through funding agencies like the NSF

4 A Carnival  Crowded, noisy, attracting, seedy, little apparent order or coherence  Teachers wander from opportunity to opportunity, untroubled by any sense of needing to have these experiences add up to anything

5 Dimensions of Variability  Purpose: teachers for social justice, teachers as professionals, teachers as change agents, teachers as members of a guild, teachers as users of curricula or assessments, teachers as inquirers....  Content – STEM topics: certain areas of mathematics or science, certain types of problems within those areas  Content – Multiple and diverse pedagogies/curricula  Theories of teacher learning

6 A Cacophony, or an Embarrassment of Riches? Teacher education does not exist in the United States. There is so much variation among all programs in visions of good teaching, standards for admission, rigor of subject matter preparation, what is taught and what is learned, character of supervised clinical experience, and quality of evaluation that compared to any other academic profession, the sense of chaos is inescapable. The claim that there are "traditional programs" that can be contrasted with "alternative routes" is a myth. We have only alternative routes into teaching. There may well be ways in which the teaching candidates of Teach for America or the New York City Fellows program meet more rigorous professional standards than those graduating from some "traditional" academic programs. Compared to any other learned profession such as law, engineering, medicine, nursing or the clergy, where curricula, standards and assessments are far more standardized across the nation, teacher education is nothing but multiple pathways. It should not surprise us that critics respond to the apparent cacophony of pathways and conclude that it doesn't matter how teachers are prepared. (Shulman)

7 Several Problems  No agreement at one level  No alignment across levels  And it is getting noisier.....

8 Challenges Faced  There is no system, and teacher preparation, induction and professional development are offered, funded, and controlled by different agencies and stakeholders  Teachers have considerable autonomy in selecting what they will participate in  School districts are hampered by human and material resources and often patch together professional development for reasons of convenience and serendipity rather than based on a big picture view of what teachers need to learn, at what times of their careers, and in what ways

9 Unintended Consequences  Flat curriculum  Redundancy  Incoherence  Holes  Lack of accumulated (centralized) knowledge  Lack of theory testing (collectively)

10 Steps Toward a Theory: Rubrics  Rubrics of expectations

11 Steps Toward a Theory: Best Practices (But why do they work?) Best practices... (an example)  focuses on deepening subject matter knowledge specifically for teaching, including understanding how students learn and the specific difficulties they may encounter in mastering key concepts.  involves enough time for significant learning (for example, a course or program of 40 or more hours distributed over 12 or more months).  is coherently related to what teachers are being asked to do and builds on what teachers already know and are able to do.  educators are actively engaged, rather than just listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration.  teams of teachers from the same school participate and learn together, enabling them to support each other in using what they have learned.

12 Toward a Shared Knowledge Based for Teacher Learning Sample questions that are projects wrestle with but we do not collectively answer include....  How do teachers’ understanding and mastery of various pedagogical strategies evolve over time?  How does teacher understanding and mastery of various curricular materials evolve over time?  How does teacher understanding and mastery of core STEM (and other fields) concepts (including inquiry) evolve over time?  What theory(ies) best help(s) us predict and explain when and what teachers learn?

13 TASK  What theory of teacher learning animates your project? What are its underlying assumptions? How is it manifested in the components of your teacher education/induction/professional development program or in your work with teachers around assessments/curricular materials/and the like?  Do you have a theory of teacher development over time? What are the core tasks or core concepts that teachers need to grapple with earlier and/or later in their careers? How does their knowledge and skill evolve over time?

14 TASK: What theory of teacher learning animates your project?  Example: The Exploratorium Teacher Institute and Beginning Teacher Institute: Entering the Guild  Teaching as a process of socialization into a guild. Guild: “Any of various medieval associations, as of merchants or artisans, organized to maintain standards and to protect the interests of its members, and that sometimes constituted a local governing body.”  New teachers are treated as apprentices; experienced teachers as masters of a craft. The community is important; as is the opportunity to work side-by-side.

15 TASK: Do you have a theory of teacher development over time? Teacher preparation: Building a classroom community Leading a discussion Thinking through a lesson protocol (TTLP) Induction Professional development

16 TASK  What theory of teacher learning animates your project? What are its underlying assumptions? How is it manifested in the components of your teacher education/induction/professional development program or in your work with teachers around assessments/curricular materials/and the like?  Do you have a theory of teacher development over time? What are the core tasks or core concepts that teachers need to grapple with earlier and/or later in their careers? How does their knowledge and skill evolve over time?

17 TASK  What theory of teacher learning animates your project? What are its underlying assumptions? How is it manifested in the components of your teacher education/induction/professional development program or in your work with teachers around assessments/curricular materials/and the like?  Do you have a theory of teacher development over time? What are the core tasks or core concepts that teachers need to grapple with earlier and/or later in their careers? How does their knowledge and skill evolve over time?  What challenges do you face?  What resources (materials, policies, infrastructure) would we need?

18 Conclusion  Maybe it is a good thing that we let a thousand flowers bloom.  Alternatively, recall that I started by making the assertion that the system focuses on what it can control.  If we are marching toward national standards and curriculum for our students, we might also be marching toward national standards and curriculum for teaching learning opportunities. If asked, “What do we now know about how and when and under what conditions teachers at different stages of their careers learn?,” I think we ought to have an answer.


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