The College Board and the IBO are just beginning to fully develop vehicles for establishing professional communities of learners among geographically separated teachers. The primary means being used are discussion groups and databases that can be accessed on the Internet. However, the committee notes that both the College Board and the IBO have regional organizations for teachers. Some are more active than others, and each provides different types of activities. For example, the IBO has a vibrant group in Florida that runs its own conferences, and the College Board, through its regional offices (notably in the southwest), provides opportunities for teachers in the regions to work with colleagues in professional development activities throughout the school year. Nonetheless, there are too few opportunities for teachers to interact with colleagues on issues important to teaching. This is especially true in high schools where AP or IB teachers in a particular discipline may be the only members of their departments who teach these courses.
The National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (2000, pp. 27–28) provides some suggestions that could become part of AP and IB Web-based efforts. These include the creation of (1) an online professional journal that would encourage teachers of advanced mathematics and science to engage in publishable research and to share new teaching strategies with colleagues, both nationally and internationally; (2) a dedicated database of teaching ideas, plans, and other resources; (3) an interactive online resource for conversations, meetings, and idea sharing; and (4) interactive videos for observing good teachers and critiquing teachers’ own efforts, for mentoring, and for online instruction. Research is needed to determine the effectiveness of such Web-based mechanisms for teacher professional development.
The committee has advocated the use of a model that can help sponsors of advanced study programs make decisions on how their programs can best improve in the years ahead. This model includes both principles of learning and design principles for curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development. The committee believes that if programs of advanced study, such as AP and IB, were to place principles of learning at the center of their own implicit models, the programs would improve in quality and effectiveness with regard to fostering deep understanding. Program quality would also be enhanced if the programs were to recognize the systemic and mutually interactive nature of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development. With care, persistence, and a strong guiding model, advanced study programs could become worthy beacons for all of American education.