A small number of studies have examined the professional development opportunities available to science teachers who teach predominantly minority or low-income students in urban schools. As noted previously, there is little agreement in the field as to the most effective means of teaching diverse student populations, so these studies examined a range of teacher learning opportunities. Some focused on the unique qualities and challenges of working with diverse student groups, while others reflected approaches that were not solely related to teaching these groups. Despite the small number of studies, professional development for teachers of diverse student populations has shown promising results, including positive impact on students’ science and literacy achievement and the narrowing of achievement gaps among demographic subgroups.

Teacher learning opportunities should …

  1. Reflect a clear focus on student learning in a specific content area

  2. Focus on the strengths and needs of learners in that area and draw on evidence about what works from research

  3. Include school-based and job-embedded support in which teachers may assess student work, design or refine units of study, or observe and reflect on colleagues lessons

  4. Provide adequate time during the school day and throughout the year for both intensive work and regular reflection on practice. Professional development also needs to span multiple years

  5. Emphasize the collective participation of groups of teachers, including teachers from the same school, department, or grade level

  6. Provide teachers with a coherent view of the instructional system, from content and performance standards to instructional materials to local and state assessments to the development of a professional community

  7. Receive the active support of school and district leaders

Teachers of English language learners need to promote students’ English language and literacy development as well as their academic achievement. A limited body of research indicates that professional development efforts have a positive impact on helping teachers integrate science with literacy development for these students. For example, one study that was part of a local systemic initiative sponsored by the National Science Foundation involved elementary school teachers of predominantly Latino English language learners.4 After participating in a five-week summer professional development program, the majority of teachers had broadened their view of the connections between inquiry science instruction and second-language development to encompass a more elaborated perspective on the ways that the two could be integrated. Another study provided professional development opportunities to elementary school teachers serving students from diverse backgrounds.5 Teachers’

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