with other teachers, and with others with more expertise in science and student learning, helps teachers such as Sandy continue to learn science concepts, inquiry abilities, and how scientific knowledge advances.
Professional development that focuses on improving teaching through inquiry achieves several simultaneous objectives:
It provides teachers with learning experiences different from the more traditional college course or inservice workshop to include one-on-one experiences such as coaching, collaborative work such as study groups, and “job-embedded” learning such as action research.
It focuses on important aspects of teachers’ practice, including the organization and presentation of curriculum, student work, and teaching dilemmas.
It helps teachers think carefully about how their students come to understand important science concepts through inquiry, what help their students need in developing the specific abilities of inquiry, and what learning experiences can make the work of scientists “real” to their students.
This chapter uses the term “professional development” to refer to opportunities that teachers have to learn at all stages of their careers. It thus encompasses learning experiences for prospective, beginning, and experienced teachers through preservice, induction, and in-service programs, respectively. This chapter also emphasizes the importance of thinking about professional development as a continuum. Teachers at any level may know an enormous amount about some things but not others, and the stage of their careers should not dictate what they will learn and in what depth they will learn it.
The Standards emphasize the importance of lifelong learning by making it one of four professional development standards. Professional development must satisfy the ongoing need of all prospective and practicing teachers to continue to grow, to increase their knowledge and skills, and to improve their value to their students. A commitment to inquiry — as something that all humans must do to improve their lives and those of others — is an important theme for professional development, in addition to its other goals.
The most effective professional development not only stimulates the need to continue to learn. It also provides knowledge about where to look for information, it provides opportunities to improve teaching and learning, and it introduces teachers to tools for continuous improvement. These tools include strategies to analyze