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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
and she continued to participate in other workshops and served as a facilitator for others. Eventually, she found herself on a panel as an advocate for a new science education program (Renyi, 1996).
Other ways of dealing with diverse needs include encouraging teachers to form interest groups around particular topics and projects (see, e.g., Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, in press). New technologies provide opportunities for communication and on-line learning that can connect teachers with others who share their interests and needs (see Chapter 9).
As discussed in Chapter 6, effective learning environments are knowledge centered as well as learner centered. Ideally, opportunities for teacher learning include a focus on pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1966; see also Chapters 2 and 7), but many fall short of this ideal. For example, the “knowledge” taught by teachers to teachers and supplied by consultants is often not supported by research about learning (Barone et al., 1996). In addition, workshops for teachers often focus more on generic pedagogy (e.g., cooperative learning) than on the need to integrate pedagogy with the content of various disciplines.
A case study of Mrs. O illustrates the importance of helping teachers rethink their disciplinary knowledge as well as their teaching strategies. She attended several summer workshops that used the mathematics curriculum Math Their Way (Baratta-Lorton, 1976); the workshops introduced her to new teaching techniques. After the workshops she saw the transformation of her practice as complete as she made some changes in her teaching at the elementary school level that reflected the then-new California mathematics framework. However, she stopped short of rethinking her knowledge of mathematics and saw no need for additional education.
Mrs. O’s lack of interest in continued learning seemed to be related to the nature of the workshops that she attended (Cohen, 1990). For Mrs. O to accept the new reform on a deeper level, she would have had to unlearn old mathematics, learn new concepts of teaching mathematics, and have a much more substantial understanding of mathematics itself. The workshops that Mrs. O attended provided her only with teaching techniques, not with the deep understanding of mathematics and mathematics teaching and learning that she would need to implement the reform as envisioned by policymakers.
Preliminary attempts to educate teachers to use Minds on Physics (Leonard et al., 1999a-f) also illustrate the difficulty of getting teachers to rethink the nature of their disciplines. Teachers were provided with an in-depth summer workshop, three academic year follow-ups, and contact with the curriculum developers through mail, electronic mail, and telephone. Even though