TEACHER DEVELOPMENT AS A CHANNEL OF INFLUENCE: HOW DO TEACHERS LEARN WHAT AND HOW TO TEACH?
What is taught and learned in school depends not only on the curriculum, but also in very important ways on the classroom teachers who implement the curriculum. Teachers bring certain predispositions and beliefs to the classroom that influence their teaching. In addition, a variety of policies, mechanisms, practices, and resources shape the ways that teachers are prepared and how, over time, they are aided in their work.
The teacher development components within the system provide a channel through which nationally developed standards might influence how teachers learn to teach. This chapter explores three areas:
Initial Preparation of Teachers
Certification and Licensure
Ongoing Professional Development
A range of other considerations are related to teachers’ professional development including how schools and districts induct newly certified teachers into the profession; supervise, evaluate, and compensate teachers; provide administrative support and leadership; and establish safe work environments.
More general conditions surrounding schools also play roles in influencing who decides to teach, such as societal views of the teaching profession (affecting personal decisions about whether to enter the pool of teaching candidates), economic or social condi-
tions in particular locales (affecting teachers’ willingness to work in certain schools or districts), and demographics of the teaching profession (affecting whether students of different races and ethnic backgrounds can envision themselves working as teachers).
All of these conditions and elements constitute a web of influence on the work and careers of school teachers. Although that full set of conditions must be taken into account to represent the complete story, what follows concentrates on the aspects of teacher preparation and development that have the potential to be most directly influenced by nationally developed mathematics, science, and technology education standards.
TEACHER DEVELOPMENT IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
This section examines how prospective teachers learn mathematics, science, or technology content and pedagogy, how they become eligible for certification or licensure, and how their professional growth is encouraged during their teaching careers.
There is broad agreement that teachers should be expert in subject matter content and pedagogical knowledge (National Research Council [NRC], 1999c; Shulman, 1986, 1987). For teachers entering the profession, such knowledge and skills are initially shaped by their exposure to mathematics, science, and technology content—and the ways those subjects are taught—prior to and during their formal teacher preparation program.
Both K-12 programs and courses completed at the college level provide early classroom experience with the subject areas that prospective teachers will later teach. How courses are presented conveys subtle messages to future teachers about the nature of the subject area, how that knowledge is acquired and tested, and how it should be taught to others. For example, learning calculus as an undergraduate through didactic lectures may predispose new mathematics teachers to teach in similar ways. Likewise, how
courses are organized within a college physics department may influence how high school physics teachers organize coursework for their students. In recent years, some postsecondary institutions have been re-evaluating what (and how) content is taught to undergraduates; some institutions (e.g., Rothman and Narum, 2000) anticipate reforms in undergraduate education that may change the nature and quality of knowledge acquired by prospective teachers.4
Work experiences acquired by prospective school teachers may have also enriched and deepened their understanding of subjects they teach. This is especially true for mid-career professionals who leave laboratory or technical careers to enter teaching, but also may apply to younger teacher candidates who gain such experience through internships, summer employment, or other work and volunteer opportunities. Such “real world” experiences may provide them with valuable insights into the nature of science, mathematics, and technology.
Once enrolled in teacher preparation programs, prospective teachers are exposed to content and pedagogy through required subject matter courses and education courses.5 Due to the organi-
zation of higher education institutions, most subject matter preparation is delivered outside of schools of education. For instance, prospective science teachers complete courses in separate departments dedicated to various areas within the biological, earth, and physical sciences (Anderson and Mitchener, 1994). Faculty members in discipline-based departments may hold beliefs about teaching and learning science that differ from those held by education faculty. Coordination, communication, and common goals for teacher candidates are often difficult to accomplish across departments (or across colleges within a university) due to their physical separation, as well as to differing perspectives on education.
Prospective teachers also complete “methods” courses about the dynamics of classroom teaching and learning in particular content areas. Such courses, together with the modeling of pedagogical ideas by teacher educators and clinical experiences (e.g., supervised student teaching), constitute core experiences in mathematics, science, or technology teaching.
Certification and Licensure
Criteria for successful completion of a teacher preparation program and for securing a teaching certificate are influenced by professional accrediting bodies and state policy makers. These criteria define the base knowledge and skills expected of new teachers embarking on their professional work in classrooms. Associations such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) have set standards for accrediting teacher preparation programs. States employ NCATE or similar criteria in evaluating and approving undergraduate teacher preparation programs and implement accountability systems intended to ensure that institutions adhere to those criteria (Hirsch, Koppich, and Knapp, 2000).
State requirements for initial teacher certification vary; some require students to major in an academic discipline, while others allow an education major. Some states specify how many courses or
hours students must complete in mathematics, science, and technology for elementary, middle school, and high school licensure, as well as for recertification. Middle or high school certification criteria may also include assessment of teachers’ subject-matter knowledge. In some states, teachers may move through a number of levels of certification over the course of their careers. For example, teachers may receive “initial” certification upon entry into the profession, followed by a “professional” certificate after several years of refining their teaching skills and demonstrating proficiency in the classroom. The nonprofit National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) offers a relatively new form of certification (e.g., NBPTS, 2000a, 2000b), which allows experienced teachers to demonstrate and gain recognition for accomplished practice independent of any particular state’s definitions of proficiency.
Interest in improving teaching quality has become more prominent at both state and national levels. Part of this attention is focused on teacher content knowledge, where there is concern, for example, that 30 percent of U.S. high school mathematics teachers overall, and a higher proportion of teachers in high-poverty schools, do not have a major or minor in their field (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES] 1995, 1997b; Ingersoll, 1998).
Ongoing Professional Development
Professional learning opportunities present themselves to teachers in many ways and contexts (McLaughlin, 1993), forming what has been characterized by some as “a patchwork” rather than a coherent program of continuing education (Wilson and Berne, 1999, p. 174). Studies of professional development reveal discrepancies between what is known or believed about facilitating meaningful learning and what most mathematics, science, and technology teachers actually experience in these programs. Typically, teachers attend one-time events that deal with topics unrelated to any school priorities or issues regarding their teaching practice, and that
provide little or no follow-up work to facilitate classroom implementation of any ideas learned (Garet et al., 1999; Shields et al., 1999).
The range of opportunities for teachers and other educators to engage in professional learning may be enhanced or constrained by the setting within which teachers work—that is, by the “infrastructure” of expertise and resources available to sustain such learning opportunities, and by incentives provided to encourage teachers to take advantage of those opportunities. Districts typically offer menus of professional development events and may organize other learning activities for teachers (Little, 1993), with the majority of formal learning opportunities (that is, those that “count” toward salary increments) organized and conducted outside the school. Professional associations and other groups specializing in professional development also offer a variety of experiences for teachers, including workshops, short courses, and network participation. Finally, teachers may complete courses offered through colleges and universities for personal and professional enrichment that may also contribute toward completing advanced degrees, meeting continuing certification requirements, or obtaining salary increases.
Informal learning opportunities for teachers may arise within their own schools, as they share ideas, struggle with problems of classroom practice, seek advice, and acquire new teaching insights. Teachers may also conduct action research projects, experiment with new materials or technologies, or visit other classrooms to work with or observe colleagues. In “professional development schools,” novice teachers, faculty, and researchers from universities routinely collaborate with experienced teachers in ongoing activities to improve school teaching. School-based professional development may also be designed and facilitated by principals, curriculum coordinators, professional development specialists, or teacher leaders. These interventions are provided during planning periods or times that allow teachers to work with peers and facilitators. However, such practices are not the rule. In general, teachers of mathematics and science have relatively few regular times to plan,
collaborate, or learn with their peers (Weiss et al., 1994; NRC, 1999a; NCES, 2000c).
Calls for improvements in professional development have increased dramatically over the last decade (Wilson and Berne, 1999; Loucks-Horsley and Matsumoto, 1999) and numerous publications have advanced principles or “beliefs” to guide the design of professional development (e.g., Little, 1993; Ball, 1996; Black and Atkin, 1996; Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love, and Stiles, 1998). The literature documents a growing consensus that professional development designs should incorporate teachers’ prior experiences, active engagement, learning over time, close linkages to the school workplace, practicing and applying what is learned, and opportunities for follow-up with colleagues (Wilson and Berne, 1999); and there is an emerging consensus about the kinds of environments that facilitate teachers’ learning (NRC, 1999c).
At the same time, Wilson and Berne (1999) point out that little is known about what teachers actually learn (or do not learn) from either traditional inservice work or more recent forms of professional development. While some studies show connections between professional development and increases in student learning (e.g., Cohen and Hill, 2000; Kennedy, 1998; Carpenter, Fennema, Peterson, Chiang, and Loef, 1989; Fennema, Franke, Carpenter, and Carey, 1993), much remains to be understood about the interrelationships among professional development, teacher learning, knowledge of subject matter, pedagogy, and student learning.
HOW STANDARDS MIGHT INFLUENCE TEACHER DEVELOPMENT
If nationally developed standards are influencing the preparation of new teachers, there would be increased alignment of policies and practice with the standards. States, districts, and postsecondary institutions would create systems that enable prospective teachers to gain the knowledge and skills needed to help students meet standards-based learning goals. In particular, analysis of teacher-
preparation programs and course artifacts would verify that the professional development standards are being interpreted and implemented as intended. Evidence would also confirm that college and university educators are aligning the content and pedagogy of undergraduate courses, conventional teacher preparation programs, and alternate certification programs with expectations of the national standards. State licensure systems would set criteria for initial certification that require graduates to demonstrate their understanding of the standards, knowledge of the content and pedagogy described therein, and ability to implement standards-based instructional programs.
Policies and fiscal investments at local, state, and federal levels would focus on recertification criteria, professional development opportunities, and system-wide support strategies aligned with nationally developed standards in the three subject areas. Experienced teachers well-versed in the teaching, assessment, and professional development standards would be offered leadership roles to assist schools in implementing needed reforms.
States and localities would provide a rich “infrastructure” to support standards-based mathematics, science, and technology teaching. Administrators at school and district levels would possess the skills, commitment, and capabilities to promote collegial planning and dialogue about content, teaching, and assessment as called for in the national standards. Teachers would be motivated to enhance their understanding of standards-based content, ways to arrange appropriate learning experiences, and techniques for assessing what students understand. Recertification criteria and teacher evaluations would focus on evidence verifying the knowledge, skills, and practices advocated by the standards.
If standard-based visions of equity are being implemented, teacher preparation programs would prepare prospective teachers to teach in diverse classrooms, and teachers skilled in implementing standards-based education would be distributed so that all learners have access to high-quality learning opportunities.
THE TEACHER DEVELOPMENT CHANNEL AND NATIONALLY DEVELOPED STANDARDS
The Framework questions (see Figure 3–3) offer guidance in studying the influence of standards on teacher preparation, certification, and ongoing professional development by raising questions such as these:
How has the teacher development component of the education system responded to the introduction of nationally developed standards?
How are the standards being received and interpreted by higher education institutions in redesigning their teacher preparation and inservice programs, by state agencies in determining criteria for teacher licensure, and by schools and districts in hiring teachers and providing for their inservice learning?
What actions regarding allocations of time and resources have been taken by various components of the system to motivate and support needed professional development in relation to standards?
To what extent have teachers acquired more substantive knowledge of standards-based content and improved skills regarding pedagogy and collegial activity, as called for in the standards?
To what extent have teachers’ classroom and professional practices changed in relation to the teaching and assessment standards?
To what extent are all students provided with teachers who have the skills and content knowledge needed to teach the content described in the standards?
In summary, who has been affected and in what ways?
Studies that address such questions will enable the accumulation of evidence to formulate answers to the Framework’s two overarching questions: How has the system responded to the introduction of nationally developed standards? and What are the consequences for student learning?
The next chapter explores the third main channel of potential influence of nationally developed standards within the U.S. educa-