Sunday, March 27, 2011

Five Models of Professional Development

Sparks, D. & Loucks-Horsley, S. (1989).  Five Models of Staff Development, Journal of Staff Development, Fall 1989 (Vol. 10, No. 4) [link]

Sparks and Loucks-Horsley (1989) suggest five models that are useful for accomplishing the goals of staff development:

  • Individually Guided Development: The teacher designs his or her learning activities. An assumption of this model is that individuals are motivated by being able to select their own learning goals and means for accomplishing those goals. A belief that underlies this model is that self-directed development empowers teachers to address their own problems and by so doing, creates a sense of professionalism.
  • Observation and Assessment: Instructional practices are improved if a colleague or other person observes a teacher's classroom and provides feedback. Having someone else in the classroom to view instruction and provide feedback or reflection also is a powerful way to impact classroom behavior. The person observing acts as another set of "eyes and ears" for the teacher. Observers also learn as they view their colleagues in action.
  • Involvement in a Development or Improvement Process: Systemic school-improvement processes typically involve assessing current practices and determining a problem whose solution will improve student outcomes. The solution might include developing curricula, designing programs, or changing classroom practice. New skills or knowledge may be required and can be attained through reading, discussion, observation, training, and experimentation. Consequently, involvement in the improvement process can result in many new skills, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • Training: A training design includes an expert presenter who selects the objectives, learning activities, and outcomes. Usually the outcomes involve awareness, knowledge, or skill development, but changes in attitude, transfer of training, and "executive control" need to be addressed as well. The improvement of teachers' thinking should be a critical outcome of any training program. The most effective training programs include exploration of theory, demonstrations of practice, supervised trial of new skills with feedback on performance, and coaching within the workplace.
  • Inquiry: Teachers formulate questions about their own practice and pursue answers to those questions. Inquiry involves the identification of a problem, data collection (from the research literature and classroom data), data analysis, and changes in practice followed by the collection of additional data. The inquiry can be done individually or in small groups. This model is built on the belief that the mark of a professional teacher is the ability to take "reflective action."
[Summary from NCREL

Teaching and Teaming More Responsively

Strahan, D. & Hedt, M. (2009). Teaching and Teaming More Responsively: Case Studies in Professional Growth at the Middle Level. Research in Middle Level Education (RMLE) Online, 32 (8), 1-14 [pdf]

Professional Development as a Spiral of Growth

1. Teachers begin to discuss ways to improve instruction and consider possibilities for increasing student engagement and achievement.
2. Conversations that examine professional resources and analyze student work promote trust and lead to more explicit understanding of student thinking. With the support of colleagues, teachers begin to question their beliefs about learning, set goals more explicitly, and venture outside their "comfort zones" to try new instructional practices.
3. Teachers understand more about the types of difficulties students face with subject matter, how to tap into students' existing knowledge to make learning connections, and how to assess students’ progress.
4. More responsive instructional practices and assessments nurture classroom learning communities and encourage deeper comprehension of subject matter.
5. Teachers and students collaborate even more productively, strengthening learning communities and enhancing accomplishment.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rowan & Miskel (1999) - Institutional theory and the study of educational organizations

Rowan, B. , & Miskel, C. G. (1999). Institutional theory and the study of educational organizations. In J. Murphy & K. S. Louis (Eds.), Handbook of research in Educational Administration. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 359-382 Notes:

"Other researchers have called attention to the different incentives for academic performance that exist in various countries. Bishop (1987; 1989), for example, notes the lack of relevance that grades and transcripts have for job placement and enrollment in post-secondary education in the United States, while Rosenbaum and Kiraya (1989) describe the tight institutional linkages between Japanese business firms and schools. In both analyses, it is argued that U.S. schools could secure greater student engagement and higher academic performance by tightening inter-institutional linkages between schools, businesses, and post-secondary institutions. Such linkages would clarify the relationship between student performance in school and future success, and could encourage more explicit monitoring of school achievement by businesses and postsecondary institutions."

"In fact, there is some evidence to support this view. Using data from the Second International Mathematics Study (SIMS), Bishop (1997) reports that, after controlling for a variety of relevant variables, average student achievement on the SIMS mathematics tests is higher in countries where curriculum-based examinations determine access to further education than in countries that lack such tests."(p.378)

[JC notes: Bishop (1997) used data from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 1994-5 & International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP) 1991 studies]


Bishop, J. (1987). Information externalities and the social payoff to academic achievement. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Center for Advanced Human Resource: Studies.

Bishop. J. (1989). Incentives for learning: Why American high school students compare so poorly to their counterparts overseas. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.

Bishop, J. (1997). The effect of national standards and curriculum-based exams on student achievement. American Economic Association, Papers and Proceedings, (May), pp. 260-264.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lisa Delpit (1988): culture of power

Delpit, L.D. (1988). The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children, Harvard Educational Review, 58(3), 280-298

Summary by Barton & Yang (2000)

The "culture of power" represents a set of values, beliefs, ways of acting and being that for sociopolitical reasons, unfairly and unevenly elevate groups of people - mostly white, upper and middle class, male and heterosexual - to positions where they have more control over money, people, and societal values than their non-culture-of-power peers . The separation of people through these arbitrary marker results in a tiered society where set rules and ideological standpoints result in barriers for those not part of the culture of power. These barriers are a product of human invention, yet because they are legitimized by a caste-oriented society are often accepted as normal.

The "culture of power" and its effects are part of nearly every institution in the United States, including the institution of schooling. Delpit describes the "culture of power" in schools as having five aspects:

  1. Issues of power are enacted in classrooms,
  2. There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a "culture of power,"
  3. The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power,
  4. For those who are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier,
  5. Those with power are frequently least aware of, or least willing to acknowledge, its existence, and those with less power are often most aware of its existence.
Delpit (1988) argues that without making the rules for the culture of power explicit, those who are not familiar with the culture of power will lack opportunities for upward mobility, be perceived as deficient, inferior, or disadvantaged, and be viewed as the cause of society's problems.

Barton, A.C. & Yang, K. (2000). The Culture of Power and Science Education: Learning from Miguel. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(8), 871-889

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spillane (1999): The mediating role of teachers’ zones of enactment

Spillane, J. P. (1999). External reform initiatives and teachers’ efforts to reconstruct their practice: The mediating role of teachers’ zones of enactment. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(2), 143–175.

[Summary by David Strahan & Melissa Hedt (2009) from Teaching and Teaming More Responsively: Case Studies in Professional Growth at the Middle Level]

Spillane conducted systematic observations with 25 elementary and middle grades math teachers who had participated in districtwide reform initiatives and reported high levels of implementation on surveys. Over time, only four of these teachers demonstrated teaching practices consistent with the reform. In contrast to their colleagues who tended to work individually, these four had created functional “enactment zones” which Spillane defined as “the spaces where the world of policy meet the world of practice.”  Enactment zones featured ongoing deliberations with colleagues and facilitators, reading and discussing documents related to the reforms, and watching and discussing videotapes.

Spillane's account suggests three important characteristics of the enactment zones of those teachers who had changed the core of their practice. First, their enactment zones extended beyond their individual classrooms to include fellow teachers and local and external `experts’ on the reforms. Second, their enactment zones involved both deliberations on the reform ideas and teachers’ efforts to put these ideas into practice. Third, their enactment zones included a variety of material resources that were used to support learning about the enactment of these reform ideas.

Whether teachers who do not have the requisite individual capacity enact reforms in ways that revise the core of their practice will depend on the extent to which their enactment zones are
  • social rather than individualistic;
  • involve rich deliberations about the substance of the reforms and the practicing of these reform ideas with other teachers and reform experts;
  • include material resources or artifacts that support deliberations about instruction and its improvement.
If this conjecture turns out to be roughly right, it suggests that an exclusive focus on creating opportunities and incentives that target the individual teacher may be misguided. Further, viewing the policy challenge in terms of teachers’ zones of enactment suggests some cause for optimism, at least more optimism than if we conclude that a prerequisite for the successful implementation of recent instructional reforms is a population of teachers who have deep subject matter and pedagogical knowledge.

Elmore (1996): Getting to scale with good educational practice

Elmore, R. F. (1996). Getting to scale with good educational practice. Harvard Educational Review, 66 (1), 1-26.

Abstract: How can good educational practice move beyond pockets of excellence to reach a much greater proportion of students and educators? While many children and young adults in school districts and communities around the country have long benefited from the tremendous accomplishments of successful teachers, school, and programs, replicating this success on a larger scale has proven to be a difficult and vexing issue. In this article, Richard Elmore addresses this problem by analyzing the role of school organization and incentive structures in thwarting large-scale adoption of innovative practices close to the "core" of educational practice. Elmore then reviews evidence from two attempts at large-scale school reform in the past — the progressive movement and the National Science Foundation curriculum reform projects - to evaluate his claims that ambitious large-scale school reform efforts, under current conditions, will be ineffective and transient. He concludes with four detailed recommendations for addressing the issue of scale in improving practice in education.


1. Develop strong external normative structures for practice (p.18)

2. Develop organizational structures that intensify and focus, rather than dissipate and scatter, intrinsic motivation to engage in challenging practice. (p.19)

3. Create intentional processes for reproduction of successes (p.20)

4. Create structures that promote learning of new practices and incentive systems that support them. (p24)

"Evaluations of the NSF-sponsored curriculum development projects generally conclude that their effects were broad but shallow. Hundreds of thousands of teachers and curriculum directors were trained in summer institutes. Tens of thousands of curriculum units were disseminated. Millions of students were exposed to at least some product or by-product of the various projects. In a few schools and school systems, teachers and administrators made concerted efforts to transform curriculum and teaching in accord with the new ideas, but in most instances the results looked like what Cuban (1984) found in his study of progressive teaching practices: A weak, diluted, hybrid form emerged in some settings in which new curricula were shoe-horned into old practices, and, in most secondary classrooms, the curricula had no impact on teaching and learning at all. While the curriculum development projects produced valuable materials that are still a resource to many teachers and shaped peoples’ conceptions of the possibilities of secondary science curriculum, their tangible impact on the core of U.S. schooling has been negligible (Elmore, 1993; Stake & Easely, 1978)." (p13)

McCallister (2001): From ideal to real: Unlocking the doors of school reform.

McCallister, C. (2001). From ideal to real: Unlocking the doors of school reform. In Frances O’Connell Rust & Helen Freidus (Eds.), Guiding School Change: The Role and Work of Change Agents (pp. 37-56). New York: Teachers College Press.

McCallister is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at NYU. Around 1996, she received a 5-year foundation grant to work as a staff developer at a NYC public school for an innovative and student centered literacy and language program. Initially, teachers were excited by the program and expressed committment. But only a few teachers actually stuck to the program. A few experienced teachers learned to become "experts" on advanced methods of literacy instruction and became "exemplars." But other teachers at the school were not able to tap into their expertise.


  • uneven commitment of teachers
  • no incentive structure to support the expectation that every teacher use the program
  • school culture was one where teachers had a lot of personal autonomy - administration didn't want to "force" teachers to implement the program; tension between accountability and autonomy
  • principal did not fully support the program during implementation; replaced by an interim principal who was liked by parents by disliked by the superintendent; there was conflict between parents & the superintendent.
  • school had many inexperienced teachers who were struggling with other issues like classroom management
  • lack of district support; they gave this school 75% less money for books for the reading program because they were not using the approved literacy program's basal reader
  • instability caused by faculty turnover

"In most schools and classrooms, core practices don't change on a large scale because reform efforts don't sufficiently account for the complexity of how institutions are organized, and what incentive structures govern practice (Darling-Hammond, 1997; Elmore, 1996)." (p55)