Three articles in latest Teacher Magazine Professional Development Sourcebook reminded me of the great and underutilized Madison Metropolitan School District Classroom Action Research work.
One article, “Putting Teachers in the Driver’s Seat,” discusses strategies such as Collaborative Teacher Research, Critical Friends Groups, Lesson Study, Book Clubs, and the National Board’s “Take One!.” As the author, professional development coach Anthony Cody, notes “There is a great deal of research that shows the most powerful forms of professional development create opportunities for teachers to collaborate and reflect on student learning.”
In the second article, “Grassroots Professional Development,” 2004 Florida Teacher of the Year Dayle Timmons described the multiple forms of collaborative development in use at her Chets Creek Elementary School. Many of these are similar to those described by Cody. Reading about Timmons experiences two things stood out.: First, the very creative use of technology, second, the absolute necessity of sufficient time for collaborative work and planning.
“Teacher-directed professional development” is also a theme of the article “Reinventing Professional Development in Tough Times.” The article notes that although potentially more effective and less expensive than contracting with outsiders, internal work isn’t free. Teachers, whether as leaders or collaborators need release time from the classroom in order to prepare and follow up.
This brings us back to MMSD. We have an incredibly talented staff, in most schools a climate of professional collaboration thrives, in the classroom action research the basis for great staff development is already in place (take a look yourself, you’ll be impressed). What is needed is the initiative and funding to put this work to work, to put the action research into action (some of this may be happening, but I can’t find any record and haven’t heard anything).
Fortunately, my reading of the Title 1 guidelines for the stimulus package indicate that this would be an acceptable use of that funding and it also appears to be the kind of project that might be funded via Sec. Arne Duncan’s discretionary “Race to the Top” money.
Wouldn’t it be great to build on MMSD’s strengths these ways?
Thomas J. Mertz