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Teacher Learning

Teacher Learning – Donna Zero


            There is no doubt that educational reforms and goal of preparing our students for the 21st century, means that both teachers and administrators need to assume new roles.

Assuming new roles requires developing new skills and changing practices for all educators.  Unfortunately this is not happening at the rate or level that is needed to meet these goals..

            Teachers learn to change their practices through many means both formal and informal. Formal methods would include enrolling in college classes, workshops provided by organizations and vendors, and in-service programs provided by schools or districts.  The informal route would be working with other teachers, mentors, friends, and learning from their own students and practice.  Unfortunately these methods, other than enrolling in a degree program, are fragmented and often disconnected with other aspects of teaching.

            Part of the problem is that a great deal of the professional development (PD) offered to teachers is not focused on their specific needs which are based on their experience and current situation.  This contributes to giving PD a negative connotation in the eyes of many teachers. To add to that there is very little opportunity available for teachers to take classes where they not only are taught how to use technology but how to use it effectively with the curriculum.

            Before we can get teachers to rethink their teaching strategies, we first need them understand and embrace the need for this change.  This is the challenge.

            Getting teachers and administrators to rethink their way of educating students is a delicate operation.  The first thing is to convince them that there is a need to retrain.  Unfortunately there are teachers instructing the same way they did 20 years ago when technology in the classroom was rare or non-existent and differentiated instruction was just a new buzz word.  PD programs need to be developed that show how to integrate technology with specific grade level curriculum while gently raising a teacher’s tech IQ.  They need to be researched based and applicable to the classroom.  People are often uncomfortable with change so it is crucial that these trainings need to create a level of comfort for all learners, allow ample time for feedback and opportunities for teachers to work together and learn from each other.  The most importance factor in developing effective PD is make sure that the new learning is tied into practice, otherwise the exercise will be useless.