Leading Teacher Professional Learning: Shared Language for Shared Goals

Leading Teacher Professional Learning: Shared Language for Shared Goals

Doron Zinger (University of California – Irvine, USA), Jenell Krishnan (University of California – Irvine, USA), Nicole Gilbertson (University of California – Irvine, USA) and Kate Harris (Pittsburgh CAPA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8516-9.ch009

Abstract

Teacher professional development is a critical component of teacher learning and improving classroom instruction. Effective communication is key in facilitating professional development. In this chapter, the authors present one aspect of communication in teacher professional development, building shared understanding of key terminology and ideas. they present three case studies of professional development program from across English, history, and science. These cases highlight professional development design and implementation approaches that produced varying degrees of success. The potential pitfalls and effective approaches to facilitating the development of shared language about key ideas are presented. Lessons learned and implications for those who work with diverse groups and conduct professional development are discussed.
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Background

Improving Instruction in K-12 Schools

Improving instruction in the public education system has been an ongoing priority in the United States (Duschl, Schweingruber, & Shouse, 2007). Central to these efforts has been a focus on improving teaching as a critical lever to improving student learning (Darling-Hammond, 2010). A primary approach used to improve teacher instruction has been the implementation of various forms of professional development (Scott & Mouza, 2007). Professional development can take many shapes, but typically involves teachers coming together and working with experts or facilitators that can include teacher leaders, instructional coaches, researchers, and school district staff in a particular learning context (Borko, 2004). Nonetheless, and despite significant financial and human investment, the outcomes of professional development have been mixed (Wilson, 2013). That is, the impact of what teachers learn from professional development, and the impact of professional development on student learning remains negligible at times (Buczynski & Hansen, 2010).

Whereas numerous studies have examined the structures and design of professional development, fewer studies examine more nuanced aspects of professional development and how these teaching learning experiences can adapt and change to better meet teacher needs (Zinger et al., 2017; Guskey & Yoon, 2009). Furthermore, although developing shared understanding has been raised as an important consideration for professional development, there are few examples of how negotiation of language to build common understanding works through this collaborative design (Little, 1988).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Close Reading: A multi-step process of reading that moves beyond a cursory understanding of a text and attend to the fine details of a text.

Design-Based Research: Research that focuses on problems of practice identified collaboratively with practitioners and researchers. The goal of design-based approaches is to address problems of practice as well as develop theory that can be applied more broadly for systematic improvement.

Professional Development: A formal structure or program within schools where teachers gather with facilitators or experts to work on improving some aspect of instruction. Professional development may be ongoing, occurring multiple times, or in a single event.

Historical Thinking: Interpretation that responds to an inquiry question and uses evidence to make meaning grounded in a deep understanding of a particular time and place.

Discussion, Scientific: A form of talk in which scientific sense-making and analysis is central. Discourse between individuals where participants contribute more than simple canonical knowledge or regurgitate scientific facts.

Shared Understanding: Having a common interpretation of a concept of idea which may have multiple and varied meaning even within a specific context.

Visual-Syntactic Text Formatting (VSTF): A format designed to display text in a cascading pattern rather than a block approach. The format is intended to facilitate identification of grammatical structures in text.

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