Teachers as Researchers and Instructional Leaders

Teachers as Researchers and Instructional Leaders

Crystal Loose
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4249-2.ch041
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Professional development is a necessity for teachers in the K-20 system. To achieve effective teaching, teachers must be engaged in learning. On the job training and professional development provide learning opportunities for professional teachers in K-20 education. To achieve the most authentic professional development, students should be part of the learning process as they are part of the instructional equation. In order to promote lifelong learning of adults, teacher training needs to arise from problems and interests found in their practice. In this chapter, the author discusses Japanese Lesson Study (JLS) as a method for teacher professional development in the area of English Language Arts with emphasis on Situated Learning Theory as a necessary emphasis for teacher learning in K-20 classrooms. Connections are made to the National Common Core Standards as teachers compete globally to prepare students for success.
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The education of children and adults is a continuum of lifelong learning as they engage in thoughtful study throughout their lives. The release of the National Common Core Standards is changing education at all levels. At the local, national, and international levels standards are similar, allowing for educators to share lesson plans at all levels. Student engagement is at the core of learning and for the first time educators can share what lessons have allowed for substantial growth and interest in student learning.

With the release of the Common Core Standards comes an opportunity for continuous and stimulating professional development of teachers. Due to economic downturns, school districts are now searching for ways to educate teachers using cost effective methods. Japanese lesson study, with learning situated in the classroom with students, would allow for the study of effective instruction. Teachers could work together to consider goals for student learning and long-term development while identifying gaps between those long-term goals and current reality.

Lesson Study as a method of professional development has had a long-standing history in most Japanese elementary schools dating as far back as the 1900s (Fernandez, Cannon, & Chokski, 2003). Lesson study differs from traditional professional development in that teachers bring their own pressing questions to the table. Participants in a lesson study group seek out answers from one another and from careful study of students during a lesson that is taught in a classroom (Lewis & Hurd, 2011). Students are part of the learning equation. Teachers are afforded opportunities to work with colleagues to bring standards to life in actual lessons, while carefully studying student thinking.

Staff development is critical to improved student learning, therefore collaboration and dialogue among colleagues is essential. Staff development sessions are ideal places to encourage lifelong learning and promote district learning goals so that all teachers are on the same page. Arnold (1995), in a discussion of faculty development, noted that traditionally most staff development methods were based on the assumption that teachers have little to offer and result in little engagement with what teachers already know. This passive method of learning has been criticized for use with adult learners. Adults come with experiences and past teaching knowledge that would supply others with background knowledge related to instructional practices found in the classroom setting.

Through the constructivist approach, teachers can collaboratively dialogue and share ideas for classroom practices based on their experiences (Arnold, 1995). Constructivist and dialogic conceptions of learning would suggest that staff developments should capitalize on the participants’ beliefs and knowledge about instruction based on their professional experiences as teachers (Scanlon, Gallego, Duran, & Reyes, 2005). Coined from the words of John Dewey (1963), the term social constructivism describes the interrelationship between the psychological and social sides of education. The role of a community, be that a school or a group of teachers, is to help learners construct knowledge. Dewey posited that learning was idea-based, and that the generation of new ideas was a product of a group anticipating knowledge together (1902/1990). He also noted that adult learning is most effective when adults recognize relevance and immediate applicability in their learning. Dewey inspired educational Progressivism suggests active learning while promoting community, cooperation, and democratic equality (Labaree, 2005; Heibert, Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002). Learning from and through experience is at its core, while focusing on what the individual brings to the task such as motivation, belief systems, and prior life experiences is essential to the progressive inspired community.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Progressivism: Progressivism as explained by Dewey, means basing instruction on the needs and interests of teachers and learners. The values of community and collaboration are essential in Progressivism.

Social Constructivism: Social constructivism recognizes that knowledge is constructed through social interaction and is a shared rather than an individual experience ( Vygotsky, 1978 ).

Common Core Standards: The Common Core Standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.

Action Research: Action research is a form of inductive, practical research that focuses on gaining a better understanding of a practice problem or achieving a real change or improvement in practice context. It follows a cyclical process of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting ( Kuhne & Quigley, 1997 ).

Discourse: Discourse (“big D”) refers to a community’s discourse as the valued ways of doing and being through guided participation that teaches them to mediate the surrounding environment using culturally given tools (Gee, 1989 AU59: The in-text citation "Gee, 1989" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Discourse Theory: Discourse analysis is basically the analysis of “language in context.” The words we utter (or write) simultaneously reflect (are shaped by, are determined by) the context within which we utter them and create (shape, determine) the context. For example, elementary school teachers talk (and act) the way they do because they are in classrooms and they are teaching, but their classrooms count as classrooms and they as teachers teaching because they talk (and act) that way. The “world” both pre-exists and shapes how we talk about it (and act in it) and it means what it means and has the shape it does because we talk about it (and act in an on it) as we do ( Gee, 1999 ).

Communities of Practice: Communities of Practice are a set of relations among persons, activity, and world over time and in relation with other tangential and overlapping communities of practice ( Lave and Wenger, 1991 ). In education, CoP are a way for teachers to interact with their colleagues as well as those in authority over them.

Japanese Lesson Study: Lesson study involves groups of teachers meeting regularly over a period of time to work on the design, implementation, testing, and improvement of one or several “research lessons” ( Yoshida, 1999 ).

Situated Cognition: Situated cognition is a learning theory that challenges the perception that learning is a cognitive process that takes place solely in the minds of individuals. Situated cognition views learning as a collaborative process in which people engage with tools and the environment in which they will be used ( Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989 ).

Research Lessons: Research lessons are actual classroom lessons, taught to one’s students, that are (a) focused on a specific teacher-generated problem or goal of practice, (b) carefully planned, usually in collaboration with one or more colleagues (c) observed by other teachers, (d) recorded for analysis and reflection, and (e) discussed by the lesson study group members, other colleagues, administrators, and or invited experts ( Lewis, Watson, & Shaps, 1999 ).

Discourse: discourse (“little d”) refers to language-in-use. When discussing the combination of language with other social practices (behavior, values, ways of thinking, clothes, food, customs, perspectives) within a specific group (Gee, 1989 AU60: The in-text citation "Gee, 1989" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

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