Teaching with Primary Sources: Moving from Professional Development to a Model of Professional Learning

Teaching with Primary Sources: Moving from Professional Development to a Model of Professional Learning

Scott M. Waring (University of Central Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0204-3.ch014
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As providers of professional development opportunities for educators envision what they do, there is strong evidence that productive and effective opportunities should include the following: active learning, authentic professional practice, challenging of assumptions, coherence, collective participation, content focus, duration, learning from participant's own practice, and opportunities for critical refection (Desimone, 2009; Smith, 2010; Webster-Wright, 2009). In the development and facilitation of the Teaching with Primary Sources program, the Library of Congress has incorporated these elements to create a cohesive, collaborative, and engaging model for Professional Learning. To date, tens of thousands of educators have been exposed to the TPS curriculum provided by Library of Congress staff, Consortium members from 17 states throughout the United States, and regional grantees found within all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
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Professional Development (PD) has often been considered as an effective way in which to support and increase teacher effectiveness, as well as student achievement (Dixon, Yssel, McConnell, & Hardin, 2014; Fishman, Marx, Best, & Tal, 2003; Jaquith, Mindich, Wei, & Darling-Hammond, 2011; Shaha, Glassett, & Copas, 2015; Pehmer, Gröschner, & Seidel, 2015); however, there are many different conceptualizations as to what it is and should be. PD has long been defined as being “any school district activity that is intended partly or primarily to prepare paid staff members for improved performance in present or possible future roles in the school district” (Moore & Hyde, 1981, p. 9).

In a review of the literature, Desimone (2009) found consensus about what characteristics, of PD, are critical to increasing teacher knowledge and skills and improving practice, as well as for holding promise for increased student achievement. It has been found that PD should include: (a) content focus, (b) active learning, (c) coherence, (d) duration, and (e) collective participation. Evidence, within this literature base, indicates that the content focus may be the most influential of these features (Carpenter, Fennema, Peterson, Chiang, & Loef, 1989; Cohen, 1990; Desimone, Porter, Garet, Yoon, & Birman, 2002; Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Smith, Desimone, Zeidner, Dunn, Bhatt, & Rumyantseva, 2007) and that a link exists between “activities focusing on subject matter content and how students learn that content with increases in teacher knowledge and skills, improvements in practice, and to a more limited extent, increases in student achievement” (Desimone, 2009, p. 184). The level of active learning, such as observations of expert teachers, being provided feedback after an observation, reviewing student work, and discussions, has a strong connection to the effectiveness of professional development (Desimone, 2009; Garet et al., 2001; Stewart, 2014). The third key characteristic is coherence, which is the extent to which the PD is consistent with the participants’ knowledge and beliefs and its connectedness, including conflicts and tensions, as well as the relationship of the content of that which is being delivered to school, district, and state reforms and policies, standards, curriculum and assessment (Allen & Penuel, 2015; Consortium for Policy Research in Education, 1998; Desimone, 2009; Elmore & Burney, 1997; Firestone, Mangin, Martinez, & Polovsky, 2005; Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007; Smeby & Heggen, 2014). Research has shown that PD must be of a sufficient duration, including both the time span and total number of hours, but exact numbers for these have not been determined; however, evidence points to activities spread over a semester or multiple months and a minimum of 20 hours of contact time (Desimone, 2009; Guskey, 1994; Supovitz, & Turner, 2000). The last of the significant characteristics is collective participation, which is most easily gained through involvement of educators from the same school, grade, or department (Borko, 2004; Desimone, 2009; Guskey, 1994; Rosenholtz, 1989).

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