32 Future Forwards: Exploring Frontiers in Education
What impact can we reasonably expect this investment in time to produce? “Nations that outperform
the US on international assessments invest heavily in professional learning and build time for ongoing,
sustained teacher development and collaboration into teachers’ work hours” (Darling-Hammond, et al,
2009, p. 6). It is clear, then that devoting significant time to teachers for professional growth must be a
primary consideration when creating PD practices for the future.
The Implementation Challenge
While the importance of time is hard to dispute, “time alone is not the answer for providing PD that
improve teacher skills and student learning. There must be support for a teacher during the
implementation stage that addresses the specific challenges of changing classroom practice”
(Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 15).
In their 2013 report, Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes
Accountability, the Center for Public Education noted that traditional professional development assumes
that a lack of professional knowledge is the gap that must be corrected. This may explain why nearly 90
percent of professional development experienced by teachers is provided as a one-time workshop
(Darling-Hammond et. al, 2009, p. 12). The findings of their report showed that the greatest challenge
comes when teachers attempt to implement newly learned methods into the classroom. Mastering a
new skill takes an average of 20 instances (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 12). Studies show that supporting
teachers during the implementation of learned practices results in changed teaching practices.
One study contrasted teachers who attended a workshop with teachers who attended a workshop and
received coaching through the implementation process. The key finding from this study was “that
coached teachers transferred the newly learned teaching practices, but teachers who only had the
workshop quickly lost interest in the skill and did not continue to use it in their classrooms”
(Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 16).
In addition to coaching, “Modeling - when an expert demonstrates the new practice - has been shown to
be particularly successful in helping teachers understand and apply a concept and remain open to
adopting it” (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 17).
In Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A status report on Teacher Development in the
United States and Abroad, Darling-Hammond et al. identify school-based coaching programs as a
promising strategy for professional development. In these programs “administrators identify well-regarded veteran educators and assign them to provide ongoing guidance, advice and mentoring to a
group or groups of teachers to help them improve their instruction” (Darling-Hammond et. al, 2009, p.
11). It is not surprising that a coaching model will be a significant key to the effectiveness of any
professional growth model.
As our task force consolidated our findings and converged on a point of view that clarified and defined
our direction forward, we began to consider the promise of new approaches to professional learning
and ways that we can turn our data into other ways of thinking. This was the infancy of our
recommendations, but it also led us to embrace opportunities to prototype.