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Discussion: Exploring a Case Study

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posted by: Jerry Valadez on May 30, 2000 at 8:58PM
subject: Reformers in exile
I am the K-12 Science Coordinator with the Fresno Systemic Initiative where
we face very similar issues as raised in the case study, "Time and Time
Again, Again. As a large urban district with 96 school sites and
significant teacher transiency with the 4,500+ teachers, the overall burden
of professional development is a community-wide problem that has received
good support from local universities. Even so, this case study has raised
important questions about the implementation of reform efforts in
mathematics (and science) teaching that often go without discussion due to
the "changing the tire on the car as we speed down the freeway' syndrome.
As I read the case study several key issues emerged. One was the issue of
how to create quality time for professional development. We have conducted
numerous "surveys" similar to the one described in the case study where
teachers declare that afterschool, Saturday, or "vacation" time as
preferences for professional development. There is never consensus for one
venue or time, and many teachers believe they should do professional
development while "on duty". In reality, very few professions provide
training "on the clock". Nurses and other medical personnel are required to
attend continueing education on their own time, as do doctors and many other
professionals. One main difference is that the professional development is
valued and important to their work, and is seen as critical to maintaining
competency. There is also trust that someone else in authority has
researched the evidence and deemed the training consistant with what
improves practice. Why is this not so with education? Is it a question of
who's burden it really is? Perhaps in this case study Dr. Tansey put the
project at risk by holding the workshops on teaching days. The tensions
created are numerous from substitute problems back at the school site to the
loss of an instructional day, to the fatigue in the afternoon. As the
case study reveals the time that teachers have to network with each other
over content or pedagogy is invaluable. However, when the going got a
little tough the realities of the classroom prevailed. Maybe an intense
summer institute followed by in-class support throughout the academic year
would have been the better choice given the high stakes of the
implementation and the newness of the innovation? The discussions between
the teachers in the case study never had time to evolve. If they had, the
teachers would have found support in each other as they learned the
innovation. The development of this network is critical to the
sustainability of any reform effort.
(Many other models can be found in Susan Loucks-Horsley's book, "Designing
Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics").

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