Mark St. John
on March 4, 1998
Some thoughts on the interim links...
I always wonder why we try to make the direct linkage between
professional development and student achievement without trying to
conceptualize, and then examine, some key interim links... For example,
it seems to me that if professional development is powerful, then at
best teachers will have both a new ability and new propensity to try
some new approaches or new curricula in their classrooms ....(Assuming
the PD was aimed at change!!!) Can we assess well the degree to which
teachers have new practical knowledge and a heightened propensity to use
it with their studentS???? Perhaps we could do better at clarifying and
measuring this first step, or first link, in the chain....
And then, if conditions permit, we ought to see some changes in
classroom practice... or perhaps we ought to see classroom practice that
is rich in certain dimensions (e.g. inquiry)....
We did some experiments that we called Turing Tests... where we
videotaped classrooms of a half dozen teachers... these teachers varied
in their professional development experience from none to extensive...
We then showed these tapes in a blind fashion to outside expert judges
and asked them to judge them on criteria deemed important by the
professional devveloper... This is hardly hard science... But it does
address a commmon sense question... If you walked into the classroom of
a teacher with lots of PD experience, would you be able to tell the
difference... ??? Until the answer to this question is clear, it seems
premature to me to ask about changes in student outcomes...
Can anyone else think of other commmon sense measures or procedures that
we might us in order to establish some interim links along the way to