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Volume 13, Number 3
May/June 1997

A New Consensus Emerges on the Characteristics of Good Professional Development

Reforms show promise for driving whole school change


We know what's wrong with traditional professional development—using good teachers in mundane ways that discourage reflection, sharing, or the building of a professional learning community. The failure of what has served as professional development for several decades is well documented: It rewards teachers for coursework that is often unrelated to the classroom or only results in moving them into administration; it tends to reinforce practice rather than change it; and it is so unchallenging that teachers put little stock in it.

A Winning Strategy

Fortunately, this picture is changing. Even before the research began to accumulate on how best to change instruction and learning through professional development, the teachers at the Samuel Mason School in Roxbury, MA, began to put together a range of opportunities for all of them to become learners, again. Five years ago the faculty chose to become an Accelerated School, joining a nationwide network of schools committed to changing governance, expectations, instruction, and parent involvement in order to help poor children achieve at high levels.

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For Further Information

For Further Information

W. Bridges. Managing Transitions. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1991.

M. Fullan, with S. Stigelbauer. The New Meaning of Educational Change. New York: Teachers College Press, 1991.

W. Hawley and L. Valli. "The Essentials of Effective Professional Development: A New Consensus." Paper presented to the AERA Invitational Conference on Teacher Development and School Reform, Washington, DC, 1996.

A. Lieberman and M. Grolnick. "Networks and Reform in American Education." Teachers College Record 98, no. 1 (Fall 1996): 7-45.

J.W. Little. "Organizing Schools for Teacher Learning." Paper presented to the AERA Invitational Conference on Teacher Development and School Reform, Washington, DC, 1996.

L. Darling-Hammond and M. McLaughlin. "Policies That Support Professional Development in an Era of Reform," in Teacher Learning: New Policy, New Practices, ed. M. McLaughlin and I. Oberman. New York: Teachers College Press, 1996.

R. Murnane and F. Levy. Teaching the New Basic Skills. New York: Free Press, 1996.

National Staff Development Council, 1128 Nottingham Road, Grosse Point, MI 48230.

D. Sparks. "Focusing Staff Development on Improving Student Learning," in Handbook of Research on Improving Student Achievement, ed. G. Cawelti. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service, 1995.

D. Sparks. "A Paradigm Shift in Staff Development." ERIC Review 3, no. 3 (Winter 1995): 2-4.

Third International Mathematics and Science Study, National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Education, 555 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20208.

"What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future." Report of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College, 1996.