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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research:
Teacher Networks:
Strengthen the Model, Nurture the Profession

by Peggy Wyns-Madison
P.S. 131 Brooklyn

AUGUST, 1997

Enabling Teachers to Learn and to Teach
A Daily Dose of Knowledge
Time to Share, Time to Grow
Classrooms: The Learning Place
Sustaining a Teaching Force
Appendix 1: The Professional Development Laboratory--Historical Overview
Appendix 2: IMPACT II - The Teachers Network - Historical Overview

Enabling Teachers to Learn and to Teach

By the year 2006, the United States school enrollment in grades K-8 is expected to peak at 38.1 million. School systems across the country will need 2 million elementary and 1.4 million secondary classroom teachers to meet the growing enrollment (Hendrie, 1996). All 3.4 million teachers will have to know their subject areas deeply, understand how students think, create lessons that meet high curriculum standards and develop their knowledge of teaching and learning. In the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future, Pat Rice, principal of Withrow High School in Cincinnati, Ohio noted, "The old paradigm of teaching was that you prepared a lesson, you taught it the best way you could, and you covered the curriculum. A teacher who did those things was a good teacher, no matter what students did. Now, good teaching is judged by how much learning occurs, and teachers' knowledge is ever more important."

The National Commission challenged the nation to provide all children with teachers "...who have the knowledge, skills, and commitments to teach children well" and "...to provide teachers with access to high-quality professional development and regular time for collegial work and planning." Policies of the past have included professional development, but the bulk of funds have been invested in training models. Yet, research and, more importantly, teachers themselves find the training model to be ineffective and problematic. In addition, training models that involve one-shot workshops, institutes, and retreats are more expensive than ongoing, on-site programs. The investment is simply too much, and the educational gains are too small.

In the late 1970's, McLaughlin and Marsh (1978) asserted that staff development was "education's neglected stepchild." Today the generalization no longer holds true, for most state-level reform efforts include a professional development component. Legislators and state education officials propose policies that are aimed at student achievement and school reform. More often than not, these policies require a change in teaching practice, and professional development is necessary to implement them. Although staff development days are added to school calendars, many teachers still feel that these efforts do not enable their professional development.

According to Andy Hargreaves (1995), Professor in Educational Administration at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, Canada, teachers often resist or reject professional development programs that have the following characteristics:

1. They are imposed. As McLaughlin (1990) notes, "we cannot mandate
what matters to effective practice" (p.15).
2. They are encountered in the context of multiple, contradictory, and
overwhelming innovations (Werner, 1988).
3. Most teachers, other than those selected for design teams, have been
excluded from their own development (Fullan, 1991).
4. They are packaged in off-site courses or one-shot workshops that
are alien to the purposes and contexts of teachers' work (Little, 1993).
5. Teachers experience them alone and are afraid of being criticized by
colleagues or of being seen as elevating themselves on pedestals
above them (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991).

Milbrey W. McLaughlin, Professor of Education and Public Policy at Stanford University and Director of the Center for Research on the Context of Teaching, found that many staff development policies are created to remove or buffer constraints to teachers' professional development such as inadequate materials, insufficient information, lack of appropriate teacher preparation, and limited teacher input in staff development decisions. The professional growth of teachers is not guaranteed simply because constraints are removed, for teachers' sense of efficacy does not necessarily increase because they receive new information about effective classroom practice. However, ongoing assistance, structures that promote collegiality, concrete training with follow-through, and school leadership support and encouragement are required to enable professional development in teachers (Lieberman and Miller, 1991).

Based on research and my own experiences, the educational challenges from the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future can be met by the creation of policies that do more than state the inclusion of professional development, but clearly define the features of professional development models that enable teachers' professional growth. New York University's Professional Development Laboratory (PDL) and IMPACT II - The Teachers Network (See Appendices 1-2 for full descriptions of these programs) are two professional development models which provide the context for my recommendations. Each model incorporates activities that enable teachers' professional development.

With years of documented success in fostering teacher learning and being replicated in schools across districts and state borders, the Professional Development Laboratory and IMPACT II - The Teachers Network have the components of an effective professional development model which provide a strong connection between student learning and teacher learning. Future policies for professional development should steer clear of training models which have had limited success and focus on models that enable teachers to learn and to teach.

A Daily Dose of Knowledge

Competent, caring and qualified teachers must have access to high-quality professional development that is integrated in the school day. Professional development models that are integrated in the school day provide teachers with access. Traditional training models are generally held after school hours, which can exclude many teachers who have additional responsibilities beyond the school day (e.g., child care, degree programs, etc.) In the case of the PDL program, teachers get immediate feedback on how effective their teaching strategies are because they are working directing with students. They also have access to a colleague with whom they can confer daily, review goals, assess progress, and plan next steps.

One of the key arguments against having a professional development program throughout the school day is the cost factor. The PDL model's budget is flexible and based on the needs of the school district and its teacher population. A district can use the PDL model to enable the professional growth of 18 teachers at $194,940 per year including resources or for an additional $33,000 serve 40 teachers (See Appendices 3-5 for PDL budget models). On the other hand, training models are expensive. Judith Warren Little found that "a program that invites 25 teachers to a retreat for 5 days will invest more than one and a half times the resources per participant in 3-5 days than local districts invest in an entire year of a teacher's professional development" (Anson, 1994).

Time to Share, Time to Grow

Professional development programs must promote network building and collegiality. Teaching is an isolated profession. Teachers have little time in their daily work to interact, share ideas, or solve problems with other teachers. In addition, less time is available to teachers to make contact with external sources for new and innovative ideas in education such as professional conferences (Orr, 1995). Michael Fullan (1991), Dean of Education, University of Toronto, points out that when teachers are compared to other educational professionals, "teachers as a group have less opportunity to come into contact with new ideas and less time and energy to follow through on those that they do become aware of." Yet when teachers work together , significant school improvement can occur.

Professional development models that foster collegiality and network building also provide an opportunity to keep teachers teaching. By breaking down the walls of isolation, teachers can begin to connect with other teachers and share teaching practices. From 1979 to 1983, a team of researchers from Teachers College, Columbia University analyzed the grants and networking component of IMPACT II - The Teachers Network in two pilot program sites --New York City and Houston. The following evidence was found:

° In one single year, the average teacher grantee talked to 43 other teachers about innovative ideas that IMPACT II supported, and they continued to disseminate their exemplary programs beyond the funding period.

° Isolation among participating teachers was decreased and collegiality was increased as a result of networking experiences. Networking was identified by 50 percent of the adaptor awardees and 33 percent of the teacher-disseminators as the most important benefit of the program (Orr, 1995).

In 1993, Dr. Dale Mann, professor and senior research associate at Teachers College, Columbia University, conducted a second report, "IMPACT II Documentation Research 1992-1993" to see if the original findings on the program's effectiveness held up after ten years. After ten years, 68% of the members stated that networking was still the best way to get new ideas into their schools. In fifteen years, IMPACT II - The Teachers Network awarded grants to 20,000 teachers but reached out to another 500,000 teachers by using teacher-to-teacher development techniques (Ortiz, 1994). (See Appendix 6).

In 1984, I became a member of IMPACT II through its basic model. Throughout the last thirteen years, I have participated in numerous networking activities which connected me to teachers nationwide, served on IMPACT II's National Board of Directors which allowed me to voice my ideas on how the network could empower innovative teachers, and shared my successful teaching practice via TeachNet, IMPACT II's web site. As a Metropolitan Life Fellow in the National Teacher Policy Institute, I have begun to take an active interest in policy work within my school community. After attending one school board meeting, I volunteered for my district's technology task force. Before the Institute, I wouldn't even have entertained the thought of taking on another project outside of my school and family life, but I see how important this work is for teachers, students, and the community-at-large and feel compelled to try to improve areas in education that need to be addressed. After fifteen years of teaching, I want to continue. Being a member of a network, I don't perceive my role in teaching as a dead end job. I now see myself as a facilitator, a researcher, and a learner, with much to give and much to learn.

Classrooms: The Learning Place

A novice teacher, who left corporate America for the classroom, started working in city schools as a substitute teacher and found limited opportunities to improve her teaching skills. She felt as though she were drowning in the system and couldn't get a handle on helping students learn. Three years ago, she became an Adjunct Teacher for PDL at an elementary school in New York City. Today, she sees the value and importance of her role in the lives of students. As she puts it, "I know what I'm doing now, I'm confident; I feel like a real teacher." Through her participation in the program, she developed classroom management techniques, gained more teaching experience working in lower and upper elementary classes, observed the use of new approaches to classroom instruction, discussed the effects of teaching approaches on students, and utilized assessment strategies to evaluate and reflect on her own teaching practice and that of other teachers. She now feels ready to work in her own classroom and anticipates becoming a full-time teacher.

Professional development programs must be classroom-based not workshop-based. All of the teachers in the PDL cycle are actively working to increase student learning and developing their teaching skills in the classroom. Teachers in the IMPACT II -The Teachers Network also utilize a classroom-based approach with a variety of dissemination activities which spread good teaching practice at the same time and foster network-building. For years, teachers have recognized the value of pairing students to increase their learning ability. The same holds true for teachers. Teachers are learners. Most training models use classroom teachers to train other classroom teachers. However, the training model uses a workshop-based approach with a view of teachers as authorities. Since teachers are usually trained after the school day, more hands on activities are developed to increase their participation. Yet, very little follow-up is involved in the workshop-based programs to identify the use of skills learned by teachers and direct application in the classroom. Other industries utilize the work setting to develop their professionals. Doctors make rounds when patients are in the hospital. Bankers develop their skills during banking hours. Teachers should not be expected to improve their teaching skills in only one way -- after the school bell rings at the end of the day. Students need them in the classroom, and teachers need to see the effects of their professional development on their students so that more learning can occur and more effective teaching can be applied.

Sustaining a Teaching Force

In the Fall of 1996, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) wrote an open letter to state education policy makers that revealed, "Public education is plagued with "fads" and reform ideas. It is vital to find those policies and practices that work -- those that hold the promise for helping students succeed--and document the evidence of success. It is equally important to make those successful practices available to schools and communities that are seeking ways to improve"(ECS, 1996). As we approach the twenty-first century, we need to reexamine how to support and sustain 3.4 million qualifed, caring, and competent teachers. Current policies simply allocate funds for professional development, but they can be more effective in the classroom when they are used for professional development programs that enable teachers to learn and grow professionally. I recommend that professional development programs include the following elements:

  • integrated in the school day (Flexible scheduling, parent and volunteer partnerships, and other alternative strategies can be used to increase time during the school day for professional growth activities).

  • promote collegiality and network-building (Dissemination activities such as interschool visits, conferences, and on-line conferencing can provide opportunities for teachers to increase collegiality and networking).

  • classroom-based (District-wide, on-site facilities are available for professional development activities).

  • teacher-directed

  • modeled on the view that teachers are learners

These recommendations are currently incorporated by the Professional Development Laboratory and IMPACT II programs.

A very simple lesson can be learned from the IMPACT II program. Dr. Dale Mann remarked, "IMPACT II gets behind the classroom door, it makes a difference in teaching, its effects last over time and those effects transfer with equal power to widely different places. The outcomes come from something simple but hard to find in the current reform scene... It trusts teachers" (Mann, 1995). Educational policies must get behind the classroom door and nurture the professional. It is time to trust teachers and create policies that teachers know will help them grow.


Appendix 1

The Professional Development Laboratory - Historical Overview

The Professional Development Laboratory (PDL) was initiated as a pilot project in 1989 to improve student learning through direct development of teachers. Representatives from the New York City Board of Education, the United Federation of Teachers, the Office of the Manhattan Borough President, the Office of the City Council President, and J.P. Morgan & Co. Inc. collaborated to design the program which makes professional development an ongoing part of a teacher's career. In 1992, New York University joined the collaboration and helped expand the program to include a Teacher Leadership Institute for enhancing peer coaching and teacher leadership skills. After three years of operation, the Professional Development Laboratory formally became a part of the New York City Board of Education's Division of Instruction and Professional Development, and its collaboration expanded to include AT &T, IBM, Booth Ferris Foundation and eight participating school districts in four of the five boroughs of New York City.

How Does It Work

The program model provides opportunities for experienced and novice teachers to increase their skills or develop new approaches to classroom instruction. A Site Facilitator, the program coordinator at the district level, presents the PDL program to teachers at a faculty meeting, informal discussion, workshop, etc. Principals or administrators may recommend the program to teachers, or they may recommend teachers to the Site Facilitator. However, the program is strictly designed to focus on additional growth for good teachers. Once interest is established, the PDL core cycle begins.

Interested teachers apply to become Visiting Teachers. The Site Facilitator identifies a matching Resident Teacher based on such criteria as Resident Teacher strengths that correspond to the Visiting Teacher's identified goals, similar classroom populations, visitation cycle availability, and anticipated interpersonal compatibility. After a match has been made, the Resident Teacher and the Visiting Teacher develop an Action Plan, which specifies the Visiting Teacher's goals for the visit and aligns them with larger goals (e.g., school improvement plans, district objectives, and state and national goals for excellent teaching and learning). In preparation for the visitation, the Visiting Teacher sends a note home to parents advising them of the upcoming visitation and introducing the Adjunct Teacher who will cover the class during the visitation cycle. Meanwhile, the Resident Teacher prepares his/her students for the visitation and plans how to maximize the visit to meet the objectives in the Action Plan.

A visitation is usually one to five weeks depending on the district. At this time, the Resident Teacher and the Visiting Teacher confer daily, review goals, assess progress, give feedback and plan next steps as they increasingly become co-teachers. The visitation is documented through various methods such as journals, videotapes, portfolios, etc.

When the Visiting Teacher returns to class, the Adjunct Teacher remains another week to assist the students in making a smooth transition and help the Visiting Teacher in beginning to implement new strategies learned from the visitation. Two or more weeks after the Visiting Teacher has returned to class, the Resident Teacher visits the Visiting Teacher to see how much progress has been made and provide on-site assistance. Contact continues informally, and the Visiting Teacher is encouraged to share strategies and other learnings with colleagues.

PDL's Strengths

The Professional Development Laboratory enables the professional development of three teachers: Visiting Teacher, Resident Teacher, Adjunct Teacher. As the PDL core cycle begins, all three teachers meet at various times to develop strategies to affect teacher and student learning. While teachers increase their professional knowledge and develop as professionals, students reap the benefits of having three teachers with shared goals and strategies facilitate their learning. Although the PDL core cycle involves three teachers, the entire teaching staff in the building has access to the PDL resource room in the school. The PDL model is based on the premise that teachers are learners and coaches. Now in its eighth year, PDL has directly impacted 2000 New York City teachers and approximately 60,000 students have benefited from the program.


Appendix 2

IMPACT II - The Teachers Network - Historical Overview

IMPACT II - The Teachers Network is a unique, nationwide, educational, non-profit organization that supports innovative teachers who exemplify professionalism and was developed in 1979 in New York City with funding from the Exxon Education Foundation. In 1987 the model was refined and replicated in twelve additional sites across the country before receiving validation from the U.S. Department of Educational National Diffusion Network. With subsequent federal, foundation and local dissemination funds, the model was adopted by 26 sites, including Baltimore, MD; Baton Rouge, LA; Boston, MA; Chapel Hill, NC; California; Illinois; Colorado; Connecticut; Dade County, FL; Portland, OR; New Jersey; Ohio; Maine; New York; and Washington, DC. and connected more than 30,000 of the best teachers nationwide. It has awarded over 20,000 grants and touched the professional lives of up to half a million teachers through its networking activities (Orr, 1995).

How It Works

IMPACT II - The Teachers Network's purpose is to provide support for public school teachers by recognizing and disseminating their innovative practices. Teachers apply for small one-year grants to disseminate their own instructional techniques. The core IMPACT II model includes various elements such as 1) teacher-disseminator grant competition; 2) teacher-adaptor grant competition; 3) teacher-led staff development workshops for IMPACT I II programs; 4) yearly publications of teacher-developed program catalogs; and 5) various recognition activities.

  • Teacher -Disseminator Competition. Each year, local IMPACT II sites sponsor a teacher-disseminator grant competition. Interested teachers complete an application and describe their program, the student population served, how the program was developed and staffing, materials and resources needed.

  • Teacher -Adaptor Competition. Teachers interested in adapting a program from a current list of IMPACT II programs submit an application that explains how they plan to adapt the program. The program's teacher-disseminator provides input in reviewing the adaptor applications.

  • Dissemination Activities. All IMPACT II teachers are encouraged to facilitate staff development workshop on their programs to groups of teachers. After completing a "Learning to Lead" workshop, teachers are prepared to lead workshops. In addition, they prepare project packets for dissemination at the workshops. Teachers may also participate in interschool visits to learn about the innovative programs sponsored by the network.

  • Publications. Each IMPACT II site publishes an annual catalog of disseminator programs. Newsletters are also published and feature articles on various teaching practices by teachers.

  • Recognition Activities. An awards ceremony is given annually to recognize new teacher-disseminators and adaptor grant awardees. Some sites even host catalog receptions and honor the teacher disseminators' published program (Orr, 1995).

    Seven key factors attributed to the Teachers Network have remained steadfast: (1)recognition of outstanding teachers; (2) connecting outstanding teachers; (3)improving classroom instruction; (4) dissemination of good ideas; (5) improving diverse sites; (6) keeping good teachers in teaching; (7) providing lasting effects (Mann, 1995).

Cost Analysis

A basic IMPACT II model works on a budget that includes the following cost items: Staffing/Personnel; Teacher Grants (disseminator, adaptor); Per Session/Per Diem; Awards Ceremony; Workshops; Catalogs; Website, Conferences, Program Brochures, Announcements; Miscellaneous.


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