Teachers' continued learning is the second feature of teacher preparation and qualifications addressed in this report. Continued learning is particularly important because the nation's schools have been increasingly challenged by policy initiatives to "do better, and to do differently" (McLaughlin and Oberman 1996: iv). At the core of educational reforms to raise standards, reshape curricula, and restructure the way schools operate is the call to reconceptualize the practice of teaching (Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin, 1996). American children need a broader range of skills, including higher order thinking skills and technological expertise. Teachers must learn to teach students in ways that promote such skills. At the same time, teachers face the greater challenges of rapidly increasing technological changes, greater diversity in the classroom, and a push to teach in innovative ways (often different from how they were taught and/or from the formal preservice training they received).
In order to meet the changing demands of their jobs, high-quality teachers must be capable and willing to continually learn and relearn their trade. This learning begins prior to entering the classroom (as discussed in the previous section). However, beginning teachers are often not fully prepared for the requirements of classroom teaching (Fullan with Stiegelbauer, 1991).
Continued learning, the second aspect of teacher preparation and qualifications addressed in this report, is key to building educators' capacity for effective teaching, particularly in a profession where the demands are changing and expanding. Continued learning takes multiple forms; the two key forms discussed here are formal professional development and collaboration with other teachers.
The first aspect of continued learning, formal professional development, is included in the National Education Goals; Goal 4 states: "By the year 2000, the nation's teaching force will have access to programs for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all American students for the next century." The inclusion of a national goal for teacher professional development represents an increased focus on professional development as an important vehicle for school reform and educational excellence (Sprinthall, Reiman, and Theis-Sprinthall, 1996). Some schools and school districts require teachers to participate, and certain states have passed initiatives encouraging or mandating certain types of professional development. In addition, some teachers actively seek their own opportunities for professional development. For example, college coursework completed after a teacher has started teaching is one form of professional development. However, access to professional development activities may vary widely among teachers; for example, there may be more opportunities for participation in districts located in close proximity to a university or college. Formal professional development typically consists of school and district "staff development" programs. Teachers often attend classes sponsored by their districts and attend workshops, conferences, and summer institutes. Workshops and conferences are the most typical form of continuing professional development. They are usually designed to meet short-term goals of implementing specific instructional change, such as the integration of technology into classroom teaching.
However, these traditional approaches to professional development (e.g., workshops, conferences) have been criticized for being relatively ineffective because they are usually short term; they lack continuity through adequate followup and ongoing feedback from experts; they are typically isolated from the participants' classroom and school contexts; and they take a passive approach to training teachers, allowing little opportunity to learn by doing and reflecting with colleagues. A core argument is that unless professional development programs are carefully designed and implemented to provide continuity between what teachers learn and what goes on in their classrooms and schools, these activities are not likely to produce any long-lasting effects on either teacher competence or student outcomes (Fullan with Stiegelbauer, 1991). In other words, as traditionally practiced, professional development activities may lack connection to the challenges teachers face in their classrooms.
In order to investigate such issues, the 1998 survey elicited information from teachers regarding their recent participation in professional development programs in each of eight content areas (see Figure 5). Because of changes in technology, in the notions of effective teaching, and in the types of students and students' needs teachers encounter in their classrooms, the survey elicited information regarding teachers' formal professional development in such areas as technology, new methods of teaching, state or district curriculum or performance standards, and accommodating students with disabilities or from diverse linguistic or cultural backgrounds. Because there is a good deal of skepticism regarding the value of formal professional development for teachers' work, the survey also requested information regarding the extent to which teachers' felt that these opportunities improved their teaching. Moreover, because limited exposure is one of the criticisms launched at traditional forms of professional development, the survey also asked teachers to indicate the duration of their exposure to different professional development opportunities (i.e., time spent on particular activities). The data indicate that teacher participation in professional development in 1998 was high: almost all of the teachers surveyed in 1998 (99 percent) had participated in professional development programs in at least one of the listed content areas in the last 12 months (not shown in tables).
Teachers in the 1993-94 survey were also asked about their participation in professional development programs in the past 12 months. However, the survey covered five content areas: methods of teaching their subject field, student assessment, cooperative learning in the classroom, uses of education technology for instruction, and in-depth study in their subject field (see Figure 6). The data also indicate that an overwhelming majority of teachers (90 percent) participated in professional development activities during 1993-94 (not shown in tables).
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In 1998, teachers were more likely to have participated in professional development activities that appear consistent with the emphasis of education reform to do things differently and better (Figure 5). Teachers were more likely to have participated in implementing state or district curriculum and performance standards (81 percent), integrating educational technology into the grade or subject taught (78 percent), implementing new teaching methods (77 percent), doing in-depth study in the subject area of their main teaching assignment (73 percent), and using student performance assessment techniques (67 percent) than in other areas. About half had participated in professional development in classroom management and addressing the needs of students with disabilities. One exception to this pattern is participation in professional development programs that addressed the needs of students with limited English proficiency or from diverse cultural backgrounds; teachers were least likely to have participated in these activities (31 percent).
In 1993-94, teachers were most likely to have recent professional development that appears to emphasize pedagogical skills; 67 percent of teachers had professional development on methods of teaching in their subject field (Figure 6). Fewer teachers had any recent professional development in student assessment (55 percent), cooperative learning (53 percent), and uses of educational technology for instruction (51 percent). Teachers were least likely to participate in in-depth study in their subject field (29 percent).
In addition to other issues, addressing the needs of students with limited English proficiency or from culturally diverse backgrounds has recently become a central concern mainly because of growing student populations with these backgrounds. Therefore, teacher training to meet these needs might be particularly important to schools with large minority student populations. In 1998, teacher participation in professional development programs that focused on limited English proficient or culturally diverse students generally increased with the percent minority enrollment in the school (Figure 7). For example, teachers from schools with more than 50 percent minority enrollment were much more likely than those who taught in schools with 5 percent or less minority enrollment to participate in professional development programs on this topic (51 versus 14 percent).
Participation in professional development in programs that addressed the needs of limited English proficient and culturally diverse students also varied by region (Figure 8). For example, teachers in the West were far more likely than teachers in the South to have had training in this content area (51 versus 33 percent). Further, teachers in the South were more likely to participate in these programs than those in the Midwest or Northeast.
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In an era of education reform, continuing professional development is equally relevant for both new and experienced teachers as many aspects of teaching may be changing. Teacher participation in professional development may be influenced by several factors: personal motivation, school or district requirement, and state initiatives requiring or encouraging certain types of professional development. Moreover, while certain kinds of on-the-job training, such as classroom management and curriculum development, may be more relevant to the needs of new teachers than experienced teachers, those who have taught for many years may have a greater need to upgrade their skills in the use of educational technology. It is, therefore, useful to examine whether teaching experience makes a difference to participation in professional development in various content areas.
The data suggest that teaching experience makes little difference to teacher participation in professional development in most of the content areas. One area in which teaching experience was, however, clearly related to teacher participation in professional development was classroom management, including student discipline. The likelihood of participating in professional development programs that focused on classroom management generally decreased with years of teaching experience ((Table 9). For example, in 1998, teachers with 3 or fewer years experience were more likely than more experienced teachers to participate in such a program, and those with 4 to 9 years experience were more likely to do so than those who taught for 10 or more years.
In some other areas, teacher participation in professional development differed between the least experienced teachers and those who were very experienced (Table 9). For example, in 1998, teachers with 3 or fewer years of experience were more likely than those who had taught for 20 or more years to participate in programs that addressed new methods of teaching (82 versus 73 percent). Newer teachers were also more likely than very experienced teachers to have participated in professional development on in-depth study in the subject area of the main teaching assignment (77 versus 67 percent).
Moreover, most experienced teachers (20 or more years) were less likely than all others to participate in professional development addressing the needs of limited English proficient or culturally diverse students. The 1993-94 data on participation in professional development about teaching methods in the teachers' subject field also showed a difference between the least and most experienced teachers (68 versus 62 percent, Table 10).
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A major criticism of professional development programs is the lack of intensity and followup in traditional staff development programs such as workshops and seminars. The core issue is that these programs are typically too short term to allow for meaningful change in teaching performance.
The 1998 data indicate that participation in professional development programs typically lasted from 1 to 8 hours, or the equivalent of 1 day or less of training (Tables 11 and B-9). The content area for which teachers were most likely to spend more than a day of professional development was in-depth study in the subject area of the main teaching assignment (Table 11).
However, although teachers typically need extended time to pursue research on in-depth studies, slightly more than half of teachers spent more than a day in professional training in this content area (56 percent). The areas in which teachers were least likely to spend more than a day of training were addressing the needs of students with disabilities (19 percent) and classroom management (22 percent).
Teacher participation in professional development in 1993-94 was also likely to be short term, typically lasting from 1 to 8 hours (Tables 12 and C-9 ). Moreover, the content area for which teachers were most likely to spend more than a day of training was in-depth study in the subject area of the main teaching assignment. Teachers were least likely to spend more than a day of professional development on student assessment (22 percent), cooperative learning in the classroom (27 percent), and uses of educational technology for instruction (30 percent).
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Since the rationale behind professional programs is to provide the forum for teachers to upgrade their knowledge, skills, and practices, it is useful to assess the extent to which participation in these activities helped teachers to achieve these objectives. To gauge the perceived impact of professional development programs, the 1998 survey asked teachers to assess the extent to which their participation in programs in a particular content area improved their teaching. Of those teachers who participated in programs in a particular area, the extent to which they believed it improved their teaching "a lot" ranged from 28 percent for in-depth study to 12 percent for implementing state or district curriculum and performance standards (Tables 13 and B-10). Few teachers indicated that a program did not help at all. For every program, 70 to 80 percent of the teachers reported that it was moderately or somewhat effective. For example, for the program that ranked highest in its perceived impact (in-depth study in the subject area of the main teaching assignment), 70 percent of teachers believed that participation improved their teaching moderately (44 percent) or somewhat (26 percent).
Teachers' perceptions about how much participation in various professional development programs improved their teaching were examined against years of teaching experience. For most of the 1998 content areas, teaching experience was not related to teachers' perception that participation in that content area improved their teaching "a lot." The one area in which teaching experience clearly was related was classroom management. Newer teachers were more likely than more experienced teachers to report that professional development in classroom management improved their teaching "a lot" (Tables 14 and B-10).
A criticism of short-term professional development programs is that they fail to bring about more long-term change in teachers' competencies for classroom teaching. To further assess the impact of professional development programs, the 1998 data were explored to examine whether the amount of time spent in professional development activities made a difference to perceived teaching improvement.
The number of hours teachers participated in professional development programs was related to how much they believed it improved their classroom teaching (Table 15). For every content area, teachers who participated for more than 8 hours believed it improved their teaching more than teachers who participated for 8 hours or less. For example, teachers who spent more than 8 hours in professional development on new methods of teaching in the classroom were more likely than those who spent 1 to 8 hours to report that participation in the program improved their teaching "a lot" (39 versus 12 percent). These patterns suggest that increased time spent in professional development is associated with the perception of significant improvements in teaching.
Collaboration with other teachers is the second feature of teachers' continued learning addressed in this report. Unlike traditional professional development activities, peer collaboration has been heralded by teachers, researchers, and policymakers as essential to teachers' continuous learning. Initiatives to improve the quality and efficacy of continued learning emphasize the development of learning communities within and across schools and highlight the importance of these mechanisms to foster teacher learning.
Opportunities for collaboration include those that are provided within the school and those that occur within professional networks across schools and other institutional structures. Teacher participation in school-based activities is likely to produce positive and long-lasting change because such activities provide the basis for transformative learning. Such collaboration revolves around joint work and teacher networks. Joint work such as team teaching, mentoring, and formally planned meetings are important mechanisms for productive exchange of ideas and reflection about practice. For instance, the focus on specific subject matter and teaching strategies helps teachers to improve their content knowledge and pedagogical skills. Mentoring is an effective mechanism for one-to-one professional guidance and for cultivating a teaching culture in which expert teachers serve as an essential resource for new teachers. All of these teaching-related activities are consistent with the view of professional development as a lifelong, inquiry-based collegial process rooted in the development of schools as collaborative workplaces.
Collaborative relationships may extend beyond classrooms and school buildings to school-university collaborations or partnerships, teacher-to- teacher and school-to-school networks, and participation in district, regional, or national task forces. These communities can be organized across subject matter, pedagogical issues, and significant school reforms. These networks can be powerful learning tools to engage professionals in collective work and allow teachers to go beyond their own classrooms and schools to engage in professional discourse about their own experiences and the experiences of others.
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To provide a national profile of teachers' peer collaboration, the 1993-94 survey asked teachers about their participation in the last 12 months in various mentoring and collaborating activities related to teaching, and the extent to which they felt each of these activities improved their teaching. These activities were:
Almost all (95 percent) of the teachers had participated in at least one of the listed activities in the last 12 months (not shown in tables). Regularly scheduled collaboration with other teachers was the activity in which teachers were most likely to have participated, with four out of five teachers reporting such collaborations in the last 12 months (Figure 9). About 60 percent of the teachers had participated in common planning periods for team teachers and networking with teachers outside the school, and about half reported involvement in individual or collaborative research. 15
Mentoring can be an important way for teachers to share information and experiences about teaching in a one-on-one relationship. Such relationships may be particularly useful to new teachers as they seek to develop effective teaching practices. The study found that about a quarter of the teachers indicated that they had mentored another teacher in a formal relationship in the last 12 months, and 19 percent said that they had been mentored by another teacher in such a relationship (Figure 9). The relatively low levels of teacher participation in mentoring reflect a pattern in which newer teachers were more likely than more experienced teachers to be mentored. The likelihood of mentoring and of being mentored by another teacher varied substantially by years of teaching experience (Figure 10). Teachers with 3 or fewer years of teaching experience were the most likely to have been mentored by another teacher in the last 12 months and the least likely to have acted in the role of mentor to another teacher. In fact, almost three out of five new teachers had been mentored by another teacher in the last year, suggesting that schools and/or teachers recognize the importance of such relationships early in a teacher's career.
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Teachers were also asked how frequently they had participated in the activities, within a range of at least once a week to a few times a year; survey results showed considerable variation on this dimension (Table 16). Among teachers who reported engaging in a particular activity, they participated the most frequently in common planning periods for team teachers, with 60 percent participating at least once a week. This was followed by mentoring another teacher in a formal relationship (42 percent) and engaging in regularly scheduled collaboration with other teachers (34 percent). While many teachers (61 percent) indicated that they had participated in networking with other teachers outside the school (Figure 9), the frequency of this kind of activity was low; 60 percent of these teachers reported such interactions only a few times a year.
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Teachers who reported participating in an activity were also asked to indicate the extent to which they believed the activity improved their classroom teaching. In general, participation in most activities was perceived to improve classroom teaching moderately or somewhat; few teachers believed that participation in a particular activity did not help their teaching at all (Tables 17 and B-12). Moreover, 40 percent of teachers who had a common planning period for team teachers believed that this opportunity improved their classroom teaching a lot, while one-third reported experiencing similar benefits from individual or collaborative research, or from being mentored by another teacher.
Being mentored by another teacher was not only a more frequent occurrence for beginning teachers, but it was generally perceived to be of more benefit to their teaching as well. Among teachers who had been mentored in the last 12 months, 45 percent with 3 or fewer years of experience believed it improved their teaching "a lot," compared with 18 percent of teachers with 20 or more years of teaching experience (Figure 11 and table B-12). This again suggests the importance of such relationships early in a teacher's career.
In addition, more experienced teachers may be mentored for different reasons and therefore may not have the same experience with being mentored.
Frequency of participation in a collaborative activity was generally positively related to teachers' beliefs about the extent to which the activity improved their classroom teaching (Table 18). For example, the extent to which participation in a common planning period for team teachers was perceived to improve teaching "a lot" ranged from 13 percent for those who participated a few times a year to 52 percent for those who were involved in the activity at least once a week. Thus, frequent participation in a mentoring or collaborating activity was more likely to lead to the perception of improved classroom teaching.
This chapter began with the premise that high quality teachers are lifelong learners. This assumption is based on the recognition that teaching is a complex profession with changing and growing demands. In order to meet the demands they face in their classrooms, teachers must be willing and capable to learn and relearn their trade. Opportunities for continued learning addressed in this chapter-formal professional development and collaboration with other teachers-are two key features of teacher learning.
Results of the 1998 survey indicate that teacher participation in formal professional development is high; almost all teachers had recent training in at least one of the listed content areas. Moreover, teachers were more likely to have had recent training in programs that seem consistent with the challenge to do things differently and better; these programs focused on topics such as the implementation of state and district curricula, the integration of technology into classroom instruction, and the implementation of new teaching methods. However, in spite of increasing classroom diversity in our schools, teachers were least likely to have had recent professional development that addressed the needs of limited English proficient or culturally diverse students.
The data suggest that although continued learning is equally relevant for new and experienced teachers, the specific needs for training in some content areas may vary by years of teaching experience. For example, newer teachers were more likely than very experienced teachers to participate in professional development that focused on classroom management and teaching methods, reflecting a strong need for training on these topics during the early years of teaching.
Teacher participation in professional development programs was typically short, lasting for the equivalent of one day or less of training.
Moreover, a key finding was that increased time spent in professional development was associated with the perception of significant improvements in teaching. For every content area, teachers who participated for more than 8 hours were far more likely than those who participated for fewer hours to report that the activity improved their teaching.
Participation in collaborative activities was also perceived to yield positive outcomes for classroom teaching. Most teachers felt that collaborative activities helped improve their teaching to some degree. Moreover, the frequency of participation in a collaborative activity was generally positively related to teachers' beliefs about the extent to which the activity improved their classroom teaching. For example, 70 percent of teachers who were mentored at least once a week reported that it improved their teaching "a lot." Formal professional development and collaboration with other teachers are important features of teacher learning. However, these experiences are most beneficial when coupled with a supportive work environment. Teachers' work environment is the focus of the next chapter.