Teaching and Learning Academies
To realize the promise of a commonly agreed-upon set of standards for successful teaching, professional development must maintain a relentless and ongoing focus on the highest-leverage teaching skills. These skills need to be properly expanded into clear exemplars that educators can understand at the concrete level and tied to performance assessments, just as we do for students in the curriculum standards movement. The foundation of professional development, then, will move away from being reactive to individual teacher evaluation prescriptions or exclusively driven by local needs assessments and move toward a unifying vision of high-expertise practice. This shift is essential to making teaching a true profession.
The knowledge and skills for highlevel professional practice in teaching needs to be available for all practitioners throughout their careers with appropriate components offered at timely junctures in one's path. Ideally, this would mean a teaching and learning academy with permanent offerings and in-class follow-up for the essential categories of professional knowledge and skills. See the box at right for potential categories.
Only large districts could hope to create such academies, but regional collaboratives could also do so, especially with federal and state support.
High-leverage essentials of good teaching and learning, however, are professional development topics that should be alive in every district every year, and not just offered periodically or at local initiative. See those essentials at right.
Skills pertaining to planning
* High-expertise teachers dig deeply into their content as they are planning lessons. They identify the most worthwhile learning targets in the materials and make sure students know what they are. They also make sure student learning experiences are logically aligned with learning objectives and that the assessment will give good data about student mastery. Student misconceptions and points of difficulty are anticipated and provided for in the lesson because the teacher did the student tasks himself or herself.
* High-expertise teachers know how to study student work, from standardized tests to work samples from yesterday's class. They can analyze student errors and identify gaps in student learning. Skillful error analysis leads directly to reteaching for those students who didn't get it the first time.
* High-expertise teachers arrange for a constant flow of feedback to students on their performance. The feedback is nonjudgmental and keyed to specific criteria students are clear about. Students can self-evaluate and use techniques they have been taught to set effective goals and plans of action to improve. …