Ongoing Professional Development Makes a Difference for the Future

Article excerpt

Effective professional development is central to enhancing the education afforded by our schools. This article describes creation of a four-year professional development program that was implemented successfully in an urban Catholic school to improve literacy.

Charlette's Story

I am a 32-year veteran teacher with old school methods. Textbooks, end of the reading section questions, and round-robin reading were just a few of my daily teaching strategies. After a year of the in-services, I began my first in-class novel, "Rules" by Cynthia Lord (2006). My initial response to reading the novel with my fourthgrade class was filled with apprehension. The entire experience was out of my comfort zone. With encouragement my uncertainty transformed into excitement and enthusiasm. My students waited with expectancy for the words, "Let's go to the book. " Students began asking higher order questions, making predictions, and were thinking beyond the basics. They began making connections.

Effective Professional Development

This professional development started in August 2006 when we began facilitating in-services at Mary Queen of Peace School, a newly formed urban Catholic school in Dayton, Ohio. "Helping teachers to understand more deeply the content they teach and the ways students learn that content appears to be a vital dimension of effective professional development" (Guskey. 2003). This framework for deepening teachers' understanding became our goal as we ventured into conceptualization of a reading mentoring program to improve literacy in this school. We used trade books to demonstrate best practices pertaining to reading. Our focus was to facilitate a conversation about how the use of proven reading strategies and trade books could transform the reading instruction process in the classroom.

Additionally, curriculum mapping was completed by the teachers to incorporate the K-8 scope and sequence of reading skills and concepts through the reading strategies.

Overview and Structure of the Reading Mentoring Program

During the past four years we focused on sharing approaches to reading from "Strategies That Work" (Harvey & Goudvis, 2007). Our monthly in services were spent exploring and discussing current theory and implementation of reading comprehension strategies (as noted in Figure 1) and best practices including the following:

* Read alouds; alternatives to roundrobin reading; making connections; visualizing; questioning; and determining importance

* Book talks; and before, during, and after reading strategies

* Characteristics of struggling readers

* The explicit teaching of comprehension

We continually used modeling and collaboration as methods to support implementation of best practices. They were critical dimensions of the monthly professional development. The sessions were developed and differentiated for middle grades reading/language arts teachers, content area teachers and primary teachers. We also placed several student teachers in classrooms to assist with implementation.

How We Made a Difference

Several overarching themes (Figure 2) related to the success of the in-service emerged from an analysis of the data collected from the surveys, transcripts and interviews.

Ongoing Professional Development

The ongoing nature of our program enabled us to ask teachers at the conclusion of our sessions. "How can we continue to support your work?" Mutual appreciation and commitment enhance the ongoing development process.

Building Community

Each of our in-services started with questions that were designed to elicit information about teacher needs within the context of the urban school and lead to discussion that would build trust and community. We listened to the teachers and structured our inservices around their needs rather than our content. The teachers were vigorated, which led to a more positive school environment and a more collégial learning community. …