Professional Growth
Theoretical Rationale
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  • Abstract

        This document describes the concept of professional growth or development, including conceptual, theoretical, pedagogical, and practical issues involved in using the Web for teacher education. Technology adoption in K-12 schools has been constrained by a number of factors, most importantly a general lack of adequate training and support for teachers. Traditional models of teacher professional development (such as teacher education programs and in-service workshops) may not be the best way to help teachers learn about and use technology. The Web offers many opportunities for teachers to learn not only about technology and the Internet, but also about new ideas about teaching and learning. The Web also provides opportunities for working with other teachers and researchers on a variety of projects.
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         "'Profession' describes at once a knowing and a doing; it describes a practice rather than a technical application." (Beyer, Feinberg, Pagano, and Whitson, 1989, p.14)

        Compare this perspective with a more traditional view of teaching as a vocation, and not a profession, where effort and emphasis are placed on teaching methods and techniques, management of classroom time, coverage of pedagogical materials, cookbook-like lessons, teacher-centered classroom activities organized around didactic lectures. Researchers are beginning to realize that teachers operate in a complex environment where decisions are made all the time based on experience, curricular goals, and individual student ability.

        Teachers have extensive formal training, including 4-years of college classroom work, in many cases 1-year of apprenticeship, and post-BA credits to maintain certification. Teaching has been a profession, not unlike many others (such as medical and legal) that requires constant and ongoing learning.

        The challenge for teachers, as well as every other productive worker in the information age, will be to continue learning and growing personally and professionally so they can stay competitive in their field as technology becomes more integrated into their work environment. This implies that teaching, like many other professions, requires life-long learning and a continual focus on personal growth and improvement. The digital/information age that is rapidly changing our lives has important implications for our schools and teachers. Competence with technology is now considered a basic literacy requirement for employment and school systems expect teachers to do more with technology. Some state boards of education, including Michigan's, now require graduating teachers to be proficient with technology. In the future, teachers will be expected to guide students use of technology and model appropriate learning strategies to deal with the wealth of information that is available.

        The challenge for teachers is how to become knowledgeable and competent about uses of technology given the constraints on their time. While many school systems are providing teachers with training in the form of in-service workshops, there are additional resources for teachers (both in the form of self-directed training, on-line discussions, and support from teachers who are already using technology) that may provide a more efficient way to meet these challenges.

        One avenue to facilitate teacher life-long learning is through technology and the Internet. The Internet offers extensive opportunities for teachers to gain expertise and knowledge in a variety of areas - everything from basic technology skills to integrating new learning theories into the curriculum. What is required of teachers is their time and energy as well as organizational skills to take advantage of these opportunities and integrate these experiences with their everyday teaching practices.

        K-12 Use of Technology

        Efforts to incorporate technology into the K-12 classroom have had limited success, and many studies suggest there is only limited use of technology in the majority of K-12 classrooms. These studies suggest the single most important obstacle to technology adoption and use is lack of adequate training and support for teachers. With the growth of the Internet and it's general availability in K-12 schools in the future, new opportunities will be available for teachers to learn outside traditional professional development settings.

        "Time to explore, digest, and experiment is perhaps the most critical need cited by these educators. There seems to be no easy way to find the time, unless it is built into the school day, or unless educators have equipment at home." (Schrum, 1995, p. 226)

        Despite the increased availability of technology in K-12 schools (Becker, 1993b), many teachers are not incorporating technology into their regular curricular activities (Peck and Dorricot, 1994). Research indicates that teachers need both in-service education on specific technology applications and long-term support in order to integrate computers with the curriculum in meaningful ways (Goodson, 1991; Woodhouse and Jones, 1988).

        Sheingold and Hadley (1990) found that only about one teacher per school had integrated technology into their classroom teaching, developed mastery in educational uses of technology was a gradual process requiring several years, and that "on-site support and colleagueship [were] critical ingredients to successful technology use." (p. 24)

        Honey and Henriquez (1993) found the most persistent obstacles to use of telecommunications among educators were teacher training and support, time for professional and student learning activities, and school/district planning for use of telecommunications in instruction and administration. Schrum (1995) reported similar findings in a study of graduate students in teacher education. The major obstacles for student learning were lack of time, access to equipment, and resources for implementation.

        "What is striking about computer use in secondary schools in the US during the 1980s and early 1990s is that most computer time has been devoted to teaching students skills qua skills, rather than embedding or applying computer capacity in the context of ongoing teaching and learning in other subjects." (Becker, 1993a, p. 69).

        Teacher Professional Development

        The traditional training paradigm for professional development locates knowledge about teaching and learning outside of schools. Evidence for this can be found in the fact that most educational training and research takes place in colleges or universities, and not in K-12 schools. In contrast, Richardson (1994) describes how professional development which focuses on teachers' learning aims to engage practitioners in their own improvement of practice through collaborative inquiry. Little (1993) contrasts traditional teacher training programs with teacher collaboratives or study groups and suggests the latter provide teachers with an "adequate opportunity to learn (and investigate, experiment, consult, or evaluate) embedded in the routine organization of teachers' work day and work year." While formal training that takes place in a college or university setting is the prominent model for teacher professional development, it is not the only vehicle available for teaching learning.

        The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) funded and created a report that evaluates current uses of educational technology and makes recommendations for focusing on teacher professional development as a key to successful technology adoption. Two chapters in the final report, Chapter 4 Helping Teachers Learn About and Use Technology Resources and Chapter 5 Technology and the Preparation of New Teachers, describe factors that influence teacher use of technology, reform efforts in teacher education, and the role of teachnology in teacher education. This report, no longer available in print because the OTA was eliminated by Congress in 1996, is available electronically (see Internet Resources below).     A variety of models are available to support teacher learning and professional development. Many of these were originally developed to support teacher training in new methods, new subject matter, and now classroom management techniques. The recent movement towards widescale adoption of technology into K-12 classrooms has resulted in more and more emphasis placed on learning experiences with and about technology.

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    Internet Resources


    Anderson, R. E. (1993). The Technology Infrastructure of U.S. Schools. Communications of the Association for Computing Machines, 36(5), 72-73.

    Becker, H. J. (1993a). Teaching with and about computers in secondary schools. Communications of the Association for Computing Machines, 36(5), 69-72.

    Becker, H. J. (1993b). Instructional computer use: Findings from a national survey of school and teacher practices. The Computing Teacher, 20(1), 6-7.

    Beyer, L. E., Feinberg, W., Pagano, J. A., and Whitson, J. A. (1989). Preparing teachers as professionals: The role of educational studies and other liberal disciplines. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Buchanan, P. (1995). Teachers and Internet: Charting a Course for Success. []

    Goodson, B. (Ed.). (1991). Teachers and technology: Staff development for tomorrow's schools. Alexandria, VA: National School Board Association.

    Honey, M., and Henriquez, A. (1993). Telecommunications and K-12 Educators: Findings from a national survey. Bank Street College of Education, New York.

    Little, J. W. (1993). Teachers' professional development in a climate of educational reform. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15(2), 129-151.

    McClintock, R. (1992). Power and Pedagogy. New York: Institute for Learning Technologies. []

    Murray, J. (1995). Training Is for Dogs: Teachers Teach; Teachers Learn. []

    Peck, K. L. and Dorricot, D. (1994). Why we use technology? Educational Leadership, 51(7), 11-14.

    Rauch, A. (1995). Beyond the Hype: Planning for Computer telecommunications in the Classroom. Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine, 2(6), June 1, 1995, Page 6. []

    Richardson, V. (1994). Conducting research on practice. Educational Researcher, 23(5), 5-10.

    Schrum, L. (1995). Educators and the Internet: A case study of professional development. Computers in Education, 24(3), 221-228.

    Sheingold, K., and Hadley, M. (1990). Accomplished teachers: Integrating computers into classroom practice. New York: Center for Technology in Education, Bank Street College of Education.

    Sheingold, K., and Tucker, M. S. (1992). Restructuring for learning with technology. New York: Center for Technology in Education, Bank Street College of Education.

    U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (1995). Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection. OTA-EHR-616. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. [].

    Woodhouse, D., & Jones, A. (1988). Professional development for effective use of computers in the classroom. Evaluation and Program Planning, 11(4), 315-323.

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