This month’s topic for Continuing the Conversation focuses on discussing your favorite professional development opportunity that you participated in during your career. These could be online for face to face courses, a seminar, institute, fellowship or workshop—is it still available? How do people apply? Why should they apply?
I have been fortunate in my career—and have traveled to many different locations for professional development opportunities, taken many online classes, and engaged with many outstanding educators and scientists. In considering my favorite I thought back to conversations with colleagues throughout the years and had many fond memories pop into my head. There are those friends and colleagues I met in Costa Rica while exploring inquiry based instruction within rainforest ecosystems; one of my friends who I spent two weeks with nearly fifteen years ago as part of a NASA NEWMAST workshop in Maryland; as well as the many educators I have met and become connected with at summer institutes or national conferences. Each experience in itself gave me insight into new pedagogical practices, assisted in developing content expertise as well as building a network of colleagues many of whom I still interact with regularly. While there are many PD opportunities that I have been involved with throughout the years, in hindsight all of them seem to abide by some of the guidelines and recommendations that have come out in reports in recent years.
These reports provide information on:
- The needed funding for strong professional development for science teachers is supported in a report titled Professional Development in the United States: Trends and Challenges—Part II of a Three-Phases Study (2010) by the National Staff Development Council. It examines and analyzes results of numerous studies regarding student achievement, professional development, and needs of teachers.
- Two other reports help to illustrate what we know now relating to professional development and the need for sustained, in-depth professional learning opportunities. Does teacher professional development have effects on teaching and learning? Evaluation findings from programs in 14 states,” “Professional learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad,”
- The Opportunity Equation report recommends that:
- Promote professional learning that engages teachers in data analysis, identification of students’ differentiated learning needs and assessment of school-level interventions.
- Invest in sophisticated online professional development systems that facilitate learning communities and cyber learning by teachers, along with research to enable the improvement of those systems.
- Develop programs that engage teachers in collaborating with scientists, mathematicians, engineers, museum educators and others.
The aspects that my favorite (okay favorites) professional development opportunity incorporated included these three recommendations—and I should state before this report became available. They include the experiences in the Costa Rican Rainforest, the in-depth learning about astrobiology from an online course offered through Montana State University, and a fellowship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.
So what was your favorite professional development opportunity and why? Is it still available and how would others apply?
The Leading Edge is a blog that asks those involved in science education leadership whether that be administrators, policy makers, supervisors, state leaders to continue the conversation on something that was presented in the recent issue of The Leaders Letter, an e-newsletter that is a joint project of the National Science Teachers Association and the National Science Educational Leadership Association. To sign up to receive future issues of the Leaders Letter, click here To see archived copies of the e-Newsletter, please click here.