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Inside Teaching : October 2010
Inside Teaching | October 2010 Professional development is essential if we’re to support teachers in implementing literacy reforms, and ultimately in improving outcomes for children, but to be effective, it requires more than telling teachers what to do; it involves modelling strategies in classrooms, coaching teachers and providing feedback. ‘Tell me, and I’ll forget; show me, and I may remember; involve me, and I’ll understand,’ as the saying goes. It’s ironic, then, that I should be writing this on a flight home from Sydney after delivering a keynote at a large conference. I’m always pleased to be asked to speak, but I sometimes wonder exactly what the participants take away, particularly when I’m condensing complex ideas – stuff I might otherwise address in a postgraduate unit at university – into the slot between registration and morning tea. Over the years, the handouts have increased in size, peaking at the 12-page tome accompanying the eight pages of miniaturised PowerPoint slides that I’ve just entrusted to my most recent audience. After years of talking about literacy instruction, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply not enough to tell teachers what the research says to do; you’ve got to be prepared to show them and involve them. In my case, I’ve got to illustrate the strategies on reading comprehension I’ve been advocating with scripted lesson plans. My rationale is simple: how else will busy teachers who have limited time to read articles and books translate these innovative strategies into daily classroom practice and get the kinds of results promised by researchers? I’ve long suspected that the overviews I’m guilty of presenting, notwithstanding my efforts at being charismatic, have fallen short of the mark. Deborah Ball and David Cohen, in ‘Developing practice, developing practitioners: Towards a practice-based theory of professional education,’ have similarly observed that workshop handouts, ideas, and methods provide ‘brief sparks of novelty and imagination,’ but, as Willis Hawley and Linda Valli observe in ‘The essentials of effective professional development,’ usually result in most teachers going back to their regular ways of teaching. This became glaringly obvious to me when I was asked to lead a research project in five Western Australian primary schools that were the recipients of an innovation grant provided by the WA Department of Education and Training to look at how well PROFESSION 14 As LORRAINE HAMMOND explains, professional development that leads to lasting change is brought about by modelling strategies in classrooms, coaching teachers, and providing ongoing and transparent feedback on instruction. Tell me? Show me? Involve me