Volume 5, Issue D ::: June 2002
One of my art teachers once told me: When you hold up your painting, pay attention to the color of the shirt you're wearing. The same can be said for professional development for teachers. Professional development will only be of benefit to teachers if their working environment - the "background" that necessarily frames a professional development endeavor just as the shirt frames the art work - is addressed. This theme emerges in many of the articles in this issue of Focus on Basics. Federal and state policies, programmatic flexibility, and peer and collegial support must work together to enable teachers to make changes based on professional development; otherwise, those resources are, in a sense, wasted.
In our cover story, NCSALL's Cristine Smith and Judy Hofer present the findings from their multiyear study of staff development. Teachers' "pathways to change" are formed, they report, in part by the programs and systems in which they work. M. Cecil Smith and Amy D. Rose pick up that theme, advocating for an approach to professional development that takes into account the organizations in which teachers function.
While not directly addressing the issue of teachers' working environment, Vermont practitioner Tom Smith and Connecticut's Shelly Ratelle make a strong case for it in their articles. Smith and his co-workers met in study circles to explore topics of interest and concern to them. The collegial setting enhanced their learning and set the stage for the development of programwide guidelines based on their experiences. Ratelle praises the peer support element of the Professional Development Kit (PDK), an online professional development resource for teachers, observing that recognizing peers as resources helps in successfully transferring the content of the workshops to the daily practice of teaching.
Sandra Kestner describes Kentucky's redesign of its professional development program in her article. Key stakeholders from all levels of the system were involved in shaping the program. Writing candidly, Kestner points out that a commitment to improve the employment structure and preparation requirements of adult educators now in the field will be necessary to ensure the success of the new system.
The state's role in professional development for adult basic education is discussed by state leaders from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts in the "Conversation with FOB" article. Resources for staff development are provided in the article, Expanding Access.
A variety of different approaches to professional development are featured in this issue, including study circles and workshops coupled with online resources. Reuel Kurzet writes about using classroom videos taken at NCSALL's English for speakers of other languages lab site in Oregon as a focal point for professional development. Click here for that article and for information on the role of the lab site in ABE research. And think about the color of the shirt you're wearing.