The Process: Engaging Teachers as Learners

All professional development work should be seen in the context of supporting teachers as lifelong learners. Our point of view is best presented in this published article about science education, written by Synergy Learning Co-Founder, Meredith Wade:

Professional development in science traditionally has been a demonstrated set of activities and hand-outs for teachers to take back to the classroom. In this approach, how much do teachers learn about the subject? What kinds of questions do they generate about the topic as lifelong learners themselves? The focus of such in-service often centers around management of the activity — what materials are necessary and how much time is needed — instead of developing a deeper understanding of the content.

To be most effective, professional development should include two important elements for the experience to be useful and engaging. Most essential is learning for the teachers on an adult level, addressing questions and content of interest to them. The second element involves transfer to the classroom. Teachers understandably want professional development experiences to be relevant to classroom practice, but that shouldn’t diminish the importance of their own learning.

Opportunities that engage teachers as learners provide greater potential for having a positive influence on students’ learning. To do this, we must increase the depth of teachers’ understanding through inquiry experiences that dramatically enrich the possibility of classroom learning for all students.
Here is a single example of one person’s experience, in this case in a Summer Institute devoted to physical science and the theme of light:
This teacher found a description of building a sundial in a science activity book. She was intrigued by the idea of having her students build one and record the changing shadow through the day. She had never made a sundial and had many questions about her own understanding of what would happen. Her inquisitiveness led her to examine and measure specific shadows every hour for three days.

The way she learned about sundials was not exactly what she would do with her elementary students. She first developed an investigation that satisfied her questions at an adult level. However, with that new understanding, she was ready to take the next step and prepare an appropriate experience for her primary students. She had gained valuable confidence in both a new method of exploring a question and her ability to understand scientific content. Her own experience with inquiry prepared her to anticipate students’ ideas and questions.

The style of adult learning described above is what Synergy Learning tries to foster in all its professional development work. To inquire about options, timing, costs and to begin to plan, please complete the Contact Form or call us at 800-769-6199. We will reply promptly.