Professional Development Conceptual Framework: Resources and Capacity Building Needed in PROM/SE
The approach to improving student learning to which we subscribe in PROM/SE has several key elements. It is based on our view, derived from research and experience, that it is critical to the improvement of science and mathematics teaching and learning that key actors at several layers of the system have access to particular knowledge, skills, and resources, and that collectively they have commitment and motivation to deploy this expertise toward improvement. Central to this thesis is the view that a deep, data-based understanding of the multiple contexts which bear upon the improvement is an important feature of the improvement process.
Integrating data from multiple sources
First, we are committed to the view that empirical data, assembled in sophisticated ways that reflect interrelationships among key variables, is a central resource for the improvement of student learning and performance in mathematics and science. We hypothesize that by assembling data about student performance, alignment of curricular standards with state and international standards, teachers’ time spent on mathematics and science topics, instructional practices, district professional development experiences, and teachers’ characteristics and knowledge of mathematics and science for teaching, we can provide teachers, school and district administrators, consortium leaders, and higher education institutions with a unique basis from which to identify key challenges or barriers to improving mathematics and science teaching and learning.
A part of this component is for teachers to be able to coordinate what they can learn from the systematically gathered empirical data available in large scale assessments and surveys with the daily “data” that they amass in their own classrooms, as they teach – student assessment data derived in the context of teaching. In this area in particular, it is crucial that we see the distribution of this knowledge as layered – some aspects are more crucial for various players in various parts of the system than for others.
Knowing mathematics and science for teaching
The second area that we posit as crucial for improvement of the system is distributed subject matter knowledge in mathematics and science – knowledge that is relevant to the challenge of teaching to high standards and to holding high and attainable expectations for students. By “distributed”, we mean that not every teacher and administrator will need to be expert in all relevant areas of mathematics and science. The challenges of working with state standards that may or may not be focused, coherent, and aimed at significant mathematics are substantial. Because the idea of challenging, coherent standards is a primary theme in PROM/SE, the partners in the project will need to develop capacity to be critical connoisseurs of state and local standards. We believe this will require mathematical and scientific knowledge that enable them to judge.
For instance, which standards are more important than others; how ideas can best be sequenced and developed; which standards are “power standards” in that they function as lynchpins, or keys, to others; how to determine whether instructional materials align to standards and how to emphasize key areas, how to supplement wisely, and how to judge the implications of ignoring particular areas.
Brokering resources for colleagues
The third type of capacity that must be built, according to the PROM/SE model, is the ability, among several levels and roles in the system, to broker resources for colleagues who are working to improve their mathematics and science teaching and learning in their classrooms, schools, districts, or consortia. This component has several facets; it involves helping a larger set of people in the system be prepared to work with adult learners as leaders and facilitators who can help their colleagues access new information, skills, and tools. It also involves knowing about what tools, resources, and materials are available … It involves being able to diagnose what kinds of resources will best help address the local goals and intentions in a particular setting, and then accessing those resources.