The Knowledge Loom and Professional Development
Perspectives on Professional Development
In its report, "Teachers Take Charge of Their Learning: Transforming Professional
Development for Student Success," the National Education Association's (NEA) National
Foundation for the Improvement of Education (NFIE) recommends that schools take the
following "necessary actions":
* Find time for continuous professional development.
To keep up with change, teachers need to set aside time to collaborate with their
colleagues and update their knowledge and skills-as professionals in other fields are
required to do.
* Help teachers assume responsibility for their own professional development.
To ensure the quality of teaching, teachers need to take a proactive role in shaping
their future training directives.
The NFIE report is not alone in its call for new approaches to professional development,
not only for teachers, but for all educators. "New approaches to instruction will require
new ways of supporting, preparing, and strengthening teachers. Holding teachers
accountable to curriculum and performance standards is not enough; we must also
change the processes that lead to classroom learning," states the Third International
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). "Collective analysis is perhaps the most valuable part of this
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in its document "Principles for Professional
Development," notes that "effective professional development expects teachers to be
intellectually engaged with ideas and resources" and that "professional development
ought to take a variety of forms."
The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) views high-quality professional
development programs as essential to creating schools in which all students and staff
members are learners who continually improve their performance. NSDC's revised 2001
Standards for Staff Development can be found online at
http://www.nsdc.org/educatorindex.html. The standards emphasize collaboration
among educators, the use of data and research to inform decisions, and the use of
multiple sources of information to guide improvement and demonstrate its impact.
The best practices for effective professional development posted on The Knowledge
Loom are in tune with all of these sources (see http://knowledgeloom.org/pd or page 10
in this section).
Professional Development and School Improvement
The message is clear: Teachers and other education professionals need to engage in
professional development activities outside of traditional after-school workshops and in-
service days; and professional development must focus not only on curriculum, but on
school improvement goals overall. The Knowledge Loom is a unique platform for moving
your school's professional development approaches in this direction.
The LAB is strong in its belief that professional development is key to whole-school
change that can have a profound effect on student achievement, and its work supports
the perspectives of nationally respected professional organizations most focused on
teacher development. The LAB embraces a process known as collaborative inquiry to
assist schools in becoming active communities of learners. Using The Knowledge Loom:
Ideas and Tools for Collaborative Professional Development is organized around this
process of collaborative inquiry. The Guidebook asks that a group of educators, such as
a school improvement team, come together to explore The Knowledge Loom content
and decide how best to make use of it in light of their own school or organization.
Professional Development and This Guidebook
The Guidebook provides tools and strategies to help teams:
* Identify questions that matter to their schools;
* Design investigations using material about best practices from The Knowledge Loom; and
* Solve problems using reliable information that makes sense for their own school
This is accomplished in five steps:
Step One: Select a Theme
Step Two: Review Best Practices
Step Three: Analyze Success Stories
Step Four: Identify Support Resources
Step Five: Action Planning and Dissemination
Although the steps presented in the Guidebook can be completed in any order,
completing Step 1 first is essential, because it further describes collaborative inquiry and
guides the identification of a focus theme that will become central to all the
Spotlight on Best Practices for Effective Professional Development
As part of your first tour of The Knowledge Loom Web site, consider visiting the spotlight
on best practices in Professional Development (http://knowledgeloom.org/pd),
reproduced in part on page 10. On The Knowledge Loom, you can explore a list of best
practices, view the research and stories supporting these practices, join a panel
discussion with experts, or post your own thoughts online.
Click the "Investigate this Spotlight" button to view the list of practices and links to
related school success stories and research.
Best Practices for Effective Professional Development Found on The Knowledge Loom
Many factors contribute to an effective and successful professional development
initiative. These principles of effective professional development are among those
identified from the findings of recent research and reports of expert opinion. They focus
attention on professional development strategies for improving students' learning over
* Professional development should be based on analyses of the differences between (a) actual
student performance and (b) goals and standards for student learning.
* Professional development should involve teachers in the identification of what they need
to learn and in the development of the learning experiences in which they will be involved.
* Professional development should be primarily school-based and built into the day-to-day work
* Professional development should be organized around collaborative problem solving.
* Professional development should be continuous and ongoing, involving follow-up and support for
further learning, including support from sources external to the school that can provide
necessary resources and new perspectives.
* Professional development should incorporate evaluation of multiple sources of information on
(a) outcomes for students and (b) the instruction and other processes that are involved in
implementing the lessons learned.
* Professional development should provide opportunities to gain an understanding of the theory
underlying the knowledge and skills being learned.
* Professional development should be connected to a comprehensive change process focused on
improving student learning.
See Appendix D for further references supporting the effectiveness of collaborative
inquiry and other professional development processes.