The University of California, Davis, is leading a statewide effort to support professional learning for teachers over time.
With a $5.8 million grant from the state Education Department, the university's Center for Cooperative Research and Extension Services for Schools (CRESS) is working with other universities, county offices of education and school districts to move research-based instructional practices into more classrooms across the state.
The top three research-based practices that the design teams will start with come from a study on measuring effective teaching
that the Gates Foundation funded.
- Facilitating academic conversations in the classroom
- Fortifying the academic output of students (oral and written)
- Figuring out how to interact with complex texts
To make these research-based practices a reality in schools, CRESS will collaborate with UCLA; California State University, Chico; Stanford; the California Department of Education; San Diego and El Dorado county offices of education; and Yuba City Unified School District.
Initially, this 27-month project will help teachers as they continue to work with the Common Core State Standards and prepare students for colleges and careers. But ultimately it's about improving education for students, said Susan P. O'Hara, executive director of CRESS.
It's also about creating a culture that values teachers as professionals, and encourages them to develop professional learning practices with their peers.
"I don't think there's been this really large-scale effort to look very specifically at how to support the professional growth of teachers and at the same time how to resource that professional learning over time at school, district and county office level," O'Hara said.
They're planning to support professional growth for teachers through an online tool that project leaders describe as a subway system of information. This knowledge data framework will allow teachers to enter and exit the subway at different points as they find information, come up with ideas and test them out, said Joanne Bookmyer, the CRESS center’s director of inquiry and improvement science. The system will also be flexible so that teachers can go forward, backward and stop to collect their thoughts.
Developing this tool for districts is the project's No. 1 priority, and the project team plans to have a prototype of it by the end of the 2014-15 school year.
"One of our big driving goals for this work is how to spread professional knowledge and professional learning more effectively across schools and districts, and we don't do a good job of that in the field, so using technology in this knowledge management framework would be a goal for us," Bookmyer said.
Over the summer, design teams at the district and county level will continue to work together on professional growth models, and a number of districts will test the models they come up with in the fall.