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The Intersection of Professional Development and the Common Core
posted by: Garry | November 04, 2015, 03:57 PM   


As new ideas about how to develop educators take shape, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are being widely adopted across the nation. While not adopted in every state, Common Core is still being practiced in the vast majority of the country and has an influence on curriculum across the country. Common Core calls for teachers to shift what they are emphasizing when they teach from rote memorization and procedures and algorithms, to the underlying reasoning and critical thinking skills. This is requiring teachers to develop a whole new set of teaching skills.


We know from research that teachers are looking for certain traits in professional development. Teachers want professional development that is practical, personal, collaborative, flexible, and sustained over time. The question is whether or not that kind of professional development is being delivered. In an effort to answer that question, Education Week has put together a new report that looks at this intersection between professional development and the Common Core.


Reading through the report, several trends emerge. First, the key word in everything is “collaboration." There is a real need to help teachers develop their own answers to issues that may arise in the classroom. If students must be problem solvers, teachers must be master problem solvers. Gone is the day of prescribed curriculum scripts. Many new professional development measures seem to be focused on teaching educators how to better think on their feet and understand student mental processes.


Second, there is a renewed emphasis on microskills. The thought seems to be that the difference between a successful student and a failing student can often be traced to the thousands of tiny, little teacher-student interactions that happen during the day. This is not at all a new idea. The difference is that now there is professional development being created to specifically focus on microskills like questioning techniques or the best way to teach a certain objective.


Finally, there’s still a long way to go. While researchers, professional development providers, schools, and teachers are making inroads, they are facing several problems. Providing time in teachers’ schedules for collaborative, self-driven professional development remains a challenge. Additionally, the gap between what teachers say they want and what they have access to is closing, it still exists. Perhaps the largest stumbling block is the teachers themselves. Many teachers across the country are not supportive of Common Core and those things that are connected to it, including professional development, will need to work harder to get the buy-in of those teachers.


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