Archived Information

CPRE Policy Brief: Helping Teachers Teach Well: Transforming Professional Development - June 1995

Higher Standards and the Practice of Teaching

Nearly every state in the nation is involved in the movement to raise academic standards. This movement also calls for a shift from a behaviorist approach to teaching, in which students are often passive recipients of teacher-generated knowledge and drill and practice is the primary pedagogy, to approaches which actively engage students in the construction of knowledge.

To make this shift, teachers must enhance their knowledge of subject-matter and learn to use new teaching strategies. Moreover, as a hands-on, student-centered approach to teaching uses more time to cover less, it requires that choices be made about what content is essential. New assessments are needed that probe students' understanding of content and examine their ability to integrate knowledge and apply it to real life problems. Higher academic standards require far-reaching and difficult changes in the practice of teaching.

Another aspect of current reform is a shift in decision-making authority from the state agency and district central office to the school building. Under school-based management, teachers are taking on new roles as members of school governing boards and entering into new relationships with colleagues, school administrators, and parents. These more varied and complex roles demand new skills and new knowledge.

If teachers are to be adequately prepared to work effectively in the classrooms and schools envisioned by reformers, policymakers must establish a coherent and more effective approach to professional development. Teachers and policymakers must abandon long-held conventions about continuing education for teachers and begin to understand professional development as an essential and integral part of teachers' work.

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