On February 8 and 9, the California Teacher Advisory Council (Cal TAC) participated in a meeting at the Beckman Center in Irvine that was organized by the National Research Council Center for Education. Cal TAC members served on the planning committee.
“Enhancing Professional Development for Teachers: Potential Uses of Information Technology” brought together educators and academics from around California and the nation to examine the potential of online teacher professional development programs.
“Professional development is an essential component of a successful and enriching working environment for teachers, especially in science and math,” said Cal TAC Chair Stan Hitomi. “There is significant potential in some of these online programs to offer excellent opportunities to a wider range of teachers than is currently served. The purpose of the meeting was to help understand the unique benefits possible through some of these programs, as well as challenges that are particular to an online environment.”
All California teachers are required to participate in professional development programs annually; however as CCST’s recent report Critical Path Analysis of California’s Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation System notes, these programs vary widely in type and quality, and consistent quality implementation across the state is lacking.
Online professional development does not always offer the ‘real time’ participation benefits of participating directly in a workshop with other teachers. However, it offers opportunities for teachers to tap into content knowledge and professional communities that may not be present locally. It also offers opportunities for teachers to become more engaged in professional development planning and implementation.
“Systems exist for capacity building, learning community models where master teachers can be trained not only to provide input into the professional development program, but to share content as well,” said Martha Valencia, a math teacher from the Los Angeles Unified School District who is a trained online facilitator. “Through online PD I have been able to deliver content-knowledge workshops to elementary teachers, which has been a very valuable and rewarding experience.”
Cal TAC will be following up the meeting with a retreat in July.