Ratcliffe, Mary and Hanley, Pam
Evaluation of professional development strategies for bringing contemporary science into the classroom
At European Science Education Research Association Conference.
01 Aug 2005.
Much has been written about frameworks of continuing professional development focusing principally on improving teachers’ pedagogical skills (e.g. Joyce & Showers, 1988; Loucks-Horsley et al, 1998; Darling-Hammond & Youngs, 2002; Adey, 2004). Such research suggests that targeted professional development should be implemented over a long time scale, include in-class coaching and opportunities for teachers’ reflections on any change in classroom practice that they make. Adey (2004) proposes that there are a number of factors which influence the effectiveness of professional development in its ultimate aim – improvement of student learning. Besides the quality of the professional development programme itself, the nature of the innovation to be made, the support of school senior management and collegiality of the group of teachers engaged in the professional development are all important. In many professional development programmes, the innovation is pre-determined in being focused on particularly teaching programmes. In England, regional Science Learning Centres have been set up with government funding to provide professional development which focuses as much on improving teachers’ knowledge of contemporary science and its implications, as on appropriate pedagogical content knowledge which follows. The Centres are charged with CPD provision across a wide target audience - teachers of science to ages 5 to 19 and technicians - and a wide geographical area. Teachers’ needs are thus diverse and the ‘innovation’ is not necessarily linked to the teaching of a common scheme. This paper describes the methods adopted by the Science Learning Centre South East in considering established principles of effective professional development and evaluates the outcomes from the first groups of teachers undertaking professional development through the Centre. The research considers the question: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the format of professional development in promoting the use of contemporary science in the classroom?
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