Continuing Professional Development: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Schools
reviewed by Robert V. Bullough, Jr. - 1999
Title: Continuing Professional Development: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Schools
Author(s): Anna Craft
Publisher: Routledge/Falmer, New York
ISBN: 041523770X, Pages: 210, Year: 2001
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Based on an Open University postgraduate module written by Rob Bollington and Anna Craft, Continuing Professional Development is just what the subtitle claims, a "Practical Guide"—a workbook written for teachers and providers of in-service teacher education. The book is divided into three parts, "Theories of teacher and school development," "Evaluating professional development," and "Planning future professional development." As the titles and their sequence suggest, a central aim of the book is to assist teachers to think systematically about their past professional development in order to achieve more effective future development.
To accomplish this and additional aims, teachers are instructed to ask their students to engage in twenty-eight "tasks," beginning with compiling, and then analyzing a "record of recent substantial professional development . . . [they] have undertaken, whether as a provider or as a participant" (p. 9). Next, students should be asked to read a text "based on a list of 'megatrends' in education written by Naisbitt and Aburdene . . . [who] provide a challenging agenda for both those providing and those undertaking professional development of all types, suggesting the idea of life-long learning and relearning . .." (p. 192). Other tasks call for thinking carefully about how one learns, the effectiveness of past in-service training, tensions between individual, team, and institutional "needs," and the context within which one works. Responses to the tasks become part of a notebook, a professional development record, that serves as the basis for ongoing analysis and planning.
Because the book is written for educators in England, Scotland, and Wales, American readers likely will need do a little translation. For example, there is an extensive discussion of "appraisal." The prominent role of this concept in professional development is the result of a "long and tortuous process" (p. 27) of central government-led educational reform in England and Wales during the 1980s. Without knowing the political background that led to the creation of appraisal regulations, or understanding the profound differences between educational governance in the United Kingdom and the United States, the discussion may bewilder North American readers. The point that appraisal can be driven either by accountability or development models is an important one—especially since often these two evaluative functions are confused in practice—and is easily lost in the attempt to understand just what is meant by appraisal and how it is being implemented. This said, the differences among national educational contexts provide an opportunity to reconsider current practice from another perspective. Carefully considering the range of professional development opportunities available in the United Kingdom (which, like those in the States, remain chronically underfunded), for instance, might enrich current thinking about in-service teacher education in a helpful way.
Throughout the text the author ties school change and teacher professional development in ways consistent with the current emphasis in the United States on forming learning communities and learning schools. Context holds a central place in either enhancing or inhibiting development and the author discusses the challenges and tensions encountered when attempting to link individual and school plans for development, making an effort to conceptualize them in ways that will aid resolution. A strong case is made for including students in the professional development mix, since professional development ultimately ought to improve student learning.
A difficulty the author faces is writing for two related but somewhat different audiences: consumers, and producers, of professional development programs. The middle part of the book, "Evaluating Professional Development" (pages 69-141), provides readers with the conceptual and methodological tools needed to conduct a program evaluation. These pages read like an outline of a basic research methodology text, however, including sections on validity, reliability, and data gathering. In contrast to the first and third parts, teachers likely will find these pages disconnected from their central professional concerns and of relatively little interest.
Continuing Professional Development has the strengths, and many of the weaknesses, of workbooks. Nearly every page contains a list of one kind or another: of principles, roles, categories, models, stages, phases, functions, characteristics, conclusions, expectations, and suggestions. Lists flow into lists, each intended to inform analysis in one or another way. Inevitably depth gives way to breadth. Quotes are presented without page numbers. When completed, it is the tasks that put flesh on bone, content around analytic frameworks. Continuing Professional Development is not a book to be read, but to be worked through, slowly, task by task, over an extended period of time. For American teacher educators, course fit will be a problem. For those who design professional development programs, portions of the book, particularly the first and perhaps the third parts, may be helpful for thinking about their work in a fresh way, with an eye toward more carefully attending to the past in-service experiences and future professional aims of those they serve.