16 January 2006

Plunging Ahead

I have to submit a plan for completing my doctorate. Mind you, we just started our coursework on the third of January, and I need to turn in the description of my research project at the end of this month. It feels a bit rushed. I have, however, managed to nail down what I would like to do.

The elementary science plan that was outlined for my district on Friday will provide plenty of fodder for research. Some of it is about creating science content teachers for those grades. Elementary teachers know more math and can write better than their students. Not so many of them feel confident that they know more science than the kids in their classrooms. I'm looking at how to structure professional development opportunities around this idea.

I am also interested in how to differentiate these opportunities based on career stages. Why do we assume that "one size fits all" works any better for staff than it does for students? If we are expecting teachers to differentiate tasks within the classroom, should we not model that in our work with them?

Perhaps in building some confidence with science content and processes by using a differentiated approach will help engage the "reluctant" teacher. It fascinates me that I work in a profession where it's considered okay to tell your boss "no" as often as you please. No, I won't teach to the standards because I have my own definition of biology. No, I won't use reading strategies in my classroom because I'm not an English teacher. No, I won't teach any science to my third graders because I don't have time. If the goal really is to help all students achieve, then everyone has to do their part. Teachers here are too protected by the union, so no one is actually going to make the teachers pull their weight. This means that to get a high quality elementary science program going, I am going to have to get as many teachers as possible to "buy in."

My doctorate should take three years. The plan we've outlined for elementary science reform in the district is a four-year plan, so evaluation will be difficult. But I'm excited to actually be able to use this large scale project for my district as the basis for my research instead of having to manage two separate efforts. I'm also glad to be involved with work for my grad class that can have an immediate impact on the classroom. I'm ready to plunge ahead.

P.S. If you have been wondering what the difference is between an "EdD." and a "PhD. in Education," the basic idea is that the EdD. is for practitioners (teachers, administrators---people who are in the classroom/school) while a PhD. is for researchers (people who will do their work from an institution). The line between the two programs has blurred at many universities.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Oh how I would love differentiated professional development. I'm a total dork. I read a lot, I take every class that's offered, and I'm constantly looking for ways to improve my teaching.

Most of the professional development offered by my school is aimed at people either just entering the profession or people who rarely, if ever, read or take classes. I'm not necessarily against that, I'd just rather be given the opportunity to move past the beginning stages of PD.