One of the ongoing problems for young students is the acquisition of reading proficiency. A recent piece of research that might be helpful can be found in The Journal of Educational Research:
ABSTRACT—The Journal of Educational Research
The authors describe a school-university professional development partnership in a high-needs urban elementary charter school. University and school partners collaborated to build instructional capacity to develop teachers’ understanding and implementation of effective literacy instruction. Design-based research revealed increased understanding and implementation of effective literacy, practices among school leaders and teachers. Findings revealed the importance of administrative stability; coaching support; and a focused, school-wide instructional vision.”
Why I think this could be helpful to the field is that I have found in my work that professional development was essential to improving any schools. And to break that down more specifically, the kinds of professional development that really make a difference are ongoing, peer-to-peer, and job-embedded (Southworth, 2017). So the research question that Parsons, Dodman, Nuland, Piercznski and Ramirez use to guide their work is: “The research question guiding this study was the following: How can PD be designed to facilitate change in teachers’ literacy instructional practices?” (Parsons et. al., 2019, p. 1; The Journal of Educational Research).
“Interviews with participants reflected these positive perceptions. Teachers appreciated researchers’ classroom observations and feedback to help improve their practice. One participant described researchers’ observations as the most effective aspect of the PD:
The teachers that have had the opportunity to have someone observe them and give them feedback, I think that has been helpful. I know a lot of teachers have said to me that they didn’t know they were doing certain types of things or didn’t know what to do differently—to have someone who knows was
helpful for them.
The data manager noted the beneficial transition from whole-school PD in Year 1 to the communities of practice format in Year 2:
I’ve enjoyed the book study and the way that we’ve been
empowered to take what we are learning and to take that from
the sessions and to apply that directly … And this year, when it
comes to training the trainers and putting ownership on the
stakeholders in the school to make sure they’re involving all
teachers, and they know what to look for … I feel like little
light bulbs go off over people’s heads during [Reading
Committee] meetings: “I see how this works; I get why this
Similarly, a literacy coach reflected,
I really enjoy the support of the … Reading Committee
meetings. I think because we get a chance to have really positive
and important conversations and through those conversations,
we learned a lot, so we got a lot, so you know what to do when
you go back … When you have those interesting conversations,
it encourages you. It gives you information to really go out and
try new strategies or go back and look at old strategies [in
—The Journal of Educational Research
The quotes illustrate the importance of the communities
of practice approach we took in this school year.
Communities of Practice
What bears reviewing is the focus on literacy instruction and job-embedded professional development. School leadership is needed to improve literacy by the reform strategy that sustains a “community of practice.” This underscores reform strategies that seek to correct a major flaw in today’s classrooms…not enough observation and feedback to help teachers teach better, every day! If the strategy of teachers helping teachers, peer-to-peer, can be sustained, we can begin to address the need for high quality instruction every day.
Allison Ward Parsons, Seth A. Parsons, Stephanie L. Dodman, Leila
Richey Nuland, Melissa Pierczynski & Erin M. Ramirez (2019): Longitudinal literacy professional
development in an urban elementary charter school, The Journal of Educational Research, DOI: