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Professional Development

Professional Development for Reading

For teachers to help more children learn to read, their own learning must be a valued and integral part of their work. Here are guidelines for the conditions for and content of effective professional development in reading.

Teachers are more likely to improve student achievement in reading when the following conditions are in place:

  • Everyone who affects student learning is involved.
  • Student standards, curricular frameworks, textbooks, instructional programs and assessments are closely aligned with one another.
  • Professional development is given adequate time and takes place in school as part of the workday.
  • The expertise of colleagues, mentors, and outside experts is accessible and engaged as often as necessary in professional development programs.
  • Strong instructional leadership is present.
  • There is commitment to a long-range plan with adequate funding.

To engage teachers more fully in their own professional development, the Learning First Alliance recommends that the following conditions of change, growth, and learning should be respected:

  • Change occurs in definable stages.
  • A variety of professional development activities will meet individual needs better than a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
  • Self-evaluation is part of an individual professional development plan.
  • After initial concentrated work, follow-up consultation and classes are offered.
  • Sufficient time is allowed before the outcomes of a professional development program are determined.

Recent agreement by reading experts on what it takes to teach children how to read paved the way for research-based agreements on the content of professional development. A successful teacher of beginning reading enables children to comprehend and produce written language, exposes them to a wide variety of texts to build their background knowledge and whet their appetite for more, generates enthusiasm and appreciation for reading and writing, and expertly teaches children how to decode, interpret, and spell new words from a foundation of linguistic awareness.

The successful teacher adapts the pacing, content, and emphasis of instruction for individuals and groups, using valid and reliable assessments. The teacher’s choices are guided by knowledge of the critical skills and attitudes needed by students at each stage of reading development. Beginning reading skills are taught explicitly and systematically to children within an overall program of purposeful, engaging reading and writing.

A worthwhile program of professional development will encourage expertise in the components of instruction while maintaining a clear sense of the complex whole to which those components belong. Pacing guidelines, models for lesson planning, time management strategies, and daily schedules for the classroom will all be helpful in this regard. In a comprehensive reading program, skills are taught explicitly and sequentially in support of their purposeful application.

Learning to integrate and manage all of the components of language arts instruction is a significant challenge for many teachers, a challenge that can be met over several years of opportunity.

Excerpted from: Executive Summary (November, 2000). Every Child Reading: A Professional Development Guide. Learning First Alliance. Reprinted with permission.

Copyright © 2000 by the Learning First Alliance. Learning First Alliance member organizations include: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, National School Boards Association. For more information, see (opens in a new window)
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