As a high school history teacher gazes up at an enormous mural, he begins to plan an activity that engages his students in careful analysis of both the image and its historical context. Listening to a drum beat while she walks in the footsteps of a Civil War soldier, a fourth-grade teacher gains an appreciation for the power of music and of historic places. She learns new ways to incorporate multiple senses into her classroom, opening student minds through the sounds, smells, and tastes of the past.
Whether it takes place in a national museum, on a working seventeenth-century farm, or in a library or archive, professional development that allows teachers to explore history in person can be a powerful learning experience. But what are the components of good history and social studies workshops for teachers? What roles can cultural institutions, such as museums, libraries, archives, and historic sites, play in creating quality learning opportunities for educators? What strategies help teachers translate these experiences into classroom learning, inspiring students to think in new ways?
Feature: What Role Can Online COPs – Communities of Practice – Play in Achieving Teacher Excellence?
As 2012 unfolds, the Department of Education continues to pursue an important question for closing the achievement gap: How can online communities of practice (COPs) best address some of the most pressing challenges in P-12 education? For the past year, a multi-pronged effort by the Department's Offices of Innovation and Improvement (OII) and Educational Technology (OET) has pursued several critical issues associated with that question.
Following the 2010 release of the National Education Technology Plan, "Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology," the OET outlined best practices for managing online communities of practice in a report entitled "Connect and Inspire." The report employed both research literature and observations of mature communities of practice to describe ways that online COPs can help educators access, share, and create knowledge, as well as build a professional identity that goes beyond what is possible face-to-face.
Students in Stacy Hoeflich’s fourth-grade classroom at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., don’t just learn American history, they live it through encounters with primary sources and historical reenactors, participation in “Colonial Day” fairs, field trips to historical sites, operas about historical figures such as George Mason and Thomas Jefferson that are written and performed by the students, and more. Ms. Hoeflich’s efforts were recognized last month by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, which awarded her the prestigious 2011 National History Teacher of the Year Award. Co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, HISTORY®, and Preserve America, the award was presented in a ceremony at the Frederick Douglass Academy in New York City and is accompanied by a $10,000 cash prize.
The Transition to Teaching (TTT) Grants Program is administered by the Office of Innovation and Improvement. TTT is part of the Teacher Quality Program, which supports and tests innovations in teacher and principal recruitment, preparation, and professional development. Click here to see the Department’s press release.
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and the Teacher Quality program office would like to highlight some of the OII programs that support high-quality teacher preparation and professional development.