I have been thinking lately about the civic responsibility – and negligence – of schools. Specifically, I have been thinking about the disservice schools (and the people who make decisions about curriculum in schools) have done to young people when it comes to our collective failure to confront the darker and more sinister corners of our history, that persistent undercurrent of racism and institutional oppression that has recently sprung to the surface in Ferguson, Missouri. Read more about The Civic Negligence of Schools: Reckoning With Race and History
James M. Noonan is an Ed.D. student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Spencer Foundation Early Career Scholar in New Civics whose research focuses on the design of professional learning environments for teachers and their impact on teacher practice and student learning. In various capacities, James has worked in early childhood, elementary, high school, and adult education, but after three years facilitating professional development for educators in the U.S. Read more about About Me
In this article, James Noonan uses portraiture to examine how the administrative team and the teachers at a small, urban middle school approach school improvement. He illustrates the ways in which the pressures associated with attempting school reform in our current high-accountability environment make it difficult for school personnel to engage in the deep learning that transformative change requires. Noonan finds that at Fields Middle School, district-initiated redesign is built around an expansive view of learning that embraces uncertainty, collaboration, and reflection as catalysts for broad and sustained school improvement. He illuminates school transformation efforts that hinge on adult learning and an understanding of schools as learning organizations, in contrast to reform efforts that adopt linear and hierarchical views of teaching and learning.
For decades, researchers and policymakers have looked to professional development (PD) as a promising tool to improve teacher practice and student learning. However, despite its potential, PD is widely considered pathologically unable to realize its potential. In this conceptual paper, the author suggests that the problem of PD’s persistent ineffectiveness is attributable to its alignment with a sociopolitical framework that prioritizes efficiency. Numerous past attempts to improve PD have failed to address underlying assumptions about teaching, learning, and human relationships embedded in this efficiency framework. As an alternative, the author proposes a new deliberative framework that is more compatible with learning principles and thus more likely to improve learning across contexts and at scale.