The U.S. Department of Education and the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Lab at Brown University are collaborating on a new, web-based professional development training guide. Known as The Knowledge Loom (http://knowledgeloom.org), this web site will be the collection point for descriptions of education “best practices” on a wide variety of topics. It also will include the latest research on how to reach particular groups of students (young students, adolescents, or adults, for example) and questions to stimulate class discussions.
The Knowledge Loom is intended to motivate educators through its online content to pick and choose the practices that will work best in their schoolsafter careful, thoughtful discussion of their schools’ particular goals.
Unlike some best practices training that covers only education theory, this site will offer specific, current examples of how those practices are being put into place. One section of the site, which is available now, looks at key principles of successful professional developmentsuch as the need for school-based development built into the day-to-day work of teachingand shows how this is being done in real schools.
To illustrate this principle, the site explains that a small team of teachersperhaps six to eightmust meet “almost daily for an hour or more” to discuss their teaching goals and methods, critique students’ progress, and so on. The site then explains how these principles are put into practice at International High School, an alternative high school in Long Island, N.Y. At the school, teachers work in teams to teach about 75 students in all courses during the school day. By working together, observing each other, and observing the same students, the teachers can develop best practices, constantly evaluate their curricula, and help struggling students. The teams meet for three hours each week. Outside of the team, each individual faculty member prepares a professional portfolio that outlines his or her accomplishments and plans for improvement.
The Knowledge Loom also makes use of the web’s interactivity to enable educators to ask questions of their peers, share their own success stories, and eMail articles on the Loom site to their colleagues.
The site also links to the following web sites, which offer valuable lessons in professional development:
• Designing Effective Professional Development: Lessons from the Eisenhower Program, http://www.ed.gov/inits/teachers/eisenhower.
• Education Week Professional Issues Page, http://www.edweek.org/context/topics/profdev.h tm.
• National Staff Development Council, http://www.nsdc.org.
• National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching, http://www.npeat.org.
• American Federation of Teachers Educational Issues: Focus on Professional Development, http:// www.aft.org/edissues/teacherquality/prodev.ht m.
• Promising Practices: New Ways to Improve Teacher Quality, September 1998, http://www.ed.gov/ pubs/PromPractice/chapter6.html.
• Teachers Take Charge of their Learning: Transforming Professional Development for Student Success, http://www.nfie.org/takechar.htm.
• Tried and True: Tested Ideas for Teaching and Learning, http://www.ed.gov/pubs/triedandtrue/index.htm l.
• What Works in the Middle: Results-Based Staff Development, http://www.ed.gov/pubs/triedandtrue/index.htm l