Professional development that teachers can enact on an everyday basis in their classrooms remains all too rare in today's schools. While nearly all teachers participate in some professional development activity, studies show the vast majority of teachers find it to be worthless.
Teacher Education by Design, a new online community for educators created by the University of Washington College of Education, seeks to change that status quo by engaging teachers in a cycle of continuously learning about and improving their practice.
Morva McDonald, associate professor of education and one of the creators of TEDD, said the project grew out of a need to create professional development that would help educators improve their teaching practice. While teacher preparation programs inform novice teachers of best practices and theoretical knowledge, she said, those programs historically have had trouble getting teachers to translate that to the classroom.
"We want to embed novice teachers' learning in opportunities to interact with, engage in, and reflect on actual examples of teaching practice," McDonald said. "Through TEDD, we want to scale quality teaching across content areas and into schools throughout the country."
TEDD's four-stage framework, called the Learning Cycle, is based on teacher educators' best knowledge about how professionals learn to practice. Those stages are:
- Introduction to an ambitious teaching practice and embedded core practices of teaching.
- Preparation to engage students in the instructional activity.
- Enacting the activity with students, with support from teacher educators.
- Analyzing and learning from the enactments.
At each stage, TEDD offers a series of tools such as videos, planning documents, observation protocols and more. Co-creator Sarah Kavanagh, who earned her PhD in multicultural education at UW, said that one of the keys to the community is the ability for anyone to upload and share tools that fit within the common framework.
"Our vision is that over time, this library of teaching resources will be collaboratively constructed, making teacher education more focused on the practice of teaching," Kavanagh said.
Bryan Street, a math coach at Seattle's South Shore K-8 School, has seen a lot of teaching resources and tools during his more than two decades as an educator. But, Street said, TEDD stands apart in making its resources easy to use.
"I've had access to some video and planning documents before, but it's never been in one place where I can access everything quickly and easily," he said. "The Learning Cycle framework makes it easy to get exactly what you want for where you're at with your students."
Street started using TEDD last fall, when he and other area educators began working with UW College of Education faculty on math instruction labs. Since then, he's tapped TEDD resources during his professional development meetings and math labs with South Shore's teachers. Street uses TEDD videos to demonstrate instructional activities as well as planning documents that teachers can use to prepare and implement those activities.
TEDD is so flexible, Street said, that he can easily shift gears to accommodate the demands of the teachers he works with. For example, going into a recent professional development meeting, his teachers asked for help with a counting collections activity. Street quickly discarded what he had planned for the meeting and pulled a variety of resources from TEDD to help the teachers.
"That wouldn't have been possible without TEDD," Street said.
In the coming months, Street plans to delve even more deeply into TEDD's resources. He wants to further integrate TEDD's tools for analysis and reflection into his teachers' professional development, for example, and continue adapting TEDD's templates for more teaching activities.
"Part of the issue we have is that teachers have their whole curriculum but sometimes have trouble finding time to implement new activities," Street said. "I'm working with teachers to find activities within their curriculum that we can adapt using some of these TEDD resources to make them more effective."
McDonald said the ability for educators to modify the TEDD framework to their individual needs is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the platform, which was built with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"There is a tremendous amount of knowledge about effective teaching that practitioners have developed," McDonald said. "We believe TEDD can tap into that knowledge so that everyone — teachers, teaching coaches, education professors — can work together more effectively to spread the best of what we know about teaching."
Morva McDonald, Associate Professor of Education
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications