National Writing Project

Professional Development as Professional Learning

By: Tim Dewar
Publication: California English
Date: May 18, 2012

Summary: Tim Dewar, director of the South Coast Writing Project, paints a picture of the two ways professional development can go: one where teachers work together to come to solutions, and one where teachers must go along with what others deem appropriate. The latter, he believes, goes against the very nature of learning, and argues for why and how teachers and educational leaders should move away from this mentality.


Excerpt from Article

In this article I want to layout what I see as the key and necessary ingredients for professional learning, particularly around [Common Core State Standards], so that we realize the transformational potential of this moment. I will draw upon what we have learned at the South Coast Writing Project (SCWriP), and other affiliated sites of the National Writing Project. For nearly 40 years writing project sites have supported teachers in examining and transforming their teaching practice. The success of writing project sites depends upon the local application of core principles first developed by Jim Gray and his colleagues at the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP). What follows is SCWriP's understanding of these beliefs and how we bring them to life in our professional learning. Further, I wish to suggest that teachers use these principles to evaluate the potential value of any professional learning opportunity.

First, professional learning must place classroom teachers at the center as both the subject and object of the learning. Since classroom teachers are the most trustworthy and credible authorities on what works in classrooms with students they must be the leaders of professional development and the "inservicing" of teachers. Also teachers are the objects of the verbs; it is teachers who should be affected by the professional learning. The point of professional development is not to simply introduce a new standards-aligned textbook or a research-approved best practice, but to support the teacher as he or she develops greater personal professional capacity to meet the needs of students and schools. Therefore, the best inservice will be those where teachers share their expertise and experience with colleagues in hands-on investigations of practice so that everyone involved learns.

Copyright © 2012 California Association of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission.
Dewar, Tim. 2012. "Professional Development as Professional Learning." California English 17 (3): 6–7.

Read more California English articles from this issue.

About the Author Tim Dewar is the director of the South Coast Writing Project at University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also teaches undergrads, credential candidates, and graduate students, drawing upon his experience as a secondary English language arts teacher, research, and, most importantly, the expertise of Writing Project teachers.

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