National Writing Project

On-Site Professional Development: The National Writing Project Model

By: Kimberly Fruscella
Publication: California English
Date: May 18, 2012

Summary: For San Diego Writing Project teacher-leader Kimberly Fruscella, professional development meetings at schools should be times of collaboration, informative discussion, and brainstorming creative solutions, but more often than not they fall short of these achievable aims. The fault lies not in the teachers but in the structure, and Fruscella looks to the National Writing Project as a model of how good, sustainable professional development can be done.


Excerpt from Article

Reflecting on my own experience and growth through the Summer Institute (SI) and listening to others also describe it as a "life changing experience," it comes with no surprise that through my research most studies pointed to the National Writing Project Model as being an "exemplar of an educational improvement infrastructure" (St. John & Stokes, 2008). Every day I left the SI, I felt challenged to view my students and teaching with a new perspective, employed with new strategies of instruction, equipped with the most confounding recent research in educational issues, and supported by a network of teachers teaching teachers.

This school year, I have been more prepared than I have ever been. The SI's framework of professional development provided me numerous opportunities to learn from fellow colleagues, witness their reflective process, experience for myself how these strategies work, and collaborate with others on how to integrate such ideals into our own classrooms. Due to the SI's nature, it was consistent and intense. It forced me to examine and reflect on my practice, beliefs, and pedagogy.

The National Writing Project Model "represents a fundamentally different approach to investing in the improvement of education" (St. John & Stokes, 2008). Numerous studies have been done to examine the effectiveness of professional development. The studies are clear. Forty-five minute workshops, presentations, and/or conferences provided by most schools are significantly less effective than those "which generate knowledge, craft new norms of practice, and sustain participants in their efforts to reflect, examine, experiment, and change" (Nagin 57). Findings from research indicate specific qualities in successful professional development implementation: it must be sustained and intensive, encourage professional communication and collaboration, be inquiry based in order for teachers to construct and investigate for themselves, and provide the opportunity to experiment and follow up (Maldonado, 2002).

Copyright © 2012 California Association of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission.
Fruscella, Kimberley. 2012. "On-Site Professional Development: The National Writing Project Model " California English 17 (3): 18—19.

Read more California English articles from this issue.

About the Author Kimberly Fruscella, a teacher-leader with the San Diego Writing Project, is a fifth grade teacher at Hillcrest Academy in Temecula.

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