Editor's Note: Professional Development

Published in SEDL Letter Volume XI, Number 2, August 1999, At the Heart of the Matter: Improving Teaching and Learning Through Professional Development

In the past, professional development has often meant a "drive-by" or "hit-and-run" training, a one-shot presentation with no follow-up or coaching. Recently at SEDL and throughout much of the education community, there has been a shift in perspective. We see teacher learning less as an end to itself, more as an integral part of any reform effort. Through this lens, professional development is systematic and well planned. That means teachers, like other professionals, need the time and support to increase their knowledge base, hone their skills, and network with others in their profession.

In this issue of SEDLetter, we show how professional development can serve as a tool for school improvement in a variety of ways. We discuss two strategies for improving teaching and learning: One is to improve the core relationship between students and teachers by focusing on how students learn; the other is for teachers to continually improve instruction through a long-term process of reflection and discussion with colleagues.

"Teachers and Students: The Relationship at the Heart of the Matter" discusses the importance of improving the relationship between teachers and their students by concentrating on the learning process, which is the focus of SEDL's work in professional development. "Renewing Teachers, Reforming Schools through Professional Learning Communities" highlights conditions in schools which foster professional learning communities (PLCs) that develop as teachers plan, think, and evaluate their teaching together. PLCs foster teacher professionalization and improve practice.

Two more articles highlight the importance of changing practice to bring about student improvement through a pair of very different SEDL projects. "Learning a Whole New Language in Texas" focuses on SEDL's training for foreign language teachers, while "Student-Centered Activities and Technology Spark Learning" illustrates what happens when a low-performing school implements technology in the classroom along with projects that encourage students to work together and build knowledge.

We hope this issue of SEDLetter will encourage readers to reflect on the importance of professional development—to teachers and students.

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