Professional Development Network jump-starts TEACH

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The rich menu of TEACH conference presentations and workshops got a jump-start July 21-22, when state and local professional development facilitators, trainers and teacher leaders gathered for the 2013 Professional Development Network Conference in Washington, D.C.

Professional Development Academy

This annual conference was an opportunity for the frontline providers and creators of high-quality professional development to touch base with colleagues, update their knowledge on the latest research, and learn about policy that has an impact on their professional development offerings, delivery and outreach back home. The pre-TEACH conference, which ran concurrently with the AFT Local Presidents Conference, drew 112 participants this year for training that augmented presentations and workshops at the AFT Professional Development Summer Educator Academy this month in Linthicum, Md.

Participants heard from Robin Fogarty, co-author of How to Teach Thinking Skills Within the Common Core, who emphasized the need for educators to fashion their work with an eye toward preserving the natural tie between the process of thinking and the content involved. She likened effective strategies for teaching thinking skills to instruction for new drivers: Begin by "talking through" the task, with explicit instruction; progress to a "walk through" that places most of the responsibility on students; and end with "drive-through" activities—tasks that really "give students the wheel" and ownership of the learning challenge.

Common Core implications for instruction in English language arts were the focus of a workshop that featured Katya Levitan-Reiner, director of field impact at Student Achievement Partners. Using free, downloadable materials (available at achievethecore.org), Levitan-Reiner guided participants through some of the resources, which are geared to give specific examples of what the Common Core looks like in daily classroom practice.

Common Core can only succeed if it becomes more than just another layer of responsibility in the teacher's day, Levitan-Reiner stressed. "This can't be 'just another thing.' It has to be coherent, focused and embedded" within school professional structures and professional development.

Other presentations and workshops at the pre-TEACH conference explored ways to support the Common Core through video, game-based learning lesson design, the latest research on memory, helping English language learners with literacy development, next-generation science standards, building effective school-family partnerships, approaches that meet the needs of diverse learners, and using technology as a reflective tool.

The conference wrapped up with AFT executive vice president Francine Lawrence and Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, assistant to the AFT president for educational issues, encouraging participants to take the information, skills and resources they acquired from almost a fortnight of training—beginning with training in Linthicum and continuing through TEACH—and put it to effective use for members back home. [Mike Rose/photo by Michael Campbell]

July 22, 2013