ER&D: Twenty-Five Years of Union-Sponsored, Research-Based Professional Development

The American Federation of Teachers' Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) program provides research-based professional development to local unions, thereby building their capacity to deliver high-quality professional development, either on their own or in collaboration with their school district.

The AFT has long recognized that a knowledge base grounded in research is essential to professional practice. ER&D was created in 1981 to encourage classroom educators (both teachers and paraprofessionals) to improve their practice and their students' performance by becoming users of research. Beginning with a single course delivered to teachers in three pilot sites, the program now offers 12 courses through a train-the-trainer model—in more than 200 locals across the country.

ER&D represents one of the union's major efforts to improve student achievement by making a difference in practitioners' performance and professional growth. ER&D meets the criteria for "high quality professional development" as defined in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

In many places, ER&D is offered for continuing education units to earn salary increments or meet state requirements for license renewal. In some sites, ER&D courses are offered in collaboration with a nearby university, allowing members to earn undergraduate or graduate credits through ER&D.

Teachers have long been subjected to inservice sessions that are offered sporadically, based on the latest education fad, and often delivered by "outside experts"—the type of staff development that typically has little impact on classroom practice. ER&D, on the other hand, offers a focused, coherent program of professional development that is delivered by local practitioners and provides ongoing support.

ER&D is unique because it:

• provides solid, research-based content;

• is created and delivered by classroom teachers and school personnel;

• is an ongoing process, rather than an inservice event;

• offers a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental learning environment;

• provides opportunities for thoughtful discussion about teaching, learning, and implementing instructional strategies among colleagues and researchers that result in real change in practice;

• encourages professional growth; and,

• builds pride in the union's commitment to quality.

All of the courses offered by ER&D have two main components: research translations and classroom-based activities. Research translations are the basis for all ER&D courses. The AFT collaborates with leading researchers in the field of education to synthesize reliable findings on best practice and translate them into a user-friendly format that connects the research to its applications in the real world of classrooms and schools. Classroom-based activities help participants connect the research findings to their daily work. ER&D classes model strategies that research finds provide the most effective adult learning experiences. These activities include small group interaction, role-play, case studies, simulations, Socratic seminars, and shared reflection.

ER&D currently offers the following 12 courses:

• Foundations of Effective Teaching I: Organizing the Classroom Environment for Teaching and Learning

• Foundations of Effective Teaching II: Building Academic Success

• Beginning Reading Instruction

• Reading Comprehension Instruction

• Thinking Math 1: Foundations

• Thinking Math 2: Extensions

• Thinking Math 3: Connections

• Instructional Strategies That Work

• The School-Home Connection: Partnerships Supporting Student Learning

• Managing Antisocial Behavior

• Managing Student Behavior (for Support Staff)

• Delivering Effective Professional Development

For more information about the ER&D program, please send an e-mail to

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ER&D: Twenty-Five Years of Union-Sponsored, Research-Based Professional Development

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