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TRANSFORMING INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES


pedagogy and address student learning needs in this existing climate, then the approach to professional development must become more relevant to what teachers do daily, and they must play a greater role in identifying their professional development needs.


Implementing a transformative learning approach, which supports teachers in roles as problem-solvers, helps create a professional learning environment where they augment their knowledge of effective instruction, engage in meaningful dialogues with their peers, and change their instructional practices. Applying a transformative learning theoretical framework to the application of teacher-directed collaborative conversations allows adult learners to clarify and challenge existing practices that may be unproductive, and through conversations with others to then take corrective action (Cranton, 1994). Using that general theoretical framework, transformative learning is the foundation for teacher-directed collaborative conversations. Through on-going teacher-directed collaborative conversations, teachers identify their ineffective instructional practices and find research-based solutions through collective efforts.


A Conceptual Framework for Transforming Teacher Practices Designing professional development activities that actively engage educators in self- directed collaborative conversations and give them more autonomy in decisions related to their developmental needs tend to have more transformative effects than other passive activities. Research continues to show learning is most effective when individuals are engaged through multiple approaches, not just for students but for teachers as well (Glickman, 2007; Gordon, 2004). Like the students they teach, teachers need active learning experiences to enhance their knowledge and understanding of instruction. Teachers acquire more practical and sustainable skills when they are talking to each other about their instructional practices and when they are observing expert teachers. At the heart of teacher-directed collaborative conversations are four recursive behaviors that have an effect on transforming instructional practices—collaboration, observation, experimentation, and reflection. Collaboration provides data rich opportunities to increase teachers’ awareness of their ineffective instructional practices and to analyze these practices in a collegial atmosphere. Through observation and experimentation, teachers assume greater ownership for identifying ineffective practices and other instructional disconnects between teachers and students. Experimentation and consistent practice on the part of teachers help build proficiency. Last, reflection –thinking about which instructional practices produced the best outcomes—is essential to improving student learning. Without reflection, there is no professional growth. Embedded in the methods for transforming problems of instructional practices are the aforementioned active learning behaviors. Figure 1.1 depicts the cyclical nature of transformative teacher-directed interactions. When practiced frequently and


28 Virginia Educational Leadership Vol. 8 No. 1 Spring 2011


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