Participants were invited to discuss professional development and issues that arise when engaging in research with teachers and classrooms. Most programs implemented in preschools and K-12 classrooms are not evidence based, Vemon Feagans stressed, and curricula tend to be developed by companies without understanding of the research literature or how to apply it. Infusing what is understood about language research into schools of education is vital so that teachers will have cutting edge knowledge.
It would be helpful to encourage language researchers to collaborate with educators and curriculum developers to work toward state of the art instruction for preschool through 2nd grade. Though some teams are doing this, the activity has not reached a critical mass that could result in nationwide effects on school achievement. Unfortunately, she said, little data exist showing how to intervene effectively with teachers, especially that includes measures of children’s outcomes. Promising multi-dimensional models of professional development could be tested that simultaneously address teacher beliefs, knowledge, and instructional practices, and that measure student progress.
Teachers need a great deal of support, Schleppegrell said, especially those who use a lecture style, and in this regard, coach-teacher models have been especially useful, a point echoed by Susanna Dutro. Dutro went on to suggest that the “accountable talk” method developed by Lauren Resnick and colleagues is one promising approach to study in professional development settings to help teachers develop language in the context of academic learning.
This approach emphasizes forms and norms of discourse carefully designed to support and promote equity and access to rigorous academic learning. Accountable talk encompasses three broad dimensions: (1) account ability to the learning community, in which participants listen to and build their contributions in response to those of others; (2) accountability to accepted standards of reasoning, including drawing logical connections and reasonable conclusions; and (3) accountability to knowledge, which is talk that draws explicitly on facts, written texts, or other public information (rather than personal opinion, for instance). Data suggest that it can enhance academic achievement for diverse populations of students.
Participants identified several challenges to conducting intervention and translational research with teachers and schools: the difficulty of conducting randomized trials with policy changes, teacher changes, prin-cipal changes, and so on; the difficulties of studying linguistic natural interaction in classrooms that have little interaction in them to observe; and the reluctance of teachers to move away from the pacing required to cover material for standards of learning tests and, more generally, to engage students in discourse. David Dickinson stressed that for these and other reasons, almost nothing is known about details of linguistic interac-tions in classrooms, including how teachers implement what is learned about language development in schools of education. Several participants agreed on the need to also take stock of teacher education to determine what actually gets taught.
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