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Volume 11, Number 1
January/February 1995

The Old Model of Staff Development Survives In a World Where Everything Else Has Changed

 

Howard Pitler, principal of L'Ouverture Elementary School in Wichita, KS, was excited. His plan to restructure the school into a technology magnet, with computers integrated into all phases of instruction and a schoolwide emphasis on cooperative learning and small-group work, had been approved. And he had discovered HyperCard, the versatile, open-ended Macintosh software that would, he believed, be the centerpiece of his program, enabling teachers to develop their own interactive curricula, suited to their individual needs and interests. He had become an expert user himself, had watched his kids play happily with the program at home, and had successfully taught a course on it at the local university.

Pitler designed a three-day course in which he would teach HyperCard to his entire staff. At noon on the first day, they all went to lunch together. "I suddenly realized that something was terribly wrong," he says. "There were 30 teachers sitting around this big table—people who knew each other and got along really well—but there was dead silence. No one said a word. They were absolutely miserable because they didn't get it, and they felt angry and resentful."

Though the L'Ouverture teachers eventually did learn the program, over a period of months, Pitler now looks back on that course as the worst he ever taught. "I had made the techno-nerd mistake of thinking something was easy because it was easy for me," he says. "Some of those teachers had had a total of two hours' experience on a Mac. I tried to teach them all together rather than allow them to learn it themselves, at their own pace. Now I see that it's a mistake to think we all need to be in the same place at the same time."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.

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For Further Information

For Further Information

Institute for the Management of Lifelong Education, 339 Gutman Library, 6 Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138.

J. Little. "Teachers' Professional Development in a Climate of Educational Reform." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 15, no. 2 (Summer 1993): 129-151.

Massachusetts Field Center for Teaching and Learning, UMass/Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125-3393.

M. McLaughlin and J. Talbert. "Contexts That Matter for Teaching and Learning." Available from the ERIC Clearinghouse (ED357023, 1993); 800-443-3742.

B. Miller, B. Lord, and J. Dorney. Staff Development for Teachers. Newton, MA: Education Development Center, 1994.

H. Pitler, L'Ouverture Technology Magnet, Wichita Public Schools, 1539 Ohio, Wichita, KS 67214.