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Volume 13, Number 3
May/June 1997

A Conversation With Linda Darling-Hammond

 

Linda Darling-Hammond is a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Executive Director of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. The Commission's September 1996 report, "What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future," recommends that policymakers and others take bold action to reform the teaching profession in order to "ensure there is a qualified teacher in every classroom." Darling-Hammond was interviewed for the Harvard Education Letter by Anne C. Lewis.

HEL: How did professional development become so mediocre and so beyond the control of teachers?

LDH: Back at the turn of the century, when urban school bureaucracies were created, they adopted the factory-model organization popular at that time, including ideas of scientific management put forth by Frederick Winslow Taylor, a pioneer in workplace efficiency. These ideas said that different kinds of people were needed for managing and for doing. They separated the role of supervisor from that of worker, creating layers of people whose job it was to plan the work of others. Taylor said that workers were not supposed to think, just do. As in the business world, this created large cadres of administrators in education who were to organize work for teachers who were supposed to do it. Work also was designed to be done in isolation, which undermined teamwork. In this kind of environment, professional development was seen as only a short-term intervention in which you would get a set of directives to guide your work. In contrast, schools in other countries made a different decision about how to organize themselves. Instead of our bifurcated system, teachers in other countries managed most of the work for a school and had time built in to plan and work together. That means that in other countries teachers have more ways of conducting professional learning, such as study groups and visitations—activities more tied to their work.

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

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