- Book studies can be a successful method for involving teachers in their professional learning and can meet teachers’ needs “in more powerful ways than traditional professional development,” according to a new article appearing in the American Educational Research Journal.
- Focusing on special education-related book studies conducted over a four-year span in the Knox County Schools in Tennessee, the authors note that the participants began to recognize each other’s expertise and felt challenged to consider other points of view about texts they were reading.
- Participants also continued to use the strategies they learned through the book studies in the classroom, described themselves as more open to trying new things, and continued to follow research on those topics, the researchers write.
Book studies are among the growing range of options school and district leaders have made available in an effort to make PD more useful and connected to teachers’ daily classroom challenges.
“Adult learners need to have the ability to direct their own learning,” the study authors write. “Without the buy-in that voice provides, any other professional development activity is a waste of time and energy.”
The United Federation of Teachers in New York City offers a guide to holding a book study that includes roles, norms and a planning tool.
But the use of book studies with existing teachers has not received a lot of attention from researchers, according to the paper. Because the study focused on special education teachers, remaining questions include the method’s impact on general education teachers as well as “the implications for teacher-learners who acquire knowledge through social media” and other online tools.
In addition, lesson studies, a model adopted from Japan often used within a professional learning community structure, increasingly have been adopted as a way to tap into the expertise teachers already bring to improving student learning rather than spending money on consultants and trainers.
“In contrast to top-down reforms, lesson study is professional development that empowers teachers to drive improvement as they determine new ideas and methods to incorporate into their teaching,” Vicki Collet, an associate professor at the University of Arkansas, writes in a recent article for Teachers College Press. “This job-embedded professional learning process has the potential to improve student achievement by looking closely at classroom practice.”