D. Joseph Corr

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Teacher Professional Development:


The Role of Teacher Professional Organizations


A Proposal for an Albany – Tula ExchAnge

Providing opportunities for the professional development of teac­hers should be the one of the paramount goals of educational administ­rators as the core of our mission in schools is to maximize teaching and learning. One of the problems educational managers grapple with is determining the best means to promote effective pedagogy. To meet this goal schools attempt to provide various opportunities. Included among these are summer institutes, university course work, staff deve­lopment days, in-service courses, conferences, and membership in pro­fessional organizations. Results of recent research suggesting the impact of informal teacher conversations and collaboration on staff development should also be of interest to administrators. Evidence exists to suggest that one of the most powerful means of teacher socia­lization occurs within the context of the informal conversations and exchanges that exist when teachers gather to speak professionally. Such research would attest to the value of providing faculty with opportunities to encounter mentors whose conversations would help to provide positive direction toward effective pedagogy. The role of pro­fessional teaching organizations in enabling these interactions to occur is considerable. As President of the Capital District Council for the Social Studies, I would like to describe the activities of the organi­za­tion, offer it as a model to develop professional organizations in other academic disciplines, and suggest it as a means of exchange between social studies teachers in the Albany and Tula regions.

Simply stated, to be effective, professional organizations should meet the needs of the membership. They should provide a frequent and consistent means of communicating relevant information. In addition, they should create opportunities for conferences and staff development and develop the mechanisms to foster those valuable informal teacher exchanges. Finally, they should develop ways to recognize excellence in the respective discipline.

The Capital District Council for the Social Studies attempts to meet the aforementioned needs as an organization of educators interes­ted in promoting social studies education.  Membership includes ele­mentary, secondary, and post-secondary educators as well as those in related fields such as museum education. Our membership covers the twelve counties surrounding Albany: Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Washing­ton and Warren. Our professional mission is to further social studies education via several avenues. We provide programs on curriculum changes, new materials, instructional methods and specialized areas such as assessment and law-related education. Furthermore, we publish a monthly newsletter featuring a calendar of upcoming events in the Capital District and throughout New York State, a column for class­room teachers in the elementary grades, a column for teachers of Glo­bal Studies, and announcements of grants, scholarships and funding for social studies teachers and projects.  We maintain a web site where we post position papers, information on professional opportunities and con­ferences, and provide links to other resources. Finally, we provide in-service education programs on curriculum changes, as well as instruc­tional techniques and methodology.

Furthermore, a vital part of our mission, is the recognition of the contributions of groups and individuals to social studies education. The Robert Neiderberger Award is the highest accolade a Capital Dist­rict Region social studies educator can receive. It was established in memo­ry of Robert J. Neiderberger, an extraordinary teacher, men­tor and educational leader who died from leukemia in 1979. To ack­nowledge the positive impact of organizations and individuals to the field of education, we annually sponsor the Partners in Education Awards Dinner.

In light of these endeavors, I would like to suggest some possibilities for collaboration between Tula and Albany area educators.

Organizational Structure and Governance: In disciplines where professional organizations do not exist, the Capital District Council for the Social Studies and its affiliates, the New York State Council for the Social Studies and the National Council for the Social Studies, could offer suggestions on matters of structure, constitutional formulation, finance, and program development. In areas where organi­zations exist, both parties could benefit from and exchange on such these issues.

Exchange of Information:  As the Capital District Council for the Social Studies operates a web site with links to other professional sites, it would seem appropriate that this site could also be a means for Tula and Capital area teachers to exchange information about, cur­riculum, pedagogy, assessment and content issues.

Cooperative Planning: The potential of the internet for coope­rative planning is vast. The Capital District Council for the Social Stu­dies and other professional organizations in Tula and the Albany area could serve as conduits for teachers and students in both nations to participate in shared research, letter writing, discussion and other cross cultural exchanges.

These represent just a few of the possibilities. Most certainly, ot­her venues for exchanges between professional organizations in Tula and Albany could be developed for the future. However, one principle should serve as the impetus for ai interaction that could occur. That principle is simply the fact that teachers need opportunities to develop and grow professionally and that professional organizations can play a viable role in the process by providing opportunities for both formal and informal socialization. Furthermore, electronic exchanges through professional organizations is an exciting prospect that could produ­ce positive benefits in diverse areas. We wish to extend our offer of collaboration and eagerly anticipate future suggestions from our Tula colleagues.

[1] Огородников И. Т. Урок как форма организации учебной работы // Основы дидак­тики. М., 1967. С. 335.

[2] Бахтин М. М. Проблемы поэтики Достоевского. М., 1963. С. 246.