The Whole Teacher Enchilada

Twining, P., Raffaghelli, J., Albion, P., & Knezek, D. (2013). Moving education into the digital age: the contribution of teachers’ professional development. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(5), 426-437.

I chose that title today because I had no idea what I was getting myself into when it came to today’s article. Today’s title is a play on the more common phrase “the whole enchilada” meaning it’s the whole kit n kaboodle, everything, the kitchen sink, and the dish ran away with the spoon…you get the picture, right?
Well, the article I read pretty much summed up a lot of the major research surrounding teacher professional development (TPD) in general and as it pertained to the topic of Information and communication technology (ICT).

This journal article was particularly unique because it some respects it reminded me of a meta-analysis that combined large elements of information and distilled it down to some basic, general “truths”. And yet it also reminded me of a conference paper that appears a bit more loosey-goosey in its methodologies and formalities.

Let me explain. This article stemmed from a series of discussions at the 2011 EDUsummIT and from one particular group in general, the Technical Working Group on Teacher Professional Development (TWG3). This group consisted of twenty-one individuals from fourteen different nationalities and their discussion really centered on how could TPD ensure that teachers were prepared to use ICT to promote current skills and learning styles presently. As they began their conversation, they focused on what the current literature already stated about TPD in general and anything pertinent in regards to ICT.

Then the article delves deeper into the discussions as to what were the goals of the integration of ICT into TPD and what obstacles and layers of infrastructure must be considered when planning or working within this arena. Generally speaking, much the the goals centered around the idea that the effective and seamless use of ICT in the classroom would be a transformative element to the status quo.

The final portion of the article explores the topics that the group came to a consensus on, what discussion is to still be had and what conclusions this highly diverse group were able to agree upon. Some of the big conclusions were that most international, educational settings do not employ TPD best practices, the distance between practitioner and researcher must shrink and information must flow in both directions in that relationship, and that ICT must be modeled and expected of educators for it to truly have a transformative effect on education.

As I had stated previously, this article was similar to a conference paper in that it seemed less formal and more conversational in nature. As such, I think it was a very easy to read and follow textually. I also do believe that this one article, as I had mentioned before, is similar to a meta-analysis in that it covers a large, breadth of information and is able to distill it down to some very basic, compelling components. In doing so, this article has contributed much to the field of education and specifically to the branch of education dealing with teacher preparation and continued development. Any new district or site administrator could easily come to this article to see some highlighted best practices that are gleaned from strong, international research. And in having the references, you could specifically look further into what a particular author or article is saying about TPD and how they know they should say that.

I do think this article straddles the fence in a few places where parts of it are real strengths and contributions and the other is sure something could be improved upon. For example, the Literature Review wasn’t exactly a review. It did cover a breadth of established research but it didn’t really tease out all of the information for each of those articles. I also believe that the omission of some texts can be as intentional as the submission or use of other texts. To me personally, it didn’t seem like enough of a well-rounded picture was painted for this Literature Review for me to feel comfortable in saying it was comprehensive.

Springboarding off of that last thought, I arrive to a similar one in regards to Theoretical Frameworks. This article explored, very briefly, three frameworks and a bit as to how it generally applied to the present discussion of TWG3. But none of these frameworks were used extensively or explored thoroughly enough for me to really consider that a strength.

Finally, I would have to say that the “data collection” was completely absent. I understand that this article was not an empirical study but there was some ambiguity around some of the practices employed in creating it. For example, a few times the authors stated, “consensus in the discussion…” or even “ the group’s consensus….”. This term was not unpacked as to how a consensus was created and even who was or was not a part of the consensus and what the counter argument/point was to that dominant group. I believe some more clarification could have brought some more transparency to the article in general. There were also some value statements made about particular country’s educational systems or even proposed costs for TPD, that did not have any explanations or rationale tied to them. The findings were were interesting in that they were very broad and basic as to have to be applied internationally but I wonder in doing so, they lose their potency at the national or meso level.

As stated previously, I would recommend this article to others, like myself, who are researching into best practices in TPD because it is a great jumping off point. However, I do believe that in examining this issue at such a macro-international level some elements were overlooked. 1) the assumed bias that technology should be integrated into classrooms, 2) that it is imperative that all schools consider increasing the use of technology regardless of student/teacher access to initial and continued funding for such projects, and 3) the inherent complications and struggles that teacher preparation programs and districts face in regards to demands on their time, finances and attention. I think an article that examined these issues concretely and also clarified some more of the value or statements or even means of coming to a consensus by building more transparency into it, would prove to be an even more effective and powerful article that would truly offer some strong contributions to the field.

Developing Teachers within their Context

Matsko, K. K., & Hammerness, K. (2013). Unpacking the “Urban” in Urban Teacher Education: Making a Case for Context-Specific Preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(2), 128–144. doi:10.1177/0022487113511645



The article questions the status quo of teacher preparation colleges across the country.  In most cases teacher colleges prepare teachers in a very standard way across the country.  The coursework focuses on pedagogical practices, content knowledge and special education instruction.  The article in question focuses on the need for context specific teacher preparation as opposed to a standardized curriculum across the country.   The authors cite numerous studies that examine how the teaching environment can affect classroom culture and outcomes and the authors attempt to study the various context specific teacher colleges around the country.


The authors study Uchicago UTEP’s teacher preparation program and the steps they take to prepare teachers in a context specific way that supports them to enter the classroom in the communities close to the school.  Of note about the UTEP curriculum are a couple of things.  Graduates are educated about theories around “funds of knowledge” and the unique perspectives that students bring to the classroom.  Teachers are also required to spend clinical hours in a local charter school to ground themselves firmly in a local classroom experience.   They also focus on two major projects which are the “school study”, a project where students engage deeply in a study of the community and an “interactive read aloud” which gives teachers perspective on the classroom experience.


The authors conclude that this context specific design  for a more nuanced teacher preparation program is very valuable for new teachers.  The context based education helps to unpack the “urban” in urban education and dispel some of the biases that new teachers may have upon entering the classroom.  The authors develop a framework that can be used for context base teacher preparation in an urban setting.


Review Comments


The author organizes the article by first giving purpose to their cause of study.  The need for  specialized education for urban education seems obvious as the urban setting requires teachers to be able to adapt their classroom to the students that enter and allow flexibility throughout a school year.  The authors then go on to describe the various context specific teacher programs that exist across the country.  The authors analyze and draw comparisons between these programs to develop a context specific framework.  The authors close the study by establishing their framework and again arguing for the need for context specific teacher preparation programs in an urban setting.


Contribution to Field

The article serves to further claims regarding the unique type of teacher skills that are required in an urban setting.  The “urban” teacher needs to be hyper reflective and willing to adapt and learn from the “funds of knowledge” that students bring to the classroom.  The authors contribute to this sect of educational research by building a framework for context specific teacher preparation.  The specific framework serves to inform teacher preparation programs across the country on how they can prepare urban teachers.


Theoretical Framework

The framework of this study is actually a case study of various teacher preparation programs across the country.  The authors seek to compare and contrast teacher preparation programs and their varying philosophy to find a framework for future context specific teacher preparation programs.  By doing a case study of the Chicago UTEP campus the authors are able to identify key levers in creating a context specific teacher preparation program.


Data Collection

Data is collected through qualitative observations and interviews of and with the candidates at the teacher preparation college.  The authors did an in-depth qualitative analyses of the methods utilized in the UTEP program.  The authors synthesized this data to create a framework for future programs.



The authors found that there were key factors that differentiated the UTEP program from traditional teacher preparation programs across the country.  The authors offer a framework that grounds teacher preparation in multicultural education in an emphasis on social justice and equity.  The framework takes important steps to develop teachers in a way that gives them insight into their teaching context from socio-political norms to local community practices.  This is important because it will prevent teachers from making broad and unreal generalizations about their students and their community.  In multicultural education a context specific education is essential to help prepare teachers to appreciate the funds of knowledge that their students bring to the classroom.  The framework that is developed can be used for teacher preparation programs across the country that seek to read teachers for urban communities.

Levels of PD and where we go from here.

Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3–15. doi:10.3102/0013189X033008003


In her article, Professional Development and Teacher Learning: Mapping the Terrain, Hilda Borko discusses the current state of educational research, specifically with regards to professional development for teachers in a Kindergarten through twelfth grade setting. She lays the legal and research-backed foundations as to why professional development is so critical in our education system, each of which I will discuss in turn. She starts off with a brief discussion of the idea that educational reform movements across the country are setting ambitious goals for the learning of their students, yet, these efforts, which are set by policy-makers, rely on teachers’ ability to implement the changes in classroom practice (Borko, 2004). Educational scholars and policy-makers have recognized this dynamic, which is why teachers are required, by statute, to have regular opportunities for “high quality” professional development (Borko, 2004, p.3). Researchers have argued that, “helping out teachers to succeed and enabling our children to learn is an investment in human potential, one that is essential to guaranteeing America’s future freedom and prosperity” (Borko, 2004, p.3). Despite these two mandates –one legal, the other moral – professional development opportunities for teachers are, “woefully inadequate,” even though various educational agencies spend, “millions, if not billions, of dollars” on it (Borko, 2004, p.3).

Further, Borko tells that professional development is the, “most serious unsolved problem for policy and practice in American education today” (Borko, 2004, p. 3). So, throughout the remainder of her article, she attempts to answer two fundamental questions about the state of professional development: 1) What do we know about professional development programs’ impact on teacher learning, and 2) what are the important directions and strategies for expanding our knowledge in this area? (Borko, 2004). She attempts to answer these two questions with the use of a multifocal lens in three distinct phases, each of which I will discuss in turn.

One of the particular strengths of Borko’s article was the methods she used to measure the effectiveness of professional development, specifically her use a multifocal lens.  She articulates a challenge she encountered as, “I have struggled to articulate how researchers can keep both the individual and the community in focus” (Borko, 2004, p.8); a problem she creatively solves with a metaphor of using a multifocal lens, which allows objects, both distant and near, to be in focus at the same time. In the context of professional development, on the ‘nearside,’ this allows for the analysis of data on questions regarding how a teacher can construct new knowledge and instructional practices, whereas, ‘distant focus’ allows for analysis of questions on norms of communications and patterns of participation (Borko, 2004, p.8). The idea that multiple aspects can be viewed at the same time in the course of the same study, is a novel one to me and, given that I think my line of inquiry will relate to professional development, this study provides a framework that I can use to view and interpret my results, focusing on the impact on individual teachers’, as well as the effectiveness of the program in terms of improving students’ achievement.

Borko’s uses of the three-phase model provide different levels of questions to be viewed through her multifocal approach. The Phase I approach allows for research questions and activities committed to investigating the results of an individual professional development program at a single site (Borko, 2004). The second Phase allows researchers to study a single professional development program implemented more than one facilitator at multiple school sites; these questions explore the how the facilitator, the professional development program, and the role that teachers play as learners.  The third and final phase is the sum of the previous two and explores relationships between multiple professional development programs, enacted at multiple sites, by multiple facilitators.

There were several components of this study that surprised me. First, I was interested to learn that there have been no Phase III research studies, for several reasons: the large-scale, multi-method field studies will require new ways to collect and analyze data (Borko, 2004). Such studies will require substantial funds to complete. Next, on a more personal and professional thought, I was surprised to learn that the professional development program that I work to implement through my work falls into the Phase II level of Borko’s study. This will provide me a framework that will allow for a more complete analysis when I implement my innovation.  The final area of surprise for me was the idea of “willing participants” (Borko, 2004, p.5). Now that I have seen this phrase, it makes perfect sense, but was not something I had previously considered; if people volunteer for a study, they are likely people with an open mind, who are willing to implement changes and try new things in their work and professional life. This is another area that I will need to take into consideration when I start to plan for my innovation. I will want to explore further research to better understand how mandated participation versus optional participation can affect the results of a study.

Having experienced professional development sessions, both as a facilitator and participant, I was not at all surprised to learn that the role of facilitator is of incredible importance to the overall success of the professional development program (Borko, 2004). I’ve sat in a significant number of professional development sessions that have completely failed because the presenter used outdated instructional delivery methods that did not actively engage those in the audience. I want to explore research that delves into what methods are most effective for implementing professional development as an external provider.

Despite all of this, I think that this research provides a lot of particular situative context that I can consider as I seek to design and implement my innovation at my worksite. Yet, it was heartening to learn that research supports the need for professional development in schools, as it does have a significant and substantial impact on students’ outcomes.

Preparing Our Teachers

In my career role, I play a large part in influencing how we prepare teachers at Arizona State University. I have been thinking about bias in teaching-our own biases as well as our assessment and measurement of student learning practices. How do we best prepare teachers to work in racially diverse schools?

Before jumping right in to address this question, I want to address the political nature of teaching and assessment measurements. Teachers are being held accountable for impacting student learning. Although this idea sounds practical and reasonable in nature, there are so many variables that play a role in this. The No Child Left Behind Act (2001), states that school and districts must disaggregate achievement data by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, language proficiency, and disability. All of these variables affect how students perform, yet teachers are being unfairly judged using Value Added Measures that are biased. (Paufler, N.A. & Amrein-Beardsley, A. 2013).

With the political nature and high stakes of the teaching profession, teaching is quickly becoming one of the most challenging jobs. So, I revert back to my question- how are we preparing teachers to be ready for this battle, specifically, equipping them to teach all of their learners? Prior to answering this question, it is important to understand the makeup of the 21st century classroom.  Who are our students?  Tyrone C. Howard (2010) in his book, Why Race and Culture Matter in Schools, presents staggering data regarding the achievement gaps amongst different racial groups, as well as our demographic makeup of our schools.

Howard (2010) cites a study conducted by Concha (2006). The study exposed the role of race, specifically focusing on African American and Latino youth. Three prominent areas stood out as negatively affecting student achievement: racial segregation was still occurring, there were evident divisions within racial groups and school support varied by race (p.101).

Howard (2003) claims that it is essential for teachers to be self aware of their cultural knowledge and understandings. He states, “one of the most fundamental elements of cultural competence is the development of ongoing critical self reflection” (p. 200). He goes on to say, “being able to effectively initiate and facilitate reflection about race and race-related issues requires the ability to critically examine one’s own personal beliefs, opinions, and values about racial identity, and the race of others; and the ramifications of these intersecting and colliding values” (p. 200). Palmer (1998) echoes this notion of self-assessment and recommends that teachers ask themselves, “does who I am contribute to the underachievement of students who are not like me?” (p. 114).

I think these biases go even further than just racial differences. Gould, (1981) in “The Mismeasure of a Man” presents data charts (written in the 1800s) of brain differences, including cranial capacities and abilities. After studying this summary data, he concludes, “Morton’s summaries are a patchwork of fudging and finagling in the clear interest of controlling a priori convictions” (p. 54). Many of these early beliefs, however, are still with us whether we recognize them or not.

From my experiences as an educator and an educational leader, eliciting reflection that gets at the heart of our biases would be extremely powerful and revealing. I don’t think any teacher intentionally elicits bias; however, I think through systematic reflection, many teachers would discover that they do have biases and that they are prevalent in their teaching practices. Freire (1973) states that this critical self-reflection might be difficult for white teachers if they come from “racially privileged or dominant positions” (p. 115). Moreover, he asserts that white teachers, “bring virtually no conceptual framework for understanding visible inequalities rather than the dominant deficit of framework…generally ignorant of color, fear them and fear discussing race and racism” (p. 115). Although it might take some time, nurturing an environment where teachers could fearlessly talk about racism and biases could yield tremendous benefits for our students. Because of this, one might argue that self-reflection and critical self-analysis would be the first step in preparing teachers to work in racially diverse schools.

Another important idea that Howard (2010) asserts is focused on a teacher’s mindset and beliefs about learning. He states, “A teacher’s ability to know and understand students is not restricted by his or her race; it is tied to a willingness of educators to know and understand the complexities of race and culture, develop a healthy sense of their own racial identity and privilege, develop a skill set of instructional practices that tap into cultural knowledge, reject deficit views of students of color, and have an authentic sense of students’ ability to be academically successful” (p.74). Instilling a belief that all students can achieve at high levels will prepare teachers to work in diverse schools.

Finally, once teachers understand who their students are, this understanding should influence teaching practices. Howard refers to these teaching practices as culturally relevant pedagogy. Howard (2003) emphasizes that it’s “based on the inclusion of cultural referents that students bring from home” (p.201). Howard explains that culturally responsive teaching encourages students to share viewpoints and perspectives, connects curriculum to students’ lives and experiences, teaches students to think critically as well as engages students in conversations. Furthermore, teachers need to teach through the strengths of the students, making learning more relevant for them as well as making them feel successful.

In conclusion, we have begun to touch the surface of our question, “How do we best prepare teachers to work in racially diverse schools?” To start, we need to engage our pre-service teachers in critical self reflection about their own experiences, beliefs, and biases. Secondly, we need to instill a belief that all students can learn, regardless of their race. Finally, we need to teach them how to respond through relevant pedagogical practices.


 Conchas, G.Q. (2006). The color of success: Race and high achieving urban youth. New York: Teachers College Press.

Garcia, S.B. & Ortiz, A.A. (2013) Intersectionality as a framework for transformative research in special education. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2), 32-47.

Gay, G. (2000) Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gould, S.J. (1981). The mismeasure of a man. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Freire, Paulo. Education for critical consciousness. [1st American ] ed. A Continuum    book. New York,: Seabury Press, 1973.

Howard, T.C. (2003) Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection, 42(3), 195-202.

Howard, T.C. (2010). Why race and culture matter in schools: closing the achievement gap in America’s classrooms. New York, N.Y.: Teachers College Press.

Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Paufler, N.A. & Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2013). The random assignment of students into    elementary classrooms: Implications for value-added analyses and interpretations.   American Education Research Journal, 51(2), 328-362.