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Joan Becker and 6 of her students.

Vol. 1, No. 2

Spring 2012

Your Source of Information for Staying Connected, the e-magazine of the Michael D. Eisner College of Education

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and PreK-12: Partners for Professional Development

By Mr. Steve Holle, Mr. Richard Goldman, and Dr. Wendy Murawski, CTL

Dr. Wendy W. Murawski and Assistant Professor Dr. Sally Spencer

CTL Team: Mr. Steve Holle (left), Dr. Wendy Murawski, and Mr. Richard Goldman

Close your eyes and picture a professional development (PD) session. Do you envision a room full of educators, some listening and interested, but far too many appearing unengaged, perhaps even sneaking a peek at the clock? Although beneficial PD does occur, all too often teachers are asked to attend workshops on topics which they have not been partners in selecting; moreover, each month’s PD topic is often unrelated to the previous mandatory session, resulting in teacher attitudes of “this, too, shall pass.”

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is the hub for research-based PD in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education. Using the National Staff Development Council’s definition, we view PD as:

A comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement (NSDC, 2012

The CTL is charged with providing impactful PD in collaboration with various PreK-12 partners. Our CTL brand is Research-based Professional Development.

In 2011, the CTL contracted with three public schools to provide on-going PD based upon each school’s self-identified needs. The CTL designs PD in accordance with current research indicating that effective PD is:

  • Structured and purposeful
  • Sustained over time
  • Focused on student outcomes

(Chappuis, 2007; Guskey, 2003)

Hence, the CTL establishes multi-year contracts with all PD schools. Gone are the one-session dog and pony shows, because research shows these to be ineffective in fostering change, regardless of the quality of the event. Moreover, once schools make a multi-year commitment, we discuss methods for the CTL to conduct research on the PD’s effectiveness in each school. Our experience has been that schools who enter the relationship with a commitment to research are willing partners in collecting data. Certainly, both the CTL and the schools benefit from asking and answering questions related to the impact of PD on the teachers and students.

The CTL engages with schools in action research, which is characterized as emergent and responsive (Dick, 2000; Riel, 2011). Action research allows us to work collaboratively with our school partners and use the data collected to change or modify the PD support of the teachers involved. Ultimately, our goal is to publish, in cooperation with our community partners, the results of these findings in order to continue to improve practices of the Eisner College faculty, students, and our educational community.

The CTL works with each school to determine areas of PD need. Research indicates that participation by school administrators is paramount in generating effective staff development (Davis, Darling-Hammond, LaPoint, & Myerson, 2005); we can report that all our principals have been active in their attendance and participation.

Three Partner Schools — Just the Beginning

The CTL has initiated three PD topics, led by a variety of facilitators, with Andreas and Maria Cardenas Elementary School in LAUSD:

  • Introduction to Neurodevelopment, focusing on how the brain impacts learning profiles, provided by Rick Goldman (CTL Director), Erin Studer (CHIME schools Executive Director) and Phyllis Gudoski (Department of Special Education).
  • Instruction in Co-teaching, focusing on how two teachers can teach together in the same room to increase differentiation of instruction for students, facilitated by Dr. Wendy Murawski (CTL Eisner Endowed Chair).
  • Applications of Instructional Intelligence strategies, focusing on techniques for engaging student learners, led by Steve Holle (CTL PD Coordinator).

ArtLAB High School, a new pilot high school for LAUSD, has chosen to focus solely on Co-teaching for their first year of PD. Drs. Wendy Murawski and Vanessa Goodwin (Department of Special Education) worked with the entire faculty of ArtLAB during multiple summer sessions.

Vaughn Next Century Learning Center asked CTL to focus on Co-teaching with Dr. Wendy Murawski and Positive Psychology with Dr. Greg Jackson (Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling). Dr. Jackson led successful sessions helping faculty to identify their own strengths in order to better work with students.

Phyllis Gudoski and Erin Studer at Cardenas Elementary

Phyllis Gudoski and Erin Studer actively engage K-5 classroom teachers in Neurodevelopmental strategies at Cardenas Elementary.

All CTL’s presentations are designed and conducted to engage the teacher learners in the PD. In addition to direct instruction with PowerPoint visuals, activities are included to ensure that teachers are able to immediately apply their new learning. In addition to using best practices in teaching adult learners, the CTL also provides mentoring and coaching as follow-up support to partner schools. Cole (2004) identifies mentoring and coaching of teachers as necessary PD strategies to establish teacher trust, collegiality, and interdependence. Because ours is a long-term partnership, it is hypothesized that as teachers become more familiar with CTL consultants, they will be more willing to ask for support.

Throughout the duration of each partnership, the CTL is collecting data. We have completed the first year at the three schools, having documented all meetings and videotaped all presentations. Pre- and post-measures have been completed by participants before and after each PD event. Moreover, we have developed observational tools for CTL coaches and mentors to collect classroom-observation data. Although we are not collecting student-outcomes data this first year, it is our intent to work with partner schools over the summer to determine how best to make a connection between what teachers are learning in PD and what they and their PreK-12 students are doing in the classroom relative to each PD topic.

Creating and sustaining an effective and collaborative relationship between the university and our PreK-12 partners is complex and challenging, with sensitive issues that require democratic approaches. The CTL will continue to collect and analyze relevant data and share our findings with the broader educational community.


  • Chappuis, J. (2007). Learning team facilitator handbook. Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service.
  • Cole, P. (2004). Professional development: A great way to avoid change. Melbourne, Australia: IARTV.
  • Davis, S., Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., & Meyerson, D. (2005). School leadership study: Developing successful principals (Review of Research). Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Stanford Educational Leadership Institute.
  • Guskey, T.R. (2003). Professional development that works: What makes professional development effective? Phi Delta Kappan, 84(10), 748-750.
  • Murawski, W.W. (2009). Collaborative teaching in secondary schools: Making the co-teaching marriage work! Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
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Content Contact

Dr. Cynthia Desrochers, Editor
Professor, Eisner College of Education

Technical Contact

Ian Carroll
Web Developer, Eisner College of Education