To the Editor:
This letter is in response to your recent special report “Professional Development: Sorting Through the Jumble to Achieve Success” (Nov. 10, 2010). Based on over 30 years of experience as a college professor of physics with 100 percent retention rates in my courses, I contend that the current efforts in professional development as they relate to math and the other STEM disciplines are wide of the mark. But there is no need to give up yet. All you have to do is talk to the right people and visit the right places.
We need to look at how students do learn, at what we want them to learn, and what the student outcomes should be for their and our success.
I take the position that if I have 30 students enrolled in Physics 1, I will have 30 students still enrolled in Physics 1 when the semester is completed. I make certain every student participates, not just the few well-prepared “swifties” in the front seats. I elicit the information needed to begin to solve a problem from the students’ experiences. I do not use the old time-worn deductive method of teaching, which simply illustrates how much I know, or slavishly follow the books that are written in a deductive way.
And there’s lots more, too. In terms of being an “effective” teacher, I further contend that history is in the making at the University of the District of Columbia when it comes to a complete display of professional development for effective classroom management and pedagogical techniques in action in some math and science courses. We have research studies to prove our successes.
Professor of Physics
University of the District of Columbia
A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2010 edition of Education Week as Professional Development Thriving at One Institution