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Another Afternoon Wasted! vs.
Wasn't This Great!

Mathematics teachers often find themselves involved in in-service situations. The word "opportunities" is not used, because that puts too positive of a spin on the experience.

Many criticisms surface (and often). The in-service experiences are disoraganized, don't fit a teacher's felt-needs, are overly general, too trendy, too theoretical, not classroom-based, and too dependent on a specific set of resource materials (for sale of course!).

What exactly should occur in an in-service experience...if mathematics teacher are to walk away with new ideas, strengthened pedagogies, renewed energies...and the general feeling that their time was well-used? One thing is that changing the name from "in-service" to "professional development" is little more than cosmetic!

In the 56th Yearbook for The National Society for the Study of Education, Cecil Parker suggested these "Guidelines for In-Service Education Experiences":

  1. Teachers work both as individuals and as members of groups on problems that are significant to them
  2. The same teachers who work on problems formulate both goals and implementations, and plan how they will work
  3. Many opportunities are developed for teachers to relate themselves to each other
  4. Continuous attention is given to individual and to group problem-solving processes
  5. An atmosphere is created that is conducive to building mutual respect, support, permissiveness, and creativeness
  6. Multiple and rich resources are made available and are used
  7. The simplest possible means are developed to move teachers through decisions to actions
  8. Constant encouragement is present to test and to try ideas and plans in real classrooms
  9. Appraisal (and reflective assessment) is made an integral part of the in-service activities
  10. Continuous attention is given to the interrelationship of different teacher groups
  11. The facts of individual differences among members of each group are accepted and utilized
  12. Activities are related to pertinent aspects of the current educational, cultural, political, and economic scene
This is a quality list...and I forgot to state earlier that this list of suggestions was published in 1957. Given the nature (and demise) of too many in-service situations, apparently few have paid it any heed ove the past sixty years.

The one thing missing on the list...a research-validated notion: In-service opportunties cannot occur as half-day events that are sporatic and unconnected, but need to involve long-term commitments involving regular, connected meetings.

Source: International Society for the Study of Education Yearbook, 1957, pp. 103-128