Model for Professional Development

In a sociopolitical context that increasingly constrains teachers’ pedagogical choices and professional identity, Project English Learning through Math, Science and Action Research (ELMSA) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, provides an alterntaive model to teacher professional development (PD), grounded in teacher and student agency. While local knowledge is critical to PD, the role of university based scholarship and theory (i.e., funds of knowledge and third space) also plays a vital role in negotiating many of the ideological, institutional, and pedagogical tensions.

Project ELMSA provides a framework for apprenticing teachers as ethnographers and teacher researchers in high poverty schools serving English Learners. Teachers apply cutting-edge principles of learning and development to collaboratively design and implement curricular activities based on students’ funds of knowledge and aligned with national mathematics, science, and literacy standards.  Strong university-school partnerships play a key role in fostering such educational possibilities in these high poverty and immigrant communities.

What We Do

Seventy-two K-8 in-service teachers from 26 schools have collaborated in cohorts and designed authentic and academically rigorous activities that integrated mathematics, science, and literacy for ELs. Teachers pursue a Master's Degree and an ESL/Bilingual Endorsement.

During their final year, teachers conduct an action research project over the course of one school year. This project consists of the development, execution, and analysis of three 4-week activity units. Teachers draw on students’ funds of knowledge (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) to design these units. Upon completion of the units, teachers meet with the research team to discuss and analyze the discourse of EL focal students. We use cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) (Razfar, Troiano, Nassir, & Yang, 2011) to describe how teachers and researchers work through constraints and mediated new learning opportunities (Sociocritical approach, Razfar, 2011; Gutierrez, 2008). At the conclusion of the project, teachers work with the research team organizing and analyzing their qualitative and quantitative data with respect to teacher practice and student learning and produce an analysis of changes in self, site, and students. Overall, teachers become aware of how structural constraints, their own authority, teacher centered discourse, the social arrangements of students, and meditational tools impact the kind of learning that emerges.