We have investigated various models for chemistry teachers’ continuous professional development with emphasis on updating teachers’ knowledge and supporting the development of their self-efficacy beliefs for learning and teaching contemporary contents and for using advanced pedagogies and technologies, in particular, for teaching chemistry.
Teacher professional development (PD) is a fundamental means of improving teachers’ content knowledge as well as developing their pedagogical practices in order to help them teach to high standards. For a period that spans more than 20 years now, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have been touted as one of the most effective forms of teacher professional development. One can look back to Dufour and Eaker’s (1998) publication on PLCs for enhancing student achievement to see that, in an educational environment where reforms come and go at a fast pace, PLCs have had staying power. At a conceptual level, the characteristics of PLCs make them appealing as a model for professional development because they are grounded in teachers collaboratively working together on problems encountered in their practice to improve teaching and learning.
My work on the professional development of chemistry teachers in Israel has been carried out in the context of three professional frameworks, which together, reach and influence a large number of chemistry teachers:
- the National Chemistry Teachers’ Center
- the Rothschild-Weizmann program (A Master program for high school teachers headed by me)
- National Network of Chemistry Teacher PLCs
The practical activities that are implemented in each of these frameworks have been accompanied by research and formative assessment. Using these three frameworks has enabled me to strongly influence the community of chemistry teachers in Israel and to study different modes of teachers' professional development.