[Currents header graphic]

February 1, 1999

$150,000 Spencer grant kickstarts study of teacher development

By Jennifer McNulty

As a former schoolteacher, Aída Walqui knows just how important it is for teachers to hone their classroom skills. Now, as an assistant professor of education at UCSC, Walqui has received a research grant to begin a project that will ultimately benefit her former K-12 colleagues.

Aída Walqui

With a three-year $150,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation, Walqui is studying exemplary teacher development programs that are available to K-12 educators who work with immigrant students. Walqui's goal is to refine a model of professional growth that will enable schools to set up optimal programs based on their individual circumstances.

"When I was a teacher, I couldn't believe what passed for professional development," said Walqui, who noted that many programs were mediocre one-shot events based on the notion that "one size fits all." A dedicated professional, by the end of her own secondary teaching career, Walqui was in great demand as a leader of long-term development seminars that enhanced teachers' knowledge and autonomy.

"The question is 'What are the conditions that help teachers develop the knowledge to be good practitioners?'" asked Walqui. "How can professional development activities help teachers in the classroom and as members of their community? Currently, the situation for teachers of immigrant students is very oppressive. Those who want to implement change feel that they are swimming upstream. Teaching immigrant students well involves, then, more than just technical expertise."

After an extensive national nomination and review process that is beginning this month, Walqui will select three exemplary teacher development programs to study. She is looking for long-term programs that respond to the changing circumstances of teachers' work and to their developing professional knowledge. Her goal is to create a framework for such programs that is practical, theoretically sound, and can be adapted for teachers of diverse populations in a wide variety of contexts.

The Spencer Foundation is a private Chicago-based foundation that supports research on education.

To the Currents home page

To UCSC's home page