The Partnership has always encouraged project staff and participants to share their experiences with their colleagues. Toward the end of most projects, we offer a workshop on giving presentations for other adults (something which makes many teachers uncomfortable) and more recently have provided them with an excellent reference book (Gramston and Wellman, 1992). While we encouraged Scholars to give workshops within their own school and school district and many do, we also publicized deadlines for state and locally-sighted national meetings and help those interested prepare presentation proposals. We did not send participants to national meetings (even when these meetings are scheduled in our area) unless the presentation had already been given (practiced) at a local or state level.
Participants gave presentations at the annual meetings in Boston (NSTA, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and Geological Society of American/Association of Geology Teachers) and at many regional science (MAST, MASS), mathematics (M3), computer (MassCUE) and education conferences (New England Regional Council of the Social Studies, New England League of Middle Schools).
In the Partnership we encourage, but do not require, that participants present as teams rather than individuals and that staff members serve on the team when appropriate. Staff are especially important if we anticipate that some of the questions will be technical in nature (either about the science, pedagogy, computer technology, or administration). We reimburse presenters for all associated travel costs, but we only subsidize the conference registration at the membership rate, expecting participants to become members themselves and to spend time attending other conference sessions and visiting exhibit areas.
It is, of course, an advantage to the Partnership to have teaching staff and participants describe their work at professional meetings - they are thoughtful and credible presenters. Teachers in the audience are much more likely to try a new approach or to help organize a comparable professional development opportunity in their own community when the presenters are also teachers. The presentations also provide our teaching staff and participants with well-deserved recognition for the work they have done. However, our main objective is extending the learning opportunity for our participants. We have found that giving presentations:
We also found in 5C5E that presentations can serve as a team-building activity. One of our teams gave such an excellent workshop on their interdisciplinary project, The Pond, that they were asked to give variations of it at many different professional development conferences over the next three years of the project. During that time there was considerable turn-over in their team membership as new math, language arts, social studies, and special education teachers joined the team (the others leaving for a variety of family and professional reasons). It would have been very easy to give up the interdisciplinary unit. However, already-scheduled presentations of a very carefully organized project gave the team an extra incentive to keep the interdisciplinary unit in place - even with all the additional work necessary to train the new members.
In the first years of the Partnership, we were not very successful in convincing staff and participants to write about their projects for publication. A few excellent articles appeared (Bieda, Gibbs, Goldie, 1990; Watson and Konicek, 1990), but many wonderful stories were never written down. We even offered introductory workshops for project participants on writing for publication, just as we had done on giving presentations, but it is much easier to talk teachers into giving a presentation than it is to force them to sit down and write.
In 5C5E we did just that. Over a two-year period, we formed 5 voluntary writing groups, 3 during the academic years and 2 in the summers. Over those 2 years we learned that:
It is obviously useful to the project and the Partnership to have project staff and Scholars share in the dissemination responsibilities. However, the writing groups are organized primarily to provide participants with an opportunity to be reflective about their learning and for us to model our belief in the power of writing as a teaching/learning tool. Indeed those 36 participants who have volunteered to participate in these writing groups have described their increased understanding of the philosophy of the project and their own teaching practice. And the articles are good (Kinneavy, 1996; Jamros et al., 1996; Lawler, 1996; Smith, 1995).
Early in the program, we also considered developing a videotape about the program. We rapidly learned the difference in quality and cost between professional and home-grown video work - and gave up. We would encourage others to budget for at least a 20-minute professional-quality video, which can be used by staff and participants as they explain the program to their colleagues, the community and larger professional organizations (estimated cost $40,000).
In the last summer of the project we were able to produce our first Internet homepages so that Scholars could help their students publish their research on the web. Scholars were trained to write HTML code (rather than just use a packaged conversion program) so that they could help their students extend the homepages in the future. While our Scholars varied in their previous experience with the use of the Internet and Netscape, we found that they all needed two weeks to produce a set of linked homepages for their school.
It has been Partnership practice to ask some of the outstanding participants in one project to serve as staff in the next related project. Of course, the Partnership always gains new resources and skills this way - but so do these teacher-leaders who have the opportunity to reflect on their own classrooms while working with colleagues with different backgrounds, teaching responsibilities, and student populations. In 5C5E we were able to offer this opportunity to participants in five shorter variations of the project. The participants who have served in this role indicate that they valued the opportunity to help others while reflecting on their own learning experience. As they said, "You never really know it until you teach it."
Bieda, Robert, Richard Gibbs, Susan Goldie, "Collaborate With Your Colleagues," The Science Teacher, January 1990.
Gramston, Robert J. and Bruce M. Wellman, How to Make Presentations that Teach and Transform, ASCD, Alexandria, VA, 1992.
Kevin Kinneavy, "The Pond: Doing Research Together," Mathematics Teaching in the Middle Schools, NCTM Middle School Journal, March-April 1996
Jamros et al., Article on The Pond to be published fall 1996 in the journal of the New England League of Middle School Teachers.
Michelle Lawler, "Natural Dyeing with Plants." Connect, Journal of the Teachers' Laboratory, Brattleboro, VT, March/April 1996
Paul Smith, "Reveling in Rubrics," Science Scope, NSTA Middle School Journal), September 1995.
Watson, Bruce and Richard Konicek, "Teaching for Conceptual Change: Confronting Children's Experience," Phi Delta Kappan, May 1990.