Structured dialogue as staff development: A case study of one public high school's dialogue

Paulette Bogan, University of Pennsylvania


The aim of professional development programs is to increase student achievement through appropriate teacher education. The debate revolves around the method to encourage teachers to utilize practices that improve teaching and learning--technique-oriented training or reflection on practice. The first method attempts to identify the teacher behaviors which increase achievement and train teachers in skill acquisition. The second emphasizes teacher thinking and considers the sociocultural environment in which teaching and learning take place to be integral to the success or failure of teaching efforts. Reflective teaching challenges educators to examine their attitudes toward education and students, their personal values, and the often unquestioned routines of day-to-day schooling. Long-term dialogue on educational philosophy is a process to engage teachers in intellectual discourse and to reflect on their beliefs and practices. This study describes the high school dialogue program designed by the superintendent of a public school district and the reactions of the participants. Several factors conspired to limit the effectiveness of the dialogue. Although individual teachers attested to professional and personal growth through dialogue, there was minimal transference of that knowledge to improve their teaching. The perceived irrelevance of some of the readings to the realities of this rural high school made it difficult for teachers to make connections between the readings and their practice. The superintendent, the facilitator of the dialogue, failed to explicitly link the readings and discussions to the teachers' classroom practices and to the school's and the district's policies. In the third and last year of dialogue, the writing of the educational specifications for the renovation of the high school actually diverted the teachers' attention away from teaching and learning and onto architectural details. Also, the structure of this dialogue resembled more a hierarchical teacher-student relationship than a collegial conversation among peers. The historic antagonism in the district between the teachers' union leaders and the office of the superintendent had created a culture of deep distrust of the higher administration by the teachers and an unwillingness on their part to be open to administrative initiatives.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Bogan, Paulette, "Structured dialogue as staff development: A case study of one public high school's dialogue" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9801849.