Professional Learning Model

Professional Learning for Teachers 

A highly qualified teacher makes a difference in student outcomes, especially for children having difficulties. Reading Recovery’s professional development is widely acclaimed as an investment in the professional skills of teachers and a model worth emulating (Herman & Stringfield, 1997).

School districts select Reading Recovery teacher candidates who must be certified teachers with a record of successful teaching experience with young children. These teachers engage in a full academic year of professional development with graduate credit under the guidance of a registered Reading Recovery teacher leader.

Following an intensive week of assessment training to learn to administer, score, and interpret the Observation Survey for Early Literacy Achievement (Clay 2002, 2005), the teachers actively participate in weekly classes while applying their learning by teaching four children individually on a daily basis. Reading Recovery teachers work only part of the school day in one-to-one Reading Recovery lessons. Their professional development also benefits their work in other settings (e.g., classrooms, small groups, work with special populations of children, literacy coaches).

The teacher leader makes at least four visits during the school year to each teacher-in-training to observe lessons and to consult about children and implementation in the school. Detailed information about teacher selection and professional development requirements for teachers is found in the Standards and Guidelines for the United States.

Integrating theory and practice
Reading Recovery teacher training is comprehensive, complex, and intensive because each teacher must learn to design and deliver individual daily lessons. No prescriptive manual or packaged set of materials can meet each child’s individual needs.

Teachers must learn to:
• systematically and regularly assess each child’s current understandings.
• closely observe and record behaviors for evidence of progress.
• use teaching procedures competently and appropriately.
• put their observations and analyses into words and articulate their questions and challenges.
• self-analyze teaching decisions to determine the effect on each child’s learning.
• tailor interactions to extend each child’s understandings.
• communicate about Reading Recovery within the school.
• communicate regularly with the classroom teacher about each child’s progress in both settings.

Professional development in Reading Recovery consistently integrates theory and practice. All teachers teach lessons behind a one-way mirror, enabling their colleagues to observe, discuss, and reflect on the teaching and learning. In addition to putting what they see into words, they articulate conflicts with their previous assumptions. They learn to analyze and discuss effective teaching and to apply new understandings to their own teaching.

Ongoing Professional Learning
After their initial year of professional learning, Reading Recovery teachers participate in a minimum of six sessions each year with their colleagues and teacher leader. At least four sessions involve observing lessons through a one-way mirror while talking about child behaviors and teaching moves. This ongoing professional learning system ensures continuous inquiry and teacher learning to support student outcomes.

Professional Learning for Teacher Leaders

Teacher Leaders are employed by their local school district where they teach children, train Reading Recovery teachers for local schools, maintain contact with past trainees, analyze and report student outcomes, educate the local educators, advocate for what cannot be compromised, and communicate with the public.
Teacher leaders are selected by a school district or consortium of districts that has made a commitment to implement Reading Recovery. For more details about requirements for teacher leader selection and professional development see the Standards and Guidelines for the United States. Teacher leaders in the U.S. must have a master’s degree, teaching credentials, effective teaching experience, and leadership potential.

Initial year of Professional Learning

The teacher leader candidate attends a registered university training center in the United States for an academic year of full-time professional learning. Their complex role requires them to:
• become Reading Recovery teachers.
• develop an academic understanding of the theoretical concepts upon which Reading Recovery is based and a flexibility to consider new concepts and practices.
• test practice against theoretical concepts.
• critically appraise Reading Recovery’s strengths and problem spots as well as competing explanations for its success.
• observe and work through the experiences of a teacher trainee group across an academic year with the support of experienced teacher leaders in the field.
• help teachers develop competency in individualized assessment-based instruction to improve student achievement.
• become skilled at working with adult learners in order to effect significant change in teachers’ practice.
• develop a thorough knowledge of the whole operation of Reading Recovery in an education system including organizing and administering the teacher training course and evaluating and reporting student outcomes,.
• become skilled at working with local administrators (e.g., site coordinator, principals).
• develop interactive system-level leadership skills.

In order to accomplish these goals during the initial year of professional learning, teacher leader candidates teach four Reading Recovery students daily; participate in graduate-level classes that include teaching sessions; engage in course work to explore theoretical concepts in reading, writing, language, literacy difficulties, and adult learning theory; participate in leadership seminars and practica that include field work at established sites; and prepare their home districts for Reading Recovery implementation.

Continuing to Learn
After the initial year, teacher leaders return to full-time positions in their districts/sites and ongoing professional learning. They continue to learn during this field year with the guidance and support of their university trainer(s). They teach children daily in Reading Recovery, train Reading Recovery teachers, and provide leadership for site implementation with the support of the site coordinator (the administrator responsible for overseeing and managing the implementation of Reading Recovery). Teacher leaders oversee data collection on all Reading Recovery children and use evaluation data to work with school leadership teams to improve student performance and implementation factors.

As long as they are in the role, teacher leaders participate in regularly scheduled professional learning sessions conducted by university trainers. They also attend a national or regional conference each year and participate in an annual required national Teacher Leader Institute to ensure current knowledge about all aspects of their roles.

Professional Learning for Trainers

Becoming a Reading Recovery university trainer requires a year-long residency program (at the post-doctoral level in the United States). The initial year of professional learning for trainers is offered at four international centers.
 Reading Recovery trainers are faculty members within an established university training center (UTC) who are responsible for initial and ongoing professional learning for teacher leaders, supporting a network of affiliated Reading Recovery teacher training sites, expanding and strengthening sites within the network, and ensuring the integrity of Reading Recovery within the region. More than 20 Reading Recovery UTCs currently provide the organizing structure for states or regions of the United States. For more detailed information about becoming a Reading Recovery trainer and about professional development requirements for trainers see the Standards and Guidelines for the United States.

Initial year of Professional Learning
The initial year of professional learning for trainers is offered at four international centers: The Ohio State University, Texas Woman’s University, the University of Auckland, and the University of London.  During the year of study, candidates learn to:
• teach Reading Recovery children.
• support the development of Reading Recovery teachers across an academic year.
• bring diverse areas of theory and practice into working relationships and educate other professionals to do this.
• work with teacher leaders across their initial year of professional development and in subsequent years to ensure cycles of change.
• establish and maintain high-quality Reading Recovery teacher training sites.
• coordinate Reading Recovery in their network of sites, advising administrators about sustaining the quality of implementation.
• advise others about the range of research related to Reading Recovery.
• monitor student outcomes to analyze implementation issues.
• conduct and report research and program evaluation.
• manage a university training center.
• communicate about and advocate for Reading Recovery.

Ongoing Professional Learning
University trainers meet for at least two extended sessions annually and work collaboratively within the North American Trainers Group (NATG). Committee structures within NATG create opportunities for ongoing inquiry and study: teaching and professional development, implementation, and research. Trainers communicate on a continual basis about current theoretical, research, and pedagogical perspectives and conduct research to seek answers to questions about the many complex aspects of the intervention.

North American trainers are also active members of the International Reading Recovery Trainers Organization (IRRTO). The international group is committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Reading Recovery and to supporting change and growth in Reading Recovery through international collaboration, research, and resource development. Sharing and learning from international colleagues further enhances the ongoing professional development of Reading Recovery trainers.

Professional Learning to Build Capacity

Lisa Smith, former Reading Recovery Teacher and current Principal of Ashland Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky speaks about her experiences in Reading Recovery. She explains how she uses Reading Recovery to build capacity and collaboration in her school.