READING AND LANGUAGE ARTS PROFESSOR SEES RETREATS AS KEY TO TEACHERS' DEVELOPMENT
Kelly Chandler has teaching in her blood. The professor of reading and language arts is a fourth-generation educator who had an article based on her research appear in the May issue of Educational Leadership, a popular journal for teachers and administrators. With the publication of her article, the School of Education professor hopes to contribute to the discourse on how professional development occurs in education.
Chandler—with the support of a $30,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation’s Practitioner Research Communication and Mentoring program—worked with teachers from northern Maine who have done research on literacy instruction for the past four years. In the summers of 1998 and 1999, Chandler and the elementary school teachers took part in weeklong retreats to analyze their data. They found the time more productive than other professional development programs they had experienced. “It is tough for teachers to do research during the school year,” Chandler says. “During retreats, teachers can put aside classroom distractions and family commitments to really focus on improving their teaching.” Chandler says retreats are a more teacher-centered form of staff development than the half-day workshops that are common in many school districts.
In each of the two retreats, Chandler and the teachers spent a week in cabins in Maine, focusing on such issues as curriculum development and goal setting. The idea was that if teachers had time alone together, they could engage in deep reflection about their teaching. The premise was correct. In addition, the teachers had an opportunity for cross-grade collaboration that doesn’t often occur in elementary schools. Chandler says teachers from higher grades discussed what they expect students to know as they leave the lower grades, and lower-grade teachers saw how their students developed over time. “In elementary school there isn’t a lot of time for teachers to talk to each other about expectations,” Chandler says.
The retreats also gave participants time for team building. Group members found it important to talk with colleagues and confirm they would go into the next school year “on the same page.” In addition, the retreats allowed the teachers to clear their calendars for a week and focus only on being good teachers. The time enabled them to reflect on what worked over the last school year and what they wanted to change. “We spent several days together, but I think you could do this kind of development workshop during a weekend retreat if it’s intense and focused,” Chandler says.
LINK HALL RENOVATION ENHANCES OPPORTUNITIES FOR RESEARCH AND INSTRUCTION
A dramatic redesign and renovation of Link Hall’s fourth floor has created a major new suite of laboratories in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) to support teaching and research concerning environmental systems engineering.
“This is a world-class facility,” says ECS Dean Edward Bogucz. “With our outstanding faculty and students, SU is now positioned to earn international recognition for programs that prepare leaders in an area critical to the quality of life in the 21st century.”
Areas of teaching and research expertise of ECS faculty include studies of complex ecosystems that are subject to multiple disturbances, and the development of engineering processes for removing toxins from wastewater and polluted sites. Well-known current projects include long-term studies of regional-scale ecosystems, such as the effects of acid rain on lakes and forests across the Northeast.
Plans for the new facilities originated in ECS-wide planning discussions during 1995-96 that identified “environmental systems” as one of four focus areas for strategic development. The $4.5 million renovation started in summer 1999 and was completed in April. The new facilities occupy Link Hall’s entire fourth floor, which totals more than 22,000 square feet.
The facilities feature an advanced teaching lab that includes a handicap-accessible hood, a “clean room” for testing trace levels of contaminates, numerous research labs, and constant-temperature incubators for growing microorganisms.
A new teaching lab is one of the features of the fourth-floor renovation of Link Hall.
Bogucz says a variety of factors played into the University’s decision to invest in new labs. They included the inadequate and outdated state of the old facilities, changing needs for leading-edge teaching and research, and the college’s success in recruiting outstanding new faculty members.
One new ECS faculty member is Andria Costello, who completed a doctoral degree from Caltech in 1999. She says the new labs were a key factor in her decision to come to SU. “I don’t think you can find a better facility for environmental research,” she says.
"These labs are a real boon not only to our college but to the University,” Bogucz says. “SU has great strength in the broad area of environmental science and engineering, involving students and faculty from multiple schools and colleges. The new faciliKies are sure to be a vital strategic asset for the entire institution.”
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