||NIH recently met with a teachers’ group to translate what we know about how children learn into the classroom.
In recent years, the two organizations have teamed up to map out ways to translate what is known about child and adolescent development into practical measures instructors can use in their classrooms. NCATE represents 33 professional
groups devoted to advancing teacher education
at every level. The NICHD-NCATE expert panel met May 20-21 at NIH in its third roundtable
discussion since 2005 to mark progress and set next steps.
“We’re happy to be working with you on this third phase of our project to look at how we can more fully apply the scientific research we have supported over the years to how a child learns,” said NICHD deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox, who welcomed the panel. “We want to bring together all the research data we have accumulated. Many of you have worked with us on these studies, and we want to work with you now to translate it and put it into a form that can not only improve teaching but also enhance the entire education system.”
|NICHD deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox (seated, second from l); John Burklow (seated, third from l), NIH associate director for communications and public liaison; and Dr. Bruce Fuchs (seated third from r), director of NIH’s Office of Science Education, meet with a panel of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
She said NICHD has recognized that its role must expand. It’s “more than just conducting
research on how children learn,” she continued. “It’s also about getting that knowledge to teachers
so they can exercise
the best skills possible in their classrooms, and it’s about changing policies
so that we can improve system-wide.”
Offering greetings on behalf of NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni, John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison, said the agency is committed to encouraging healthy behavior as early as possible by educating
children about diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices through the “WE CAN” [Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition] national program. In addition, NIH wants more young people to pursue science as a career, he said, so that the medical research community remains vibrant and continues to gain public trust around the world.
Dr. Bruce Fuchs, director of NIH’s Office of Science
Education, also addressed the panel. Referring
to a January 2008 letter Zerhouni sent to grantees, Fuchs reiterated NIH’s concern about growing the “talent base we’re going to need to continue to have the researchers in the future to make a place like the NIH go.”
|Fuchs joins then-NCATE presi-dent Dr. Arthur Wise (c) and Dr. Jennifer LoCasale-Crouch of the University of Virginia for an expert panel discussion on translating child development research into classroom practices.
In the desk-to-desk note, the director wrote, “Our best hope for making a broad impact on the children of this nation would be to have a grassroots movement of scientists across the country, rallying for improved science education
in their own communities.” Zerhouni also suggested “ways that you might use the tools developed at NIH to partner with local teachers and officials and help revitalize American science
education. I hope that many of you rise to this challenge. If those of us already passionate about science don’t carry the torch, who will?”
Fuchs said he’s been inspired to “think much more broadly than simply science education…think more broadly about skills—particularly
the skills that kids are going to need in our economy today if they hope to be employed at something approaching a middle-class level.”
He noted that it’s relatively easy to draw a diagram for how basic medical research gets from labs to clinics to doctors in small practices
around the country. [However] it’s virtually impossible to trace results of learning research in a similar “connect-the-dots” way.
“How does knowledge from research and practice
get translated through teacher education?” he asked. “That’s the guiding question you all will help answer. And that’s a huge challenge.”
Tailoring the Yardsticks
After setting goals for the meeting and reviewing
NICHD-NCATE-commissioned reports, panelists discussed a variety of issues including nationwide standards for making child development
knowledge an innate component of teacher preparation models. Although hundreds of colleges use NCATE measurements as a base, interpretations of the standards are uneven across the country, the panel found. Are the criteria
rigorous enough to be effective, or are they merely an “exercise in compliance?” one panelist
asked. Other experts thought aloud that the yardsticks themselves were effective, but that widely divergent applications of the standards might pose the problem. Another suggested that the panel recommend ethical or moral factors
be added to development standards. The group even dabbled in semantics, as members
briefly considered the difference between “learning” and “development.”
As often happens when a bunch of smart people are captive together and focused on a shared goal, time sped by. Late in the afternoon on the final day, the presentations and brainstorming drew to a close with plans to review exemplary curriculum strategies and practices at the next meeting slated for some time in November.
“The state of child and adolescent development
research is more robust than its practice,”
acknowledged Dr. Arthur Wise, NCATE president. “More knowledge [exists] that would be useful if it were made accessible to [teachers]…
There is much more we can do to effectively
prepare our teachers. It’s going to take some changes.”