Offer a lab day to a Cotsen mentor or fellow and whether the lab is for reading, writing, or math, the response is a quick “I’ll be there.” Teachers know the day will be “hands on” work with students and Cotsen colleagues in a volunteer teacher’s classroom. Enthusiasm is heightened by the opportunity to interact also with a content expert who facilitates the planning and models teaching moves for the observers.
This type of professional development is unique in that it offers fellows the opportunity to deepen content knowledge while practicing classroom pedagogy in a job-embedded context. Since collaboration during planning is also an essential part of the day, this effort builds and strengthens the learning community among the teachers. In effect, the classroom becomes a laboratory for both students’ and teachers’ growth.
Cognitively Guided Instruction Math Lab days in the ART of TEACHING – typically facilitated by the content expert – start with the teachers meeting around a table, looking at student work to determine the goal for student learning. Based on the goal, teachers and facilitator discuss the nature of the problem to be presented and debate the number choices before writing the problem. Task completed, the group enters the classroom where the problem is posed and teachers probe student thinking, purposefully questioning their strategies. The content expert circulates, taking notes, listening to teachers coach. Student work done and collected, teachers return to get feedback and to analyze the papers for guidance in determining the next lesson to be implemented in their return to the classroom.
Lab days, it turns, out serve a dual purpose. For Mentor Aaron Brown of Escalona in Norwalk-La Mirada “…the work done during our lab days with Joan Case serves as a model for the work I do with fellows.” He and the fellows also observed, “As valuable as it is to hear and read about the aspects of CGI, seeing it in action makes it real.” That sentiment was echoed by teachers at Culver City’s El Marino about a lab day with Angela Chan Turrou, one noting “The whole concept of the professional development was a light bulb moment for me.”