Feature Article Fall 2013
Professional Development Opportunities at WheatonArts: Content, Context, Creativity
By Dr. Iveta Pirgova
Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center has been a Professional Development (PD) provider for decades. Now, however, we have re-assessed our programs and recognize the need to re-design and expand PD programs for educators in order to help teachers and administrators meet the new trends in teaching strategies and to face the new challenges schools are facing today. Our efforts in providing ongoing learning opportunities will be consistent with the latest research on professional development programs.
Our PD opportunities will be informed by research on teaching and learning and will relate to various aspects of subject content. They will be based on teacher-identified needs as we work with them and learn from them. They will be continuous and ongoing, incorporating principles of adult learning and providing a follow-up dialogue for further improvement. The engagement of teachers and other education personnel will be critical to the success of the future programs’ development.
We plan to base our PD opportunities for educators on three major principles: content, context and creativity.
We recognize that the content of professional development is associated with a well-planned long-term strategy. To be effective, it must be based on major curricular and instructional strategies. It must help teachers deepen their knowledge of the discipline-related subjects, improve their teaching skills, broaden their teaching methods, and contribute new knowledge to the profession. Learning, teaching and relating to out-of-class life experiences will be understood as necessary factors for a high-quality professional development.
WheatonArts’ PD programs will be designed for educators of all disciplines – arts, music and dance, social studies, history, language arts, ESL, science and technology and mathematics, all based on the NJ Core Curriculum Standards.
Schools today face an array of complex challenges. They work with an increasingly diverse population of students and integrate new technology in the classroom while striving to meet high academic standards. Today, more than ever, teachers invest time and effort to improve their knowledge and skills. Here, at WheatonArts, we would like to be a part of this effort and to assist educators with achieving their goals.
As an arts and cultural institution WheatonArts has rich resources as well as contacts with artists and community leaders representing more than 50 ethnic communities in our region. We want to offer our resources to the educators through PD programs and other learning opportunities. Our public programs reflect the cultural diversity in South Jersey and present a variety of art forms (both traditional and contemporary) that could be useful to teachers willing to interpret local cultural dynamics in a classroom and to connect their subject content to the life experiences of their students’ families and communities.
We understand that professional development is not limited to one-time events but is a long-term learning process. That is why we would like to offer not only a series of workshops, training seminars, hands-on activities or conferences, formal presentations and discussions but to also see them as connected and developed over time. We also want to follow up some of them with in-school projects.
Creativity is a key concept of our mission statement and we would like to see it integrated in all professional development programs whether it be through focus on arts and cultures or interpreted in the broader context of today’s life and technology. We like the idea of the “learning teams” and are willing to participate in such teams together with teachers and school administrators.
In a word, we would like to offer different forms of partnerships to teachers or teams of teachers who would like to explore new ideas for cross-curricula projects, interpret art or history in a cultural context, or relate science and technology to changing social dynamics and ways if life.
Details about professional opportunities offered this fall at WheatonArts can be found in the Professional Development Section of this newsletter.