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Rowan Literacy Consortium helps teachers take ownership of professional development

During the last seven years, College of Education faculty have revolutionized literacy professional development, an accomplishment recently recognized by the American Educational Research Association.

Dr. Midge Madden, associate professor, and Dr. Valarie Lee, assistant professor, Language, Literacy and Special Education, have driven this effort through the Rowan Literacy Consortium (RLC). Originally the RLC invited area K-12 teachers to presentations by national speakers. However, the 100 current participants now use the knowledge they gain to customize plans for their own districts and network with other consortium members. 

"It has evolved over all these years," Madden said. "In the beginning teachers came and listened to people speak about literacy, and now they bring their own knowledge to this consortium."

For example, one district team initially investigated ways to implement the writer's workshop model in their classrooms, developed a turnkey program and ultimately supported other teachers in their school in doing the same thing, Madden said. "So it's constructivist in nature in that it's something that the teachers create along with us," she said. 

The RLC has become known throughout the area. "Midge and I wanted to take a look and study this a little more systematically because we're seeing districts come back year after year," Lee said. 

Therefore, Madden and Lee are examining data from the RLC to determine what sets the program apart from other professional development programs. In doing so, they will study what happens when teachers take ownership of their professional development, what happens when teachers' needs drive professional development and other questions. 

"Taking the model of professional development and putting it into the hands of teachers and giving them ownership ...that's really what the RLC has evolved into," Lee said.