The philosophical aims for the continuing professional education of teachers held by administrators, educational directors, program designers, and principal investigators funded by the National Sea Grant College Program

Howard Dwayne Walters

Abstract

Administrators, education professionals, and principal investigators (PIs) associated with the National Sea Grant College Program, the 30 various state Sea Grant Colleges (SGC), and the PIs identified by the SGC as the major developers of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) programming for teachers in the U.S. were surveyed for philosophies of education. Respondents were solicited for "hard copies" of program literature and educational planning documents or strategic plans for their programs. These data were analyzed to determine the major philosophical aim for CPE among this group. Of the 92 individuals identified meeting the criteria for inclusion in the study, 54 (58.7%) provided data for analyses. The data illuminated the consistency between espoused philosophical aim/theory-in-action and the theory-in-use as revealed by concrete programming. The researcher found a consistent philosophy-to-practice continuum among the data collected for the study as follows: Sea Grant believes teachers are uniquely positioned to create an enhanced sense of environmental stewardship and understanding among the public due to their roles and tasks, i.e., their impact on students. Science, however, is changing rapidly, and teachers need CPE to stay abreast of new knowledge. CPE for teachers should focus on providing teachers an enhanced understanding of science and the latest developments in curricular materials to remain effective. This philosophy closely resembles the Cultivation of the Intellect position as described by Darkenwald and Merriam (1982). Following the analyses, the findings were provided to a panel of experts on Sea Grant's history and programming efforts who substantiated this philosophy--heightening the credibility and validity of the study's findings. The following factors were suggested as a rationale for the development of a philosophy to practice continuum in Sea Grant sponsored CPE: (1) the historic involvement of individuals who possessed a strong science background; (2) a "tight" match between the mission of the organization and the personnel involved with programming; (3) a small number of individuals involved in educational programming coupled with an effective, systematic communications process linking these individuals; and (4) limited funding for education resulted in creativity to leverage program impact. The researcher concluded practitioners of CPE can deliver programming consistent with a philosophical position, even when they may not possess a conscious awareness of that position. Further, the researcher suggests that refinements in research methodologies to include more holistic and system-wide efforts may clarify the relationship between philosophy and practice. Finally, the consistency between philosophy and practice when linked to a specified societal end-state suggests revisions to program planning theory may be warranted.