Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process

Contributed by:
Sharp Tutor
This paper refocuses attention on the classroom, specifically on the importance of teacher professional development in changing teachers’ classroom behaviors in ways that lead to improvement in student performance. Using a framework designed by the National Staff Development Council, the paper describes the context, content, and process of high-quality teacher professional development.
1. Teacher Professional Development:
It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
Sandra H. Harwell, Ph.D.
Vice President, Professional Development
2. © 2003 CORD
Published and distributed by:
P.O. Box 21689
Waco, Texas 76702-1689
The National Staff Development Council’s Standards for Staff Development, Revised Edition
(© 2001 National Staff Development Council) is reprinted with permission as Appendix 1.
The DART Model (© 2002 Florida Department of Education) is reprinted with permission as
Appendix 2.
About CORD
Since 1979, CORD, a national nonprofit organization, has been providing innovations in
education to prepare students for greater success in careers and higher education. CORD assists
educators in secondary schools and colleges through innovative teaching strategies; curriculum
development; professional development; and partnerships with community leaders, families,
and employers. CORD’s current projects involve designing curricula, developing learning
tools, delivering professional development, creating applications of educational technology,
and conducting educational research and evaluation.
About the author
Dr. Sandra Harwell is vice president for professional development at CORD. Prior to joining
CORD, she served as program director for workforce development and adult education for
Suncoast Area Center for Educational Enhancement at the University of South Florida. Her
areas of expertise include professional development, contextual teaching and learning, Tech
Prep programs and articulation plans, and evaluation of technical education at the secondary
school level. Dr. Harwell authored or coauthored several articles for the electronic journal of
the Florida State Department of Education on topics such as the application of brain-based
learning approaches and multiple intelligences theory to school-to-work programs; the role of
learning communities in high-performing schools; and the use of standards to integrate
academic and vocational education. In addition, she developed the workbook accompanying
Dale Parnell’s Why Do I Have to Learn This? (CORD Communications, 1999) and coedited
Promising Practices for Connecting Schools with the Real World (CORD Communications,
Printed July 7, 2003
ISBN 1-57837-358-1
3. Teacher Professional Development:
It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
By and large, education reform initiatives of the last twenty years have improved student
performance very little. The main reason is that too little attention has been paid to what
actually goes on in the classroom.
This paper refocuses attention on the classroom, specifically on the importance of teacher
professional development in changing teachers’ classroom behaviors in ways that lead to
improvement in student performance. Using a framework designed by the National Staff
Development Council, the paper describes the context, content, and process of high-quality
teacher professional development. One of the paper’s primary observations is that sustained,
systematic professional development programs that unfold as processes over time are generally
superior to individual workshops and seminars, which are one-time events.
The paper concludes by showing that online professional development (combined with face-to-
face training) provides two of the most essential elements of effective professional
development: It gives participating teachers opportunities to practice what they learn over
relatively extended periods of time, and it provides an ideal environment for interaction among
participants. In addition, being asynchronous and accessible from any web-connected
computer, online professional development provides a level of convenience that conventional
professional development does not.
4. Foreword ...................................................................................................................................v
Preface ..................................................................................................................................... vi
Introduction ...............................................................................................................................1
The Context of Professional Development ...............................................................................2
The Content of Professional Development ...............................................................................4
The Process of Professional Development ...............................................................................5
Summary ...................................................................................................................................8
Recommendations .....................................................................................................................9
References ...............................................................................................................................11
1. The National Staff Development Council’s Standards for Staff Development, Revised
Edition (© 2001 National Staff Development Council)
2. DART Model (© 2002 Florida Department of Education)
5. “Professional development can succeed only in settings, or contexts, that support it,” Sandra
Harwell writes in “Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process.” She
also emphasizes the role of leaders in establishing such contexts and the significance of
educators’ beliefs as they engage in professional learning. And she stresses the need for a sense
of the “urgency of providing teacher professional development that changes teacher behaviors
in ways that lead to improvement in student performance.” In this paper Harwell identifies the
most important ingredients of professional development in schools—leaders using the best
available knowledge to create professional learning within a high-performance culture that
improves teaching in all classrooms for the benefit of every student.
Superintendents (and other district administrators), principals, and teacher leaders have a
tremendous influence on district and school culture and the quality of professional learning in
schools. That influence is exercised in the countless decisions they make and actions they take
each year that determine whether professional development will focus on student learning,
whether the learning will be embedded in teachers’ daily work, and the means by which the
effort will be evaluated (for instance, whether changes in teaching practice and improvements
in student learning will be assessed in addition to teachers’ satisfaction with the experience).
Too often, educational leaders underestimate their power in shaping professional learning and
the quality teaching that flows from it.
Leaders can approach decisions about professional development with intellectual rigor and
discipline or give them a cursory treatment as an afterthought to more pressing matters.
Likewise, their decisions may be implemented with attention to quality and serious reflection
on their impact or haphazardly executed with a sense of discharging an unpleasant
responsibility. Those are the choices leaders face each time they meet to plan professional
I understand that limited resources and pressure to improve test scores make it very
difficult for educational leaders to give sustained attention to the planning and implementation
of high-quality professional development. We have many compelling reasons for doing things
as we have always done them. But when we become serious about improving teaching for the
benefit of all students, the forms of professional development described by Sandra Harwell as
“unconventional” will be at the center of our attention.
Motivational speakers and “pull-out programs” are insufficient to meet the challenges
faced by teachers. Let us create together team-based professional learning that is blended with
the core processes of teaching and is part of every teacher’s workday. It’s time to use what we
know about quality professional development for the benefit of the students who are now in our
Dennis Sparks
Executive Director
National Staff Development Council
6. For the most part, improving schools is ultimately about improving student performance.
Contrary to popular thought, student achievement is not tied directly to higher expectations,
more accountability, high-stakes tests, more time on task, new curricula and materials, more
computers, or sophisticated lab equipment. Improved student performance is the result of
improved teaching skills focused on average students.
Traditional teacher preparation, as we have experienced it in this country, is tied to the
behaviors, interests, and learning styles of the top students, i.e., the relatively small number of
students who learn abstract concepts easily when taught by teachers who lecture but provide
little in the way of application.
Sandi Harwell knows how average students learn, and how our nation’s teachers can be
empowered to “bring out the best” in those students. Sandi is knowledgeable and highly
experienced in effective contextual teaching practices—and in leading other teachers to
understand and develop strategies for more effective classrooms.
Sandi is a teacher, a researcher, an author, and a “teacher of teachers.” Listen to what she
says. Everyone will learn something!
Dan Hull
President and CEO
7. Teacher Professional Development:
It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
Ever since the publication of “A Nation at Risk” (1983), our education system has been fixated
on raising student performance. Over the last two decades, we have witnessed the coming and
going of many initiatives designed to achieve that end—through the restructuring of schools
and programs and the development of standards, curricula, teaching materials, and, yes,
standardized assessments. Yet, in spite of the billions of dollars spent, student performance has
been affected very little.
The main reason for that failure is that too little attention has been paid to what actually goes on
in the classroom.
The purpose of this paper is to refocus our attention on the classroom, specifically on the
urgency of providing teacher professional development that changes teacher behaviors in ways
that lead to improvement in student performance. In addition to calling attention to the ongoing
need for effective teacher professional development, I will describe the characteristics of high-
quality professional development and make a case for an unconventional approach to
professional development that, unlike “one shot” workshops and inservice days, allows
teachers to acquire and practice new skills over time.
While the end result of all education reform should be student improvement, every reform
initiative, if it is to succeed, must begin with recognition of the importance of teachers in
raising student performance (Ferguson,
1991; Armour-Thomas, Clay, Domanico, While the end result of all education reform
Bruno, & Allen, 1989). In other words, should be student improvement, every reform
“student achievement is the product of initiative, if it is to succeed, must begin with
formal study by educators” (Joyce and recognition of the importance of teachers in
Showers, 2002, p. 3). This is such an raising student performance.
obvious fact that one would expect the
last twenty (reform-minded) years to have witnessed sweeping changes in the way teachers are
educated and in what they do in the classroom. Yet there has been little change in either.
Formal teacher education has changed remarkably little over the years, despite a steady stream
of new educational theories, constant refinement and updating of degree plans at colleges of
education, and, very recently, the advent of “alternative certification” programs. Likewise,
teachers are doing in the classroom more or less the same thing they did a generation ago. A
recent study conducted for the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, in which
teachers were videotaped in the classroom, concluded that, regardless of the structure of the
8. school or the culture of the community, teachers continue to use very traditional teaching
methods (Stigler, Gonzales, Kawanaka, Knoll, and Serrano, 1999).
As long as this is the case, education reform in this country will continue to be largely
ineffective. We cannot expect students to change what they do if we are content for teachers to
continue doing what they have always done. As an old adage puts it, “If you do what you’ve
always done, you will get the results you’ve always gotten.”
So how can we get teachers to change what they do? The answer is high-quality teacher
professional development. When teachers are given the opportunity, via high-quality
professional development, to learn new
strategies for teaching to rigorous We cannot expect students to change what they
standards, they report changing their do if we are content for teachers to continue
teaching in the classroom (Alexander, doing what they have always done.
Heaviside, & Farris, 1998). The problem to
date has not been a lack of professional development opportunities per se. To the contrary,
professional development for teachers has been included in every major initiative designed to
improve student performance. The problem is that the quality of those programs has been
inconsistent, and there has been no consensus on what constitutes quality. Many professional
development activities stop short of producing their intended results; they point out problems
with traditional teaching but offer little help in changing what happens in the classroom and
provide no opportunities for participants to practice what they learn.
If the goal of education reform is to improve student performance through changes in teaching
practices, and if changes in teaching practices are likely to result only from high-quality
professional development, we must ask ourselves a basic question: What are the characteristics
of high-quality professional development? In the following three sections I will address that
question, presenting my observations under headings proposed by the National Staff
Development Council in its standards for staff development: context, process, and content
(Appendix 1).
The Context of Professional Development
Professional development can succeed only in settings, or contexts, that support it. Probably the
most critical part of that support must come from administrators (McLaughlin & Marsh, 1978).
The outcome of every professional development initiative will depend ultimately on whether its
administrators consider it important. For this reason, buy-in on the part of administrators
(whether state directors, superintendents, or principals) is critical to success. The following
remarks of a Tech Prep coordinator in Florida bear testimony to the extent to which lukewarm
administrative support can doom a professional development initiative:
2 Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
9. Years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the restructuring of a school in
which I was a teacher. The principal valued the initial change and his presence
was clearly visible in all aspects of the change process. Between the planning
and the implementation, however, the initiating principal left and a new
principal took his place. The new principal was not interested in the direction in
which the school was headed. While he did not blatantly sabotage the effort, his
passive acceptance of it effectively killed the enthusiasm of the teachers. What
had been a promising innovation was quickly deflated and soon died a quiet
Another characteristic of contexts that support professional development is that they are
conducive to the changes that the professional development is designed to bring about. Before
change can take place there must be a shared sense of need for change—the more strongly and
widely felt the better. For example,
simply telling teachers that scores on
Contexts that support professional
standardized assessments must improve is
development are conducive to the changes that
not enough to generate the sense of
the professional development is designed to
urgency that institutional change requires.
bring about.
They have to sense the urgency
themselves. If the professionals in a given
setting agree about problems and solutions, institutional change is possible, even likely. When
they disagree, the likelihood of change is limited. (In some cases, creating a shared sense of
need for change requires the use of diagnostic tools such as the DART Model, which is
currently being used in Florida [Appendix 2]. The DART Model helps schools assess their need
for improvement by identifying schoolwide gaps in student performance.)
Whether a given context is conducive to change will depend on the extent to which the belief
systems of its teaching professionals agree. Change is far more likely in contexts in which there
is consensus on the answers to certain basic questions:
• Is learning a conscious act involving memorization of facts, or is it an awakening of
consciousness that results from exploration?
• Is the teacher’s job to serve as a facilitator or to present information to passive
• Is learning a private experience or does it evolve through social interaction?
Teachers’ beliefs about the answers to these and other fundamental questions play a significant
role in teaching efficacy (Barfield & Burlingame, 1974; McLaughlin & Marsh, 1978; Aston &
Webb, 1986; Aston, Webb, & Doda, 1982; Dembo & Gibson, 1985; Wolfolk & Hoy, 1990;
Hoy, Wolfolk & Hoy, 1993). At the same time, they can be the most difficult barriers for
Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process 3
10. professional development to overcome, since in many cases they have evolved through years of
teaching experience. This is why professional development often fails to produce its intended
results: When the information and/or strategies presented via professional development
contradict the participating teachers’ beliefs, the teachers usually go right back to what they had
been doing all along.
Changes in teachers’ beliefs are more likely to occur in settings in which teachers consider
learning a communal activity (Joyce & Showers, 2002). When teachers take time to interact,
study together, discuss teaching, and help one another put into practice new skills and
strategies, they grow and their students’ behaviors improve accordingly. This is because social
persuasion is a powerful means of changing beliefs, as has been suggested by a number of
researchers (Bandura, 1995; Schunk, 1981; Zimmerman & Ringle, 1981). A sense of
community, and the “supportive coaching” that it provides, is necessary not only to bring about
changes in beliefs but to help teachers develop and maintain a sense of efficacy regarding new
teaching strategies (Showers, Joyce, & Bennett, 1987).
The Content of Professional Development
Professional development cannot succeed without strong content. The content of the
professional development that is associated with high-performing schools is always focused
and serves a well-planned long-term strategy. To be effective, professional development should
be based on curricular and instructional strategies that have a high probability of affecting
student learning—and, just as important, students’ ability to learn (Joyce and Showers, 2002).
In addition, professional development should (1) deepen teachers’ knowledge of the subjects
being taught; (2) sharpen teaching skills in the classroom; (3) keep up with developments in the
individual fields, and in education generally; (4) generate and contribute new knowledge to the
profession; and (5) increase the ability to
monitor students’ work, in order to provide Professional development should be based on
constructive feedback to students and curricular and instructional strategies that have
appropriately redirect teaching (The National a high probability of affecting student
Commission on Mathematics and Science learning—and, just as important, students’
Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000). ability to learn.
Professional development should always
address identified gaps in student achievement. For example, it would be pointless to offer
professional development to raise student performance in mathematics if students are doing
well in mathematics but poorly in reading or writing. The content of professional development
should center on subject matter, pedagogical weaknesses within the organization, measurement
of student performance, and inquiry regarding professional questions that are relevant to the
setting in which the professional development is delivered. By staying within this frame of
4 Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
11. reference, teacher professional development can focus on real issues and avoid providing
information that may not benefit the participants.
Most importantly, professional development should focus on instructional strategies that are
proven to impact student performance. Moreover, professional development should be
delivered using those strategies—which takes us to the process of professional development.
The Process of Professional Development
Professional development should be designed around research-documented practices that
enable educators to develop the skills necessary to implement what they are learning (Joyce &
Showers, 2002). Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) have identified nine research-
documented practices that improve student performance (see table). Those practices should also
be applied to the improvement of teacher effectiveness via professional development. (Even a
cursory survey of the strategies listed shows that they include some that cannot be adequately
addressed in conventional professional development activities.)
Categories of Instructional Strategies
That Affect Student Achievement
Identifying similarities and differences Nonlinguistic representations
Summarizing and note taking Cooperative learning
Reinforcing effort and providing Setting objectives and providing
recognition feedback
Homework and practice Generating and testing hypotheses
Questions, cues, and advance organizers
(Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001)
The process of professional development should also be based on sound educational practice
such as contextual teaching. Contextual teaching presents information in familiar contexts and
in contexts in which the information is useful. It is effective because it takes advantage of the
fact that learning occurs best when learners process new information or knowledge in such a
way that it makes sense to them in their own frames of reference. Contextual teaching is
consistent with the way the mind naturally functions, as articulated, for example, in Caine,
Caine, and Crowell’s (1999) twelve principles of brain-based learning:
• The brain is a living system—a collection of parts that functions as a whole.
• The brain/mind is social.
• The search for meaning is innate.
Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process 5
12. • The search for meaning occurs through patterning.
• Emotions are critical for patterning.
• Every brain simultaneously perceives
and creates wholes and parts.
Contextual teaching presents information in
• Learning involves both focused
familiar contexts and in contexts in which the
attention and peripheral perception.
information is useful. It is effective because it
• Learning always involves conscious takes advantage of the fact that learning
and unconscious processes. occurs best when learners process new
information or knowledge in such a way that it
• We have at least two ways of makes sense to them in their own frames of
organizing memory—static memory reference.
and dynamic memory.
• Learning is developmental.
• Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat associated with a sense
of helplessness or fatigue.
• Every brain is uniquely organized.
Contextual teaching recognizes the fact that learning with understanding (as opposed to rote
memorization) involves five processes known collectively (after their acronym) as the REACT
strategies (CORD, 1999):
• Relating
Learning in the context of life experience. The process of relating abstract concepts to
familiar ideas and situations utilizes the potential of the dynamic (as opposed to static)
memory systems of our brains.
• Experiencing
Learning in the context of exploration, discovery, and invention. Through experience
students find meaning in learning abstract concepts. Recognition of the need to know
encourages the brain to function at higher cognitive levels.
• Applying
Applying concepts and information in useful contexts. Real-world applications
encountered through mentorships, apprenticeships, or other work-based experiences
provide contexts in which the usefulness of abstract concepts becomes evident.
6 Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
13. • Cooperating
Learning in the context of sharing, responding, and communicating with other learners.
The brain is social. Learning occurs at much higher cognitive levels when learners
• Transferring
Learning in the context of existing knowledge, using and building upon prior learning and
experience. Learners are able to process new information when they can transfer what
they already know to unfamiliar situations and problems.
The REACT strategies are not just about how students learn; they are about teachers as well.
For example, when professional development provides opportunities for participants to interact
(“Cooperating”) or serve as peer resources, what the participants learn in the professional
development transfers to behaviors that are observable in the classroom (Birman, Desimone,
Porter, and Garet, 2000). Professional development in
which participants are given the opportunity to learn new
Professional development
classroom practices in the contexts within which those
in which participants are
practices will be used is far more effective than more
given the opportunity to
traditional methods of professional development. In other
learn new classroom
words, contextual teaching via professional development
practices in the contexts
can be as effective in changing teacher behaviors as within which those practices
contextual teaching in the classroom is in improving will be used is far more
student behaviors. effective than more
Professional development that is designed to take full traditional methods of
advantage of the potential of contextual teaching is professional development.
characterized by the following:
• It supports interaction among master teachers.
• It takes place over an extended period of time (rather than in one-shot workshops and
• It provides opportunities for teachers to try new behaviors in safe environments and
receive feedback from peers.
Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process 7
14. The following table summarizes the characteristics of effective teacher professional
development and factors that contribute to its success.
Context (or setting)
• Supports professional development and the changes it is intended to
bring about
• Is characterized by a shared sense of need for change
• Its teaching professionals agree on answers to basic questions
regarding the nature of learning and the teacher’s role in the
• Its teaching professionals consider learning a communal activity.
• Deepens teachers’ subject matter knowledge
• Sharpens classroom skills
• Is up to date with respect to both subject matter and education in
• Contributes new knowledge to the profession
• Increases the ability to monitor student work
• Addresses identified gaps in student achievement
• Centers on subject matter, pedagogical weaknesses within the
organization, measurement of student performance, and inquiry
regarding locally relevant professional questions
• Focuses on (and is delivered using) proven instructional strategies
• Is research based
• Is based on sound educational practice such as contextual teaching
• Supports interaction among master teachers
• Takes place over extended periods of time
• Provides opportunities for teachers to try new behaviors in safe
environments and receive feedback from peers
8 Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
15. At a time when more and more emphasis is being placed on measuring student performance
and, as a result, on “teaching to the test,” it is critical that we don’t lose sight of what really
makes a difference in student performance—the classroom teacher. We must find models for
preparing teachers to use the findings of research to determine how best to teach content, and
then equip those teachers with knowledge and skills that will enable them to do so.
In pursuing that goal we should seek ways to implement and support professional development
programs that not only empower teachers to succeed in the present but enable them to grow
over time. (This is especially true with respect to technology, which has become an essential
tool in teaching and learning and will continue to play a significant role in education far into
the future.) Professional development programs should focus on how people learn in a world of
unbounded information, and they should give teachers time to reflect and interact within
learning communities.
These recommendations are consistent with those of Sparks and Hirsch (nd), who recommend
the following national professional development model for teachers:
• Create learning schools in which all staff are involved in “sustained, rigorous study of
what they teach and how they teach it” (p. 11).
• Provide time for teacher professional development equaling 25 percent of time during
each day for teachers to work together and to collaboratively plan lessons and share
• Base professional development on the collaboration model—teachers learning from each
This model is not unlike the one in place in Japanese schools. Could it be created here, given
the current structure of our schools? The answer is yes, if we move away from the idea that all
professional development and collaboration must be face to face.
With the technology that is available today, it is possible to create virtual collaborative learning
schools. Time is not an issue in the virtual learning school because the interaction is
asynchronous. Teachers can log on at any time and become immersed in the discussions.
CORD is using this model, in combination with face-to-face delivery, in delivering sustained
professional development in the areas of mathematics enrichment of career technical education
(CTE). The face-to-face time can be structured to meet the requirements of states and districts.
During the face-to-face sessions, teachers learn how to interact and participate in online
discussions as well as how to align CTE standards with state mathematics standards. At the
same time, by collaborating with mathematics teachers, they learn how to present mathematics
instruction effectively. The discussion leader, or moderator, poses scholarly, thought-provoking
Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process 9
16. questions about the integration of mathematics into the teaching of CTE curricula. Teachers are
expected to teach using the methodology taught in the face-to-face sessions (of which there are
3–5 days for each “course”). Online collaboration provides the venue for thinking about and
reflecting on teaching and student learning. This method of delivery holds much promise for
success in changing teacher behaviors in the classroom and for supporting the metacognitive
processes that can improve the quality of teaching in the classroom.
It will be interesting to follow the progress made in the future in the area of improving the
teaching and learning environment. One thing is certain, effective professional development for
teachers can never be simply an event constrained by time. Professional development for
teachers must be part of the process of quality improvement in education.
10 Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
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12 Teacher Professional Development: It’s Not an Event, It’s a Process
19. Appendix 1
The National Staff Development Council’s
Standards for Staff Development, Revised Edition
(© 2001 National Staff Development Council).
Reprinted with permission.
21. Learning Communities
National Staff Leadership
Development Council’s Resources
See inside for the 12 standards and the accompanying
rationale text. Purchase the entire book to receive the case Collaboration
studies, discussion questions, next step suggestions, self
assessment, and annotated bibliography.
©2001 by the National Staff Development Council Quality Teaching
National Staff Development Council
P.O. Box 240 Family Involvement
Oxford, OH 45056
Context Standards
LEARNING COMMUNITIES: Staff development that improves the learning of all students organizes adults
into learning communities whose goals are aligned with those of the school and district.
LEADERSHIP: Staff development that improves the learning of all students requires skillful school and
district leaders who guide continuous instructional improvement.
RESOURCES: Staff development that improves the learning of all students requires resources to support
adult learning and collaboration.
Process Standards
DATA-DRIVEN: Staff development that improves the learning of all students uses disaggregated student
data to determine adult learning priorities, monitor progress, and help sustain continuous improvement.
EVALUATION: Staff development that improves the learning of all students uses multiple sources of
information to guide improvement and demonstrate its impact.
RESEARCH-BASED: Staff development that improves the learning of all students prepares educators to
apply research to decision making.
DESIGN: Staff development that improves the learning of all students uses learning strategies appropriate
to the intended goal.
LEARNING: Staff development that improves the learning of all students applies knowledge about human
learning and change.
COLLABORATION: Staff development that improves the learning of all students provides educators with the
knowledge and skills to collaborate.
EQUITY: Staff development that improves the learning of all students prepares educators to understand
and appreciate all students, create safe, orderly and supportive learning environments, and hold high
expectations for their academic achievement.
QUALITY TEACHING: Staff development that improves the learning of all students deepens educators’
content knowledge, provides them with research-based instructional strategies to assist students in meeting
rigorous academic standards, and prepares them to use various types of classroom assessments appropriately.
FAMILY INVOLVEMENT: Staff development that improves the learning of all students provides educators with
knowledge and skills to involve families and other stakeholders appropriately.
L EARNING C OMMUNITIES : Staff development that improves the
learning of all students organizes adults into learning communities whose
goals are aligned with those of the school and district.
taff development that has as its goal high levels of critiquing student work, and solving the common
learning for all students, teachers, and administra- problems of teaching.
tors requires a form of professional learning that is The teams determine areas in which additional
quite different from the workshop-driven approach. The learning would be helpful and read articles, attend work-
most powerful forms of staff development occur in ongo- shops or courses, or invite consultants to assist them in
ing teams that meet on a regular basis, preferably several acquiring necessary knowledge or skills. In addition to
times a week, for the purposes of learning, joint lesson the regular meetings, participants observe one another in
planning, and problem solving. These teams, often the classroom and conduct other job-related responsibili-
called learning communities or communities of practice, ties. Learning communities are strengthened when other
operate with a commitment to the norms of continuous support staff, administrators, and even school board
improvement and experimentation and engage their members choose to participate, and when communica-
members in improving their daily work to advance the tion is facilitated between teams. Because of this common
achievement of school district and school goals for focus and clear direction, problems of fragmentation and
student learning. incoherence that typically thwart school improvement
Learning teams may be of various sizes and serve efforts are eliminated.
different purposes. For instance, the faculty as a whole Administrator learning communities also meet on
may meet once or twice a month to reflect on its work, a regular basis to deepen participants’ understanding of
engage in appropriate learning, and assess its progress. instructional leadership, identify practical ways to assist
In addition, some members of the faculty may serve on teachers in improving the quality of student work,
school improvement teams or committees that focus on critique one another’s school improvement efforts,
the goals and methods of schoolwide improvement. and learn important skills such as data analysis and
While these teams make important contributions to providing helpful feedback to teachers.
school culture, learning environment and other priority Many educators also benefit from participation in
issues, they do not substitute for the day-to-day profes- regional or national subject-matter networks or school
sional conversations focused on instructional issues that reform consortia that connect schools with common
are the hallmark of effective learning communities. interests. While most such networks have face-to-face
Learning teams meet almost every day and concern meetings, increasing numbers of participants use
themselves with practical ways to improve teaching electronic means such as e-mail, listservs, and bulletin
and learning. Members of learning communities take boards to communicate between meetings or as a substi-
collective responsibility for the learning of all students tute for meetings. Such virtual networks can provide
represented by team members. Teacher members of important sources of information and knowledge as well
learning teams, which consist of four to eight members, as the interpersonal support required to persist over time
assist one another in examining the standards students in changing complex schoolwide or classroom practices.
are required to master, planning more effective lessons,
L EADERSHIP : Staff development that improves the learning of all
students requires skillful school and district leaders who guide continuous
instructional improvement.
uality teaching in all classrooms necessitates skillful goals and continuously improve the school or district’s
leadership at the community, district, school, and work through the ongoing evaluation of staff develop-
classroom levels. Ambitious learning goals for ment’s effectiveness in achieving student learning goals.
students and educators require significant changes in They make certain that employee contracts, annual
curriculum, instruction, assessment, and leadership calendars, and daily schedules provide adequate time
practices. Leaders at all levels recognize quality profes- for learning and collaboration as part of the workday.
sional development as the key strategy for supporting In addition, they align district incentive systems with
significant improvements. They are able to articulate demonstrated knowledge and skill and improvements
the critical link between improved student learning and in student learning rather than seat-time arrangements
the professional learning of teachers. They ensure that all such as courses completed or continuing education
stakeholders – including the school board, parent teacher units earned.
organizations, and the business community – understand Principals and superintendents also distribute
the link and develop the knowledge necessary to serve as leadership responsibilities among teachers and other
advocates for high quality professional development for employees. Distributed leadership enables teachers to
all staff. develop and use their talents as members or chairs of
Staff development leaders come from all ranks of school improvement committees, trainers, coaches,
the organization. They include community representa- mentors, and members of peer review panels. These
tives, school board trustees, administrators, teachers, and leaders make certain that their colleagues have the
support staff. necessary knowledge and skills and other forms of
Principals, superintendents, and other key support that ensure success in these new roles. These
personnel serve as instructional leaders, artfully combine leaders read widely, participate in learning communities,
pressure and support to achieve school and district goals, attend workshops and conferences, and model career-
engage parents and other caretakers in the education long learning by making their learning visible to others.
of their children, and establish partnerships with key All leaders make use of various electronic tools to
community institutions that promote the welfare of support their learning and make their work more
all students. They are clear about their own values and efficient. They use e-mail, listservs, bulletin boards,
beliefs and the effects these values and beliefs have on Internet, and other electronic means to communicate,
others and on the achievement of organizational goals. locate research and other useful information, and seek
As primary carriers of the organization’s culture, they also assistance in problem solving. They enlist other electron-
make certain that their attitudes and behavior represent ic tools to organize and schedule their work, produce and
the values and practices they promote throughout the share documents, and increase their accessibility to
school or district. colleagues, parents, and community members. Skillful
Skillful leaders establish policies and organiza- leaders are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of
tional structures that support ongoing professional various electronic learning processes for themselves and
learning and continuous improvement. They ensure an others and make certain these processes are appropriately
equitable distribution of resources to accomplish district matched to individual and organizational goals.
R ESOURCES : Staff development that improves the learning of all
students requires resources to support adult learning and collaboration.
rofessional learning may be viewed either as an Funds may also be used to provide stipends for lead
investment that will pay future dividends in teachers to serve as mentors or members of training
improved staff performance and student learning or cadres. To these ends, NSDC advocates that school dis-
an expense that diminishes a school district’s ability to tricts dedicate at least ten percent of their budgets to staff
meet its other financial obligations. While the latter view development and that at least 25 percent of an educator’s
has been dominant in many school districts, the National work time be devoted to learning and collaboration with
Staff Development Council’s position is that well designed colleagues. While many schools allocate one percent or
and implemented professional development for school less of their budgets to professional development and offer
employees is an essential long-term investment in virtually no time for adult learning and collaboration,
successfully teaching all students to high standards. others have found ways to provide resources that
Well designed professional development creates approach the amounts recommended by the Council.
learning communities that provide mutual support and Because technology purchases have increased
focus everyone’s attention and learning on a small num- dramatically in many school districts during the past
ber of high priority goals. While the vast majority of decade, often with little attention given to the develop-
educators’ professional learning should occur during the ment of teachers’ abilities to use the technology, NSDC
school day in collaboration with colleagues, it is also advocates that at least 30 percent of the technology
important that they acquire knowledge from sources budget be devoted to teacher development in this area.
outside the school by attending workshops and state and Without opportunities to learn, plan, and practice what
national conferences. However, when most teachers’ and they have learned, district investments in technology
principals’ professional learning occurs away from the will fail to produce the intended benefits for students.
school, it serves as a centrifugal force that leads to To make certain that resources invested in staff
fragmentation and incoherent improvement efforts. development achieve their intended results, district
Professional development resources may serve many incentive systems such as salary supplements for graduate
purposes. For instance, they may fund trainers who help degrees may be redirected to reward demonstrations of
teachers and administrators implement new instructional knowledge and skill and student learning gains rather
strategies and successfully use technology in their class- than seat-time arrangements such as courses taken or
rooms. They may provide full or part-time in-school continuing education units earned. These changes
coaches who assist teachers and principals in implement- require extensive discussions among key district leaders
ing standards-based curriculum in classrooms serving an about the organization’s purposes and the role of profes-
increasingly diverse student population. In addition, sional learning in improving student achievement. They
these resources may support the use of external consult- are also likely to require significant modifications of
ants or facilitators who assist the schools and teams in collective bargaining agreements. However, recognizing
planning and evaluation of program efforts. They can that resources for professional development will continue
also fund substitutes who cover classes while enabling to be scarce, it is vital that the resources be aligned to
educators to learn about leading-edge ideas and practices support the outcomes the districts seek for their educators
through attendance at state and national conferences. and students.
D ATA -D RIVEN : Staff development that improves the learning of all
students uses disaggregated student data to determine adult learning priorities,
monitor progress, and help sustain continuous improvement.
ata from various sources can serve a number of A third use of data occurs at the classroom level
important staff development purposes. First, data as teachers gather evidence of improvements in student
on student learning gathered from standardized tests, learning to determine the effects of their professional
district-made tests, student work samples, portfolios, and learning on their own students. Teacher-made tests,
other sources provide important input to the selection of assignments, portfolios, and other evidence of student
school or district improvement goals and provide focus learning are used by teachers to assess whether staff
for staff development efforts. This process of data analysis development is having desired effects in their classrooms.
and goal development typically determines the content of Because improvements in student learning are a powerful
teachers’ professional learning in the areas of instruction, motivator for teachers, evidence of such improvements
curriculum, and assessment. as a result of staff development experiences helps sustain
Helpful data are typically drawn from other teacher momentum during the inevitable frustrations
sources, including norm-referenced and criterion- and setbacks that accompany complex change efforts.
referenced tests, grade retention, high school completion, Another benefit of data analysis, particularly the exami-
reports of disciplinary actions, school vandalism costs, nation of student work, is that the study of such evidence
enrollment in advanced courses, performance tasks, and is itself a potent means of staff development. Teachers
participation in post-secondary education. Data on indi- who use one of several group processes available for the
vidual tests can be analyzed to learn how much students study of student work report that the ensuing discussions
advanced in one year as well as particular strengths and of the assignment, the link between the work and content
weaknesses associated with the focus of the test. These standards, their expectations for student learning, and the
data are typically disaggregated to reveal differences use of scoring rubrics improve their teaching and student
in learning among subgroups of students. The most learning.
common forms of disaggregation include gender, If data are to provide meaningful guidance in
socioeconomic status, native language, and race. the process of continuous improvement, teachers
A second use of data is in the design and and administrators require professional development
evaluation of staff development efforts, both for formative regarding data analysis, designing assessment instru-
and summative purposes. Early in a staff development ments, implementing various forms of assessment, and
effort, educational leaders must decide what adults will understanding which assessment to use to provide the
learn and be able to do and which types of evidence will desired information. Because the preservice preparation
be accepted as indicators of success. They also determine of teachers and administrators in assessment and data
ways to gather that evidence throughout the change analysis has been weak or nonexistent, educators must
process to help make midcourse corrections to strengthen have generous opportunities to acquire knowledge and
the work of leaders and providers. Data can also indicate skills related to formative classroom assessment, data
to policy makers and funders the impact of staff develop- collection, data analysis, and data-driven planning
ment on teacher practice and student learning. and evaluation.
E VALUATION : Staff development that improves the learning of all
students uses multiple sources of information to guide improvement and
demonstrate its impact.
he quality of staff development experienced by many student learning. In addition, evaluators may also be
teachers and administrators varies considerably from asked to provide evidence of (5) how staff development
year to year and even from teacher to teacher in the has affected school culture and other organizational
same school. As a result, many educational leaders and structures.
policy makers are skeptical about the value of staff devel- Staff development leaders must also recognize that
opment in improving teaching and student learning. different audiences require different evidence. Because
Well-designed staff development evaluation can address the vast majority of decisions about staff development are
this skepticism by serving two broad purposes: made in district offices and at school improvement team
(1) improving the quality of current staff development meetings, the urgent pressure that many school leaders
efforts, and (2) determining the effects of staff develop- feel to improve student learning means that they are
ment in terms of its intended outcomes. interested in knowing now if staff development as it is
Evaluation design is determined by the purpose practiced with their teachers and administrators is
for the evaluation–to improve something or to judge its making a difference. They are not willing to wait several
worth–and by the audience for the evaluation’s findings. months for the district to receive the results of its stan-
The evaluation process begins in the planning stages dardized testing. Likewise, teachers want to know if staff
and is based on clarity of thought regarding outcomes, development is making their work more effective and
the adult learning processes that will be used, and the efficient, particularly whether improvements in student
evidence that is required to guide decision making. It learning justify the often difficult changes they are being
asks and answers significant questions, gathers both asked to make.
quantitative and qualitative information from various School board members and state legislators,
sources, and provides specific recommendations for however, want to know if their increased investment in
future action. staff development is paying off in improvements on state
If staff development is to improve student learning, measures. While state and local policy makers may
many levels of change are required, each with its own prefer evidence derived from more rigorous evaluation
particular evaluation challenges. Unfortunately, a great designs, it is important to remember that they may also
deal of staff development evaluation begins and ends with be influenced by anecdotes and other informal assess-
the assessment of participants’ immediate reactions to ments they hear from teachers or principals at meetings
workshops and courses. While this information may be or in other settings.
helpful to staff development planners, good evaluation Staff development evaluation must take into
design also gathers additional information. Beyond the consideration each group’s needs with regard to evalua-
(1) initial collection of data on participants’ reactions, tion data. It must ensure the process is in place to
evaluation must focus on (2) teachers’ acquisition of new collect the needed data and that the audience has the
knowledge and skills, (3) how that learning affects teach- prerequisite knowledge and skills to interpret and use
ing, and in turn (4) how those changes in practice affect the information.
R ESEARCH -B ASED : Staff development that improves the learning
of all students prepares educators to apply research to decision making.
he charisma of a speaker or the attachment of an to the confusion teachers and administrators feel when
educational leader to an unproven innovation drives asked to select research-based improvement strategies.
staff development in far too many schools. Staff Consequently, it is critical that teams of teachers and
development in these situations is often subject to the fad administrators take the time to study methodically the
du jour and does not live up to its promise of improved research that supports the claims made by advocates of
teaching and higher student achievement. Consequently, a particular approach to instructional improvement
it is essential that teachers and administrators become or whole-school reform. Such study often extends for
informed consumers of educational research when select- several months and includes reading research reports
ing both the content and professional learning processes (particularly those that have been published in peer-
of staff development efforts. reviewed journals), talking with researchers on the
A problem in the use of the term “research-based” telephone or inviting them to the school, and visiting
is that it is applied equally to practices that vary consider- schools that have adopted this approach. During this
ably in the scientific rigor used in their investigation. review, school leaders compare the students on whom
For instance, a person who reads an article in a profes- the research was conducted with the students in their
sional journal in which the author advocates the use of school, examine the research methodology, and deter-
a particular practice without providing any supporting mine if the researcher’s conclusions reflect the evidence
evidence for that assertion may later carelessly describe that was provided. It may also be helpful for the team
that practice to others as “research-based.” Other studies to contrast the research with that of others who make
may cite only teachers’ reports of changes in their own competing claims.
teaching practice and improved student learning as suffi- Because teachers and administrators often seek
cient evidence for the value of the innovation. Still other improvements in areas in which there is little research or
studies may have methodologies that include pretests and in which researchers present contradictory findings, it is
post-tests of students and teachers, classroom observation important that they design pilot studies to determine the
of teachers’ instructional practice, and random assign- effectiveness of new approaches before proceeding with
ment of students to control and experimental groups. large-scale implementation. While such studies (some-
To further add to the confusion, popular educational times called action research) do not require the scientific
journals frequently publish articles in which a researcher rigor of more formal research, it is critical that they
critiques the work of another researcher in a way that clearly stipulate the program’s goals, methods, and the
often produces more heat than light, perplexity rather types of evidence that will be accepted as indicators of
than clarity. success. Such evidence often includes student gains on
While widely varied in their scientific and teacher-made tests and improvements on appropriate
intellectual rigor, these and many other examples add performance tasks.
D ESIGN : Staff development that improves the learning of all students
uses learning strategies appropriate to the intended goal.
ust as successful teaching requires that teachers be shop will not achieve that goal. And while teachers are
adept at using a variety of research-based instruc- likely to adapt their instruction to new standards-based
tional strategies, so too does successful staff develop- curriculum frameworks through the joint planning of
ment require that planners select learning strategies that lessons and the examination of student work with their
are appropriate to the intended outcome and other situa- colleagues, simply reading a journal article about the
tional factors. That means that staff development leaders standards will in most cases be insufficient.
and providers must be aware of and skillful in the The most powerful forms of professional develop-
application of various adult learning strategies. ment often combine learning strategies. To promote the
For many educators, staff development is synony- development of new instructional skills, training may be
mous with training, workshops, courses, and large group combined with coaching, study groups, and action
presentations. They are unaware that teacher and research. To promote the skillful implementation of a
administrator learning can occur through means as standards-based curriculum, study of the subject with
diverse as collaborative lesson design, the examination a content expert may be combined with curriculum
of student work, curriculum development, immersion in replacement units and a course on the development of
the work of mathematicians and scientists, case studies, rubrics.
action research, study groups, and professional networks, Technology provides a useful tool for accessing
to name a few such processes. They are also often various means of professional learning. It provides for the
unaware that training sessions and coursework must individualization of teacher and administrator learning
include numerous live or video models of new instruc- through the use of CD-ROMs, e-mail, the Internet, and
tional strategies, demonstrations in teachers’ classrooms, other distance learning processes. Technology enables
and coaching or other forms of follow-up if those strategies educators to follow their unique learning goals within the
are to become a routine part of teachers’ instructional context of schoolwide staff development plans. They may
repertoire. download lesson plans, conduct research on a particular
It is essential that staff development leaders and topic, or compare their students’ work with that of
providers select learning strategies based on the intended students in other schools or even other countries who
outcomes and their diagnosis of participants’ prior are participating in similar lessons. Technology also
knowledge and experience. For instance, while awareness makes it possible for teachers to form virtual learning
of new ideas may be achieved through large group communities with educators in schools throughout the
presentations, that approach alone is unlikely to lead country and around the world. For example, teachers
to changes in teaching practice. An extended summer may become members of online subject-area networks,
institute with follow-up sessions throughout the school take online courses, and contribute to action research
year will deepen teachers’ content knowledge and is likely projects being done in various locations around the
to have the desired effect. A two-hour after-school work- country.
L EARNING : Staff development that improves the learning of
all students applies knowledge about human learning and change.
o matter the age at which it occurs, human learning evokes in individuals. Even under the best of circum-
is based on a common set of principles. While adults stances, pressure for change, no matter what its source,
have more life experience to draw on than younger may produce feelings of anxiety, fear, and anger. Such
learners and are often clearer about what they want to feelings are most effectively addressed through skillful
learn and why it is important, the means by which the listening and problem solving within a respectful and
learning occurs is remarkably similar. Consequently, it is trusting school culture. It is helpful for educational
important that the learning methods used in professional leaders to appreciate that, to some degree, such feelings
development mirror as closely as possible the methods are natural and an inevitable part of the change process.
teachers are expected to use with their students. Such appreciation is aided when leaders have a deep
It is essential that staff development assist educators understanding of the change literature, particularly the
in moving beyond comprehension of the surface features Concerns-Based Adoption Model, and are able to apply its
of a new idea or innovation to a fuller and more com- insights when planning and implementing new practices
plete understanding of its purposes, critical attributes, in schools.
meaning, and connection to other approaches. To A third dimension of change is the life stage
improve student achievement, adult learning under most of individuals engaged in the change process. While
circumstances must promote deep understanding of a recognition of life stage differences would not alter
topic and provide many opportunities for teachers and expectations for performance, it may affect an
administrators to practice new skills with feedback on individual’s availability and interest in additional work
their performance until those skills become automatic responsibilities during different phases of his or her life.
and habitual. Such deeper understanding typically Recognition of life stage differences may also help staff
requires a number of opportunities to interact with the development leaders in tapping educators’ strengths and
idea or procedure through active learning processes that talents, such as asking skillful veteran teachers to serve
promote reflection such as discussion and dialogue, as mentors or coaches for their peers.
writing, demonstrations, practice with feedback, and Electronic forms of learning may prove particularly
group problem solving. helpful in providing alternatives that respond to differ-
Because people have different learning styles and ences in learning styles and availability due to life stage
strengths, professional development must include oppor- issues. Staff development content may be accessed via the
tunities to see, hear, and do various actions in relation to Internet or other forms of distance technology that will
the content. It is also important that educators are able to enable learning throughout the day in various settings
learn alone and with others and, whenever possible, have using media that appeals to different learning
choices among learning activities. preferences.
Another important dimension of adult engagement
in change processes is the feelings that such change often
C OLLABORATION : Staff development that improves the learning of
all students provides educators with the knowledge and skills to collaborate.
ome of the most important forms of professional opportunities to learn strategies for addressing problems
learning and problem solving occur in group that arise along the way. Outside facilitators can be help-
settings within schools and school districts. ful to groups as they navigate these unfamiliar waters.
Organized groups provide the social interaction that One of the most difficult tasks of such groups is
often deepens learning and the interpersonal support and constructively managing the conflict that inevitably arises
synergy necessary for creatively solving the complex prob- when participants discuss their fundamental beliefs about
lems of teaching and learning. And because many of the teaching and learning and seek the best ways to improve
recommendations contained in these standards advocate student achievement. Some schools have managed
for increased teamwork among teachers and administra- conflict by steering away from controversial issues or
tors in designing lessons, critiquing student work, and pretending that significant disagreements do not exist.
analyzing various types of data, among other tasks, it is Such “pseudo community” or “contrived collegiality” is
imperative that professional learning be directed at a barrier that inhibits educators from speaking honestly
improving the quality of collaborative work. with one another about their views on important issues,
Staff development provides teachers and administra- which is a critical first step in conflict resolution. These
tors appropriate knowledge and skills regarding group candid conversations are essential in reaching consensus
processes to ensure various teams, committees, and on long-term goals and strategies and in finding
departments within schools achieve their goals and pro- solutions to the perennial problems of teaching and
vide satisfying and rewarding experiences for participants. school leadership.
Because acquisition of this knowledge and skill has While collaborative, face-to-face professional learn-
not typically been a part of educators’ professional ing and work are the hallmarks of a school culture that
preparation and because leaders often underestimate its assumes collective responsibility for student learning,
importance, it is essential that professional learning technology will increasingly provide a means for new and
focused on helping educators work together successfully different forms of collaboration. Technology will enable
be given a high priority. Organized groups usually go teachers and administrators from around the country and
through several stages in their development as partici- world to share ideas, strategies, and tools with one anoth-
pants come together, begin to know one another at deeper er in ways that will dramatically increase the number of
levels, get clear about the group’s purpose and ground collaborative links among educators. But electronic
rules, surface and address the inevitable conflict that such forms of such work will also present teachers and admin-
work elicits, and become effective at performing the istrators with new challenges whose outlines are only
group’s work in a manner that satisfies both the task and becoming dimly visible as larger numbers of educators
interpersonal expectations of participants. It is important begin to use these processes to strengthen their teaching
that participants understand that these phases are a and leadership practices.
natural part of group development and that they be given
E QUITY : Staff development that improves the learning of all students
prepares educators to understand and appreciate all students, create safe,
orderly, and supportive learning environments, and hold high expectations
for their academic achievement.
ffective educators know and demonstrate apprecia- Successful educators convey through various means
tion for all their students. Through their attitudes the value and potential that is inherent in each student.
and behaviors, they establish classroom learning They demonstrate understanding, respect, and apprecia-
environments that are emotionally and physically safe tion of students’ cultures and life experiences through
and they communicate high expectations for academic their lessons and daily interaction with students and
achievement and quality interpersonal relationships. their caregivers. High quality staff development provides
Professional development related to these issues is educators with opportunities to understand their own
particularly important when educators are assigned to attitudes regarding race, social class, and culture and
levels other than those for which they were prepared how their attitudes affect their teaching practices and
(for instance, elementary and high school teachers or expectations for student learning and behavior. In
administrators assigned to middle-grades schools) and addition, teachers learn about the cultural backgrounds
when they are teaching students whose backgrounds are of their students and to develop an appreciation of the
significantly different from their own (for instance, white, benefits that diversity provides in their classrooms for
middle-class teachers working in schools that primarily both students’ academic performance and interpersonal
serve students of color and/or those from low-income and social development.
homes). Staff development equips all educators with the
Teachers’ knowledge of their students is an essential knowledge and skills to establish safe and orderly learn-
ingredient of successful teaching. Staff development ing environments characterized by mutual respect in
helps teachers to understand the general cognitive and which academic learning and psycho/social development
social/emotional characteristics of students in order to will occur. It enables teachers to develop classroom
provide developmentally appropriate curriculum and management skills that support positive interaction and
instruction. It provides strategies for tapping the unique nurture students’ capacity for self-management. It assists
learning strengths of each student. In addition, it helps teachers and administrators in creating schoolwide
teachers to use knowledge of their students’ interests and practices that convey respect for students, their families,
backgrounds to assist them in planning meaningful, and their cultural backgrounds. Such practices may
relevant lessons. include school investigations, curriculum units, and
For teachers to act on this knowledge of students, other activities that recognize the contributions and
it is important that staff development equip them with traditions of various cultures. These practices also
ways of providing various types of instruction based on demonstrate sensitivity to caregivers and their students
individual differences. Teachers learn to recognize whose primary language is not English and whose work,
learning strengths and preferences and how to differenti- home life, or cultural traditions makes it difficult for
ate learning activities within their classrooms. They also them to interact with the school and teachers in ways
learn various ways to assess student progress based on most comfortable and familiar to North American
individual differences. educators.
QUALITY TEACHING: Staff development that improves the learning of all students
deepens educators’ content knowledge, provides them with research-based instructional
strategies to assist students in meeting rigorous academic standards, and prepares them
to use various types of classroom assessments appropriately.
uccessful teachers have a deep understanding of the Because classroom assessment when appropriately
subjects they teach, use appropriate instructional conducted can improve student learning as well as gauge
methods, and apply various classroom assessment achievement, it is essential that teachers have a range of
strategies. These teachers participate in sustained, intel- methods at their disposal that promote learning as well
lectually rigorous professional learning regarding the as measure it. Therefore, successful professional develop-
subjects they teach, the strategies they use to teach those ment efforts regularly include opportunities for teachers
subjects, the findings of cognitive scientists regarding to acquire formative classroom assessment techniques
human learning, and the means by which they assess appropriate to the subject matter and types of perform-
student progress in achieving high academic standards. ance called for in state or local standards.
Teachers may acquire deeper understanding of their Fortunately, teachers’ acquisition of this knowledge
subjects through various means. For example, they may and these skills can occur relatively simultaneously. For
serve summer internships in appropriate organizations, instance, teachers may be learning new instructional
attend extended institutes with follow-up activities approaches and assessment techniques while they are
throughout the school year, take traditional university or deepening their understanding of curriculum content.
electronically delivered coursework, perform the activities Teachers who are learning research-based instructional
of individuals involved in that field (for instance, conduct skills may find that their progress is limited by a lack of
historical research), or participate in face-to-face or subject-area knowledge in a particular area and request
electronic subject-area networks. Whenever possible, an on-the-spot explanation of a particular concept.
however, it is important that teachers experience firsthand Teachers who are developing or learning how to use a
as learners the instructional approaches they in turn will scoring rubric for assessment purposes may at the same
be using with their own students. They may also attend time be deepening their content knowledge.
workshops and courses with classroom follow up, partici- In their role as instructional leaders, district and
pate in study groups, visit or watch videotapes of high- school administrators make teacher content knowledge
performing classrooms, observe demonstration lessons, and skills related to curriculum, instruction, and assess-
or receive classroom coaching. Because it is natural ment high priorities. They do so by designing teachers’
that teachers will teach as they themselves are taught, work days to include ongoing professional learning and
it is imperative that the instructional methods used with collaboration and by providing teachers with data to
educators be congruent to the greatest extent possible assist with formative classroom assessment. In addition,
with those they are expected to use in their classroom they create a district and school culture of innovation and
Teachers depend on other knowledge and skills to continuous improvement by visiting classrooms regularly
facilitate student success. Examples of such additional to observe instruction and by engaging in frequent
content include classroom management, fundamental conversations with teachers individually and collectively
technological skills that increase teacher productivity, as about instruction and student learning.
well as mentoring and coaching skills for teacher leaders.
Again, teachers must experience appropriate staff develop-
11 ment designs to facilitate the desired outcome for students.
F AMILY I NVOLVEMENT: Staff development that improves the learning
of all students provides educators with knowledge and skills to involve families
and other stakeholders appropriately.
t its best, the education of young people is a Teachers who establish partnerships with the families
partnership between the school, the home, and the or other caregivers of their students must understand the
community. Effective partnerships, however, require cultural backgrounds of their students and the unique
leadership, a compelling purpose for their work, and a set challenges those families may be experiencing. Teachers
of mutually agreed-upon goals. Educators who wish to must be able to communicate clearly and respectfully
strengthen the bonds among those individuals and with family members and demonstrate a genuine interest
organizations who contribute to the education and in the welfare of the child and family. They must be
welfare of a community’s youth must be knowledgeable skillful in conducting meetings with caregivers that
about various ways in which families and community create a sense of teamwork between the home and school
members can be involved meaningfully in the affairs of as well as delineate appropriate and manageable ways for
the school for the benefit of students. providing support for a student’s learning at home. In
Different types of partnerships require different addition, teachers must demonstrate sensitivity to ways in
sets of knowledge and skills. School and district-level which caregivers may be most appropriately involved in
administrators are responsible for forging a consensus on schools as classroom volunteers or committee members.
mission and goals and the underlying values and beliefs Technology provides teachers and administrators
that support their work. They also must be able to with important tools for this work. While not applicable
engage the community in a way that sustains this collab- in all communities or with all families, some schools
orative work over a sufficient period of time to realize the have strengthened their connections with families and
intended improvements. Leaders who are successful at the community by posting school news and homework
these tasks see consensus building with the broader assignments on school or district web sites and by easing
school community as an important part of their work, are communication with teachers by providing e-mail
skillful in communicating in clear, direct language (both or voice mail access to families. Other schools are
orally and in writing), and are effective in conducting increasing the availability of computers to all students by
meetings that balance task achievement and relationships. working with community organizations such as libraries
These leaders are both clear about their own values and and churches. While Internet-based communication may
beliefs and respectful of the values and beliefs of others. seem like a pipe dream in schools where teachers still do
Such work requires a capacity to convey authentic interest not have ready access to telephones or copy machines,
in the perspectives of others, to listen deeply and honor the availability of such technology is growing at an
others’ points of view, and to identify areas of common increasing rate and should be available to virtually
interest. all schools.
35. Appendix 2
DART Model (© 2002 Florida Department of Education).
Reprinted with permission.
37. Going the Numbers to
Improve Instruction with
DART 2002 – Form HS
(For High Schools)
A model for using FCAT
results to improve instruction
September 2002 Version
Office of School Improvement
Florida Department of Education
325 W. Gaines St., Suite 424
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400
(850) 487-1023 or SunCom 277-1023