For the past couple of weeks, I’ve worked with a district as they implement a new instructional strategy with teachers. Their goal is for fidelity and sustainability of the instructional practice so students can be successful learners. Additionally, knowing teachers are at varying levels of skill and the schools involved have various levels of need, a more customized approach is being taken.
Teaching the Teachers: Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability by Allison Gulamhussein, a 2013 report published by the Center for Public Education (http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/teachingtheteachers), identifies five principles for effective professional development:
- Duration must be significant and ongoing.
- Support (coaching) must be provided through the implementation stage.
- Teachers should learn new concepts via participation in varied, active ways (not listening passively).
- The new practice should be modeled.
- Content presented should be specific to the discipline or grade-level of the teacher.
As the course of sustainability is being navigated, these principles are kept in mind.
Teachers received training on the instructional materials over the summer, and will have follow-up after having time to implement the strategy with students. The focus of my work is support of campus leadership, as well as continued ways to support teachers. We began by creating needs assessment survey for the school leaders to determine their present status. From there some resources were gathered, and a continuous learning planning session was held. During the planning session, initial questions were addressed and leadership shared their ideas of topics for future learning. The most important outcome from the meeting was the feeling that perfection is not expected in the beginning as implementation takes time. In reflection on the meeting, a proposed course of action was created. It included a need-based training for teachers, a workshop for campus leadership to overcome logistic hurdles, training sessions for leadership to support implementation via PLC, and ways to provide feedback to teachers after instruction is observed.
The saying, “Rome was not built in a day,” is one which applies greatly to education. Teachers need time and support when implanting a new instructional strategy. Additionally, they need to know perfection is not expected with the first swing of the bat, rather it is created through experience and coaching.