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- 2013 Directory of Summer Camps and Programs
- Pursuing Equity Through Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
- Single-Sex Education: The Connecticut Context
- The Perceptions of General Education Teachers about the Over-Representation of Black Students in Special Education
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|Effective Professional Development: Principles and Beliefs|
Effective professional development is an essential and indispensable process, without which schools and programs cannot hope to achieve their desired goals for student achievement.
SERC's programs and initiatives are built on the belief that the continued growth and ongoing development of professionals and other personnel are both key to the effectiveness of the educational system and critical to retaining the best people in the profession (Fullan & Stiegelbauer, 1991). SERC activities are designed with the vision that a person who has opportunities to learn, reflect, and apply skills related to their profession can best provide the same opportunities for children.
Professional development is an experience shaped by the willingness and readiness for change by educators, families, and other stakeholders. There is no single "ideal" model that meets every school's/district's needs and requirements. The diversity of cultures and uniqueness of concerns are thus acknowledged and valued. At the same time, researchers and practitioners have identified a number of guiding principles and beliefs that are consistently evident in successful professional development and technical assistance efforts (Guskey & Huberman, 1995). This research, when combined with years of experience in providing training and technical assistance programs, provides a framework for the design and delivery of professional development through SERC.
Two key concepts are central to SERC professional development programs: high quality staff development concurrent with organizational development; and, improvement of performance through both individual achievement and systemic change. Following is a brief review of the principles and beliefs that drive SERC program design, implementation, and evaluation.
#1 COLLEGIALITY AND COLLABORATION
SERC supports professional development activities that are team-based to facilitate collegiality and collaboration. Each component of a professional development plan must model and strive to facilitate collaboration and team building from multiple perspectives, e.g., stakeholders and philosophy. From needs assessment to evaluation, each program component should be conducted with teamwork as a critical focus. Educators should be collaboratively involved in planning and applying their own learning experiences (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991; Rosenfield & Gravois, 1996).
Professional development provided through SERC works to meet the needs of the adult learner; accepts that professional development is highly personal for each professional; and acknowledges that change is a process that takes time (Sparks & Hirsh, 1997). Professional development programs should be designed and implemented for one of four major purposes:
Administrators and teachers alike must strive to weave professional development into the fabric of day-to-day practice. SERC actively works with school personnel in re-evaluating schedules and resources to enable teachers and others to engage in active, productive, and job-embedded learning experiences. Adequate time must be found within the school day to allow school personnel to learn and work together to accomplish identified goals (National Staff Development Council's Standards for Staff Development, 1995). Effective professional development must be designed to respect the leadership capacity of teachers, administrators, and others in the school community while promoting continuous inquiry and improvement embedded in the daily life of schools (Donahoe, 1993).
#5 INTEGRATED PLANNING
Segmented, uncoordinated training projects are often seen as "a steady stream of episodic innovations" (Fullan & Miles, 1992) which come and go but produce no lasting change. "Change is complex and practitioners require on-going high quality professional development after the in-service component" (Fullan, 1999). This post activity component includes opportunities for educators to practice new skills and receive structured feedback (The National Staff Development Council Standards, 1995). SERC offers an integrative approach to provide high quality professional development programs, activities, study groups, and technical assistance to schools, families, and the community. Major training and technical assistance initiatives are coordinated with more traditional short-term professional development activities and both are driven by a clear, compelling vision related to increasing knowledge and awareness of educational issues.
#6 SYSTEMS THINKING
"In systems thinking, the whole is primary and the parts are secondary versus in analytic thinking, the parts are primary and the whole is secondary" (Barker, 1993). Systems thinking centers on the complex, interdependent interrelationships among the various aspects of an entire system. Effective professional development activities, however varied, should share common elements and focuses. This comprehensive approach to change significantly increases the potential that all components of a system (e.g., assessment, curriculum, and teacher evaluation) compliment each other and work toward a measurable set of outcomes related to improving student achievement and enhancing instruction. SERC designs professional development and other change activities with primary consideration given to this systems thinking approach. SERC recognizes the three phases of the change process: initiation, implementation, and institutionalization. The programs, activities, and technical assistance offered to Connecticut's schools complement and reinforce major school restructuring and school reform efforts.
#7 PHASES OF CHANGE
SERC acknowledges in all of its professional development activities that meaningful change most often takes place over an extended period of time and is dependent on the commitment of individuals and the systems in which they work. It also tends to move through several phases of change (Fullan, 1998). The three major phases of change outlined below provide only a general image of a very complex, non-linear, circular process in which events at one phase can provide feedback to alter decisions made at previous stages.
#8 COMPLEX NATURE OF CHANGE
SERC acknowledges that the complex nature of change should always be a primary consideration in the design and implementation of effective professional development programs (Fullan, 1998).
#9 MANAGING COMPLEX CHANGE
Effective innovation requires monitoring of implementation, communication, linking with other initiatives, identification of unsolved problems, and clear, concise problem-solving action. SERC programs acknowledge that change is complex and requires consideration of multiple elements. These include: clarification of confusing or problematic elements; new skill development and mediation of accompanying anxiety; ongoing incentives (e.g., release time, stipend for additional work, continuing training, peer and administrative support); sufficient resources/support to allow meaningful implementation; and well-designed action plans (National Staff Development Council's Standards For Development, 1995). See graphic on the following page.
#10 RESULTS-DRIVEN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
SERC embraces the belief that professional development should be evaluated based on its impact on student achievement, including students with disabilities, and rooted in the best available research. Results-driven education that evaluates the success of public education by what students actually know and are able to do requires results-driven staff development (National Staff Development Council's Standards For Development, 1995). Professional development programs are judged primarily by whether they change instructional practice in a way that contributes to increased student achievement. Training programs should include three principle measures of evaluation: