Designing and Implementing Effective Professional Learning
Publication Year: 2014
For sustained success, educators must commit to their own lifelong improvement.
Commitment to high-quality professional learning is a common aspect of educational systems of the the world's highest-achieving nations. Despite evidence that effective professional learning can be a powerful lever for school improvement, much of the professional development (PD) that is conducted in the United States has had limited impact on teacher practice…
In these pages, John Murray identifies research-based characteristics of effective teacher professional learning, detailing eight strategies for planning and executing professional development programs and evaluating their results. Content includes: The proven “backward” approach to articulating the goals of your PD program; Descriptions of innovative and effective designs for professional learning such as Lesson Study and Instructional Rounds; Powerful approaches to designing and implementing online ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: The Need for Change
- Traditional Approaches to Teacher Professional Learning
- New Demands Require Change
- Chapter 2: Effective Teacher Professional Learning
- Theoretical Models of Professional Development Action
- Characteristics of Effective Professional Development
- Focus on Student Learning and Specific Content
- Extended Over Time and Connected to Practice
- Align with School Priorities and Goals
- Build Strong Collaborative Working Relationships
- Chapter 3: Context: Building an Atmosphere to Support Teacher Learning
- Learning Communities
- Supportive and Shared Leadership
- Shared Values and Vision
- Collective Learning and Application of Learning
- Shared Personal Practice
- Results Orientation
- Clarity of Purpose
- Communicate Expectations
- Attend to the Foundation
- Begin with a Problem or a Goal
- Teach Collaboration Skills
- Develop the Leadership Capacity of Teachers
- Chapter 4: Content: Specifying the Goals of Professional Learning Activities
- Identifying Goals
- Step 1: Identifying Student Needs
- Step 2: Identifying Teacher Needs
- Step 3: Stating Specific Professional Learning Goals
- Evaluating Your Professional Development Program
- Element 1: Teacher Reactions
- Element 2: Teacher Learning
- Element 3: Teacher Use of New Knowledge and Skills
- Element 4: Student Learning
- Excellent Evaluations Focus on Evidence, Not Proof
- Chapter 5: Process: Selecting Specific Activities and Strategies
- Learning Designs
- Who Should Be Involved?
- Connecting Learning Goals with Specific Strategies
- Attend to the Change Process
- The Issue of Time
- The Issue of Cost
- Chapter 6: Lesson Study
- A Cycle of Instructional Improvement
- The Lesson Study Philosophy
- Lesson Study Steps
- Step 1: Forming and Focusing the Group
- Step 2: Collaboratively Planning the Research Lesson
- Step 3: Teaching and Observing the Research Lesson
- Step 4: Discussing the Research Lesson
- Step 5: Revising and Reteaching the Lesson
- Step 6: Discussing the Revised Lesson and Summarizing the Learning
- The Essential Elements of Lesson Study
- Adult Learning Context
- Content Knowledge Focus
- Student Learning Focus
- In-Person Observation
- Administrative Support and Participation
- Challenges to Engaging in Lesson Study: Misconceptions to Avoid
- Chapter 7: Critical Friends
- The Origins of Critical Friends
- The Philosophy of CFGs
- Critical Friends Steps
- Forming the Group
- Meeting Preparation
- The Meeting
- Between Meetings
- The Essential Elements of Critical Friends
- Commitment from the Top
- Training and Resources
- Collaborative School Culture
- Focus on Instructional Practice
- Benefits of CFGs
- CFGs Foster a Culture of Community and Collaboration
- CFGs Enhance Teacher Professionalism
- CFGs Influence Teacher Thinking and Practice
- Chapter 8: School Rounds
- A Lesson from Medicine
- The Rationale for School Rounds
- The Steps in School Rounds
- Forming Rounds Groups
- Rounds Preparation
- The Rounds Lesson
- The Debriefing
- Post-Rounds Reflection
- Learning with Rounds
- Chapter 9: Action Research
- A Hands-on Approach
- Why Choose Action Research?
- The Action Research Process
- Individuals or Groups?
- Selecting a Focus
- Creating a Plan
- Collecting Data
- Analyzing and Interpreting Data
- Taking Action
- Sharing What Has Been Learned
- Benefits of Action Research
- Chapter 10: Mentoring
- The Power of Relationships
- Why Mentoring Matters
- Essential Steps in Building a Mentoring Program
- Step 1: Creating a Vision
- Step 2: Competencies and Responsibilities
- Step 3: A Structure for Mentoring
- Step 4: Finding the Time
- Step 5: Mentor Selection Process
- Step 6: Determining Training Methods
- The Work of Mentoring
- The Beginning of the Year
- Disillusionment, Frustration, and Rejuvenation
- Reflecting and Planning
- The Role of the Principal
- Essential Elements
- Chapter 11: Peer Coaching
- Harnessing Peer-to-Peer Wisdom
- The Rationale for Peer Coaching
- Essential Steps of the Peer Coaching Process
- Step 1: Get Things Started
- Step 2: Identify a Need and Specify an Outcome
- Step 3: Understand the Current Reality
- Step 4: Explore Assumptions
- Step 5: Create and Test Alternative Solutions
- Step 6: Monitor Progress
- Essential Elements
- Chapter 12: Online Professional Development
- The Rationale for Online Professional Development
- A Framework for Implementing Online Professional Development
- Who Should Be Involved?
- Technology Considerations
- Addressing Online Professional Development Myths
- Connect Learning Goals with Specific Online Options
- Determine When Teachers Will Participate
- Align Online Professional Development with On-Site Professional Learning
- Monitoring and Evaluating Online Professional Development
- Leading Online Professional Development Efforts
- Chapter 13: Personal Learning Networks
- Going Global
- The Power of PLNs
- The Process of Creating and Cultivating PLNs
- Getting Started
- Step 1: Introduction to Digital Tools and Creating a Blog
- Step 2: Social Networking
- Step 3: Using an Aggregator
- Step 4: Podcasting and Media Sharing
- Step 5: Creating Online Slideshows
- Step 6: Microblogging
- Step 7: Reflecting
- Using Tools to Connect: Early PLN Formation
- Advanced PLN Formation: What Does It Look Like?
- The Challenges of PLNs
- Chapter 14: The Challenges of Introducing New Forms of Teacher Professional Learning
- How Have Teachers Experienced Past Professional Development?
- Are Teacher Needs and Preferences Being Considered?
- Are Teachers Treated with Respect?
- Are Teachers Being Asked to Collaborate, Think, and Innovate?
- Do School Leaders Make the New Strategies Easy to Implement?
- Are Professional Development Activities Linked to a Compelling Purpose?
- Breaking Down Barriers
- Involve Teachers in the Process
- Help Teachers Experience Early Success
- Support Teacher Efforts
- Attend to Context
- Keep the Focus on Student Learning
- Chapter 15: A Call to Action
for Krissy, Emma, and Claire, who inspire me to give my best every single day
Copyright © 2014 by Corwin
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List of Figures[Page xi]
- Figure 2.1 Theoretical Model of Professional Development Action 12
- Figure 2.2 Adult Learning Principles 13
- Figure 2.3 The Shift From Traditional PD to Research-Based Effective PD 14
- Figure 3.1 Four Cost-Effective Ways to Create a Context Supportive of Teacher Professional Learning 31
- Figure 4.1 Teacher Professional Development Program Evaluation 47
- Table 5.1 The Purposes and Rationales for Eight Powerful Professional Development Strategies 56
- Table 5.2 Time Commitments Required by Eight Powerful Professional Development Strategies 58
- Table 5.3 Resources Needed for Eight Powerful Professional Development Strategies 60
- Figure 6.1 Lesson Study Features and Results 68
- Figure 6.2 Choosing a Lesson Study Goal 69
- Figure 6.3 Template for Detailed Lesson Study Lesson Plan Document 71
- Figure 7.1 Group Member Roles in a CFG 87
- Figure 7.2 Critical Friends’ Protocols and Their Uses 88
- Figure 7.3 A Process for Establishing Group Norms in CFGs 92
- Figure 7.4 Steps in the Consultancy Protocol 97
- Figure 7.5 Steps in the Assignment Protocol 98 [Page xii]
- Figure 8.1 Norms of Collaboration for School Rounds 110
- Figure 8.2 Broad Learning Questions for the Post-Rounds Reflection 113
- Figure 9.1 The Action Research Cycle 123
- Figure 9.2 Steps in the Action Research Process 123
- Figure 9.3 Worksheet for Generating Action Research Topics and Questions 125
- Figure 9.4 Worksheet for Developing an Action Research Plan 127
- Figure 9.5 Using What Has Been Learned to Take Action 131
- Figure 10.1 Questions to Ask and Answer in Building the Foundation for an Effective Mentoring Program 140
- Figure 10.2 Qualities of Effective Mentors 141
- Figure 10.3 Questions to Help Mentors Connect With Mentees 147
- Figure 11.1 Comparing the Three Types of Peer Coaching 156
- Figure 11.2 The Peer Coaching Process 161
- Figure 13.1 Three Types of Connections of a PLN 184
- Figure 13.2 The Process of Constructing a PLN 190
- Figure 13.3 Expanding Your PLN: Some of the Best Digital Tools 191
Nothing has promised so much and been so frustratingly wasteful as the thousands of workshops and conferences that led to no significant change in practice when teachers returned to their classroom.—Michael Fullan
A friend of mine has a rare kidney disease. Her prognosis is good as she goes in for treatments and meets with her doctor regularly to examine her progress. Her doctor meets with other physicians to discuss her test results and they share their perspectives, insights, and approaches in treating cases like hers. Her doctor is confident that she is receiving quality care based on the combined knowledge and experience of their team. These doctors dedicate a half day every week to review cases, look at new information emerging from research, and determine the most promising treatments for their patients. By focusing on consistent collaboration and communication, rather than functioning as solitary practitioners, the physicians improve their individual and collective practices.
We expect our doctors to regularly evaluate and monitor our health and to select the best available plan for improvement—and we demand that they eliminate treatments that don't work and replace them with more effective ones. But we rarely make the same demands of our schools and our teachers. Professionals in other fields, from medicine to financial management to law, engage in ongoing learning opportunities. The time has come for schools to engage teachers in learning the way other professions do—continuously, collaboratively, and on the job.
Fortunately, examples of how to do this already exist, as many countries are working to improve their education systems by investing [Page xiv]in teacher learning as a major engine for student achievement. The highest-achieving countries on international measures, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), have been particularly focused on developing teachers’ expertise both before and after they enter the profession and throughout their careers (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999).
Noted educational researchers Linda Darling-Hammond (2003) and Vivien Stewart (2011) have studied the professional learning opportunities provided for teachers in the high-achieving nations of Finland, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom and have found that their teacher learning programs share many features, including
- teacher learning opportunities sustained over time;
- time for teacher professional learning embedded into the school day;
- teacher learning opportunities involving active learning and collaboration;
- professional learning activities embedded in context and focused on specific content to be taught to specific grade levels; and
- teachers who are involved in decisions about curriculum, assessment, and professional learning content and activities.
In these countries, professional development is not something that is done to teachers. It is a process focused on improving student learning, and it requires teacher engagement and active teacher learning.
Unfortunately, while there is understanding about what constitutes effective teacher professional learning, multiple studies (Birman et al., 2007; Blank & de las Alas, & Smith, 2008; Murray, 2011; Wei, Darling-Hammond, & Adamson, 2010) have demonstrated that American teachers do not receive the kind of high-quality teacher professional development common in many other nations. For too long, teacher professional development practices have treated educators as passive recipients of information and schools have expected little change in classroom practices. In-service training, consisting of workshops, speakers, and short-term courses, remains the dominant mode of teacher professional learning in most schools in this country. Often called “one-shot” or “drive-by” professional development, traditional in-service training has been criticized by researchers and school [Page xv]teachers and leaders as ineffective in bringing about substantive improvements in teacher knowledge, teacher instructional practices, and student learning. Traditional in-service professional development has consumed tremendous resources over the past two decades, with few corresponding results for teachers and students.
Not only do most schools continue to rely upon fragmented, ineffective one-day or two-day activities; few learning opportunities for teachers also feature the intense emphasis on content, repeated chances for practicing what is learned, and meaningful ongoing conversations about instruction that positively influence teacher learning, classroom practice, and student achievement. Schools lack the structures or cultures to support the kind of job-embedded, sustained, contextual, collaborative teacher professional learning that leads to substantive improvements in teaching and learning. What we all want for our students—a variety of learning opportunities that engage them in experiencing and solving real-world problems, using their own experience, and working with others—is often denied to teachers when they are learners.
For our schools to achieve on a wide scale the kind of teaching that has a substantial impact on student learning, much more intensive and effective professional learning than has traditionally been available is required. If we want all students to possess the higher-order thinking skills they need to succeed in the 21st century, we need educators who possess higher-order teaching skills and deep content knowledge. In this book, I explore how school leaders can work to create meaningful, effective professional development programs in their schools to develop the structures and capacity needed to bring about real change. Professional development is supposed to contribute to change in the classroom, and when it doesn't we waste time and resources and compromise teachers’ trust that time engaged in professional development is well spent. Workshops, speakers, and conferences can raise awareness and enthusiasm, and can impart knowledge, but they rarely provide the opportunities for reflection, discussions with colleagues, and continued support that are needed to bring about real instructional change.
In many ways teacher professional learning is more important now than ever before. As both Thomas Friedman (2007) and Tony Wagner (2008) have powerfully argued in recent years, students need to learn more complex material in preparation for further education and work in the 21st century. Teachers, therefore, must learn instructional approaches that develop the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in an increasingly diverse and interconnected [Page xvi]world. Ensuring student success necessitates new types of instruction, conducted by teachers who understand content, learning, and pedagogy; who can adapt to the diverse needs of their students; and who can build powerful connections between students’ experiences and the goals of the curriculum. These types of transformations demand significant learning on the part of teachers and will not occur without support and guidance. Efforts to improve student achievement can succeed only by building the capacity of teachers to improve their instructional practice and the capacity of schools to promote teacher learning. If teachers are not engaged throughout their careers in learning experiences that enable them to better serve their students, both teachers and students suffer.
Realizing the magnitude and importance of the challenge, the public, politicians, and educators have made high-quality professional learning opportunities for school teachers a priority in modern educational reform proposals (Fishman, Marx, Best, & Tal, 2003). For example, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 requires states to make “high-quality” professional development available for all teachers and this has led to substantial resources being devoted to teacher professional development at the local, state, and federal levels; for example, in 2007–2008 the federal government spent almost $2 billion on professional development for teachers (Desimone, 2009). In addition, The Teaching Commission (2006) has cautioned that “targeted professional development is essential to help teachers meet the demands of recent reforms” (p. 11). Finally, both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have made professional development a priority in their Education Agenda (Darling-Hammond, 2010).
Teachers are not just born; they can be developed. Enhancing the effectiveness of professional learning is the leverage point with the greatest possibility for strengthening the knowledge and teaching practices of educators. For most teachers, professional learning is the most accessible avenue they have for developing the knowledge and skills required to better meet the needs of their students. If teachers are not engaged throughout their careers in new learning experiences that enable them to better serve their students, both teachers and their students suffer. It is the responsibility of every school and every school leader to make teacher growth and development a priority. All school leaders, from superintendents to principals to department heads, must possess a strong resolve to create and maintain the conditions and culture needed to build capacity in the individual and the school. Effective professional learning is learning from the work [Page xvii]teachers do. It involves reflective dialogue, observing and responding to one another's teaching, collaborating to implement new strategies, sharing effective teaching approaches and materials, and engaging in research focused on common issues of practice. It not only involves dialogue and collaboration among teachers within a specific school, but also includes teachers connecting with and learning from educators from around the world through the creation of personal learning networks.
The information, ideas, and recommendations in this book are purposely aligned with Learning Forward's revised Standards for Professional Learning (2011). The seven standards, developed from the literature on best practices for effective teacher professional learning, serve to guide the decisions and practices of all educators charged with designing, managing, implementing, and evaluating professional learning in schools:
- Learning Communities—Professional learning that improves teaching practices and results in enhanced student achievement occurs within adult learning communities committed to continuous improvement.
- Leadership—Professional learning that improves teaching practices and results in enhanced student achievement requires skillful leaders who develop organizational capacity and implement designs to support professional learning.
- Resources—Professional learning that improves teaching practices and results in enhanced student achievement requires prioritizing, monitoring, and coordinating resources for teacher learning.
- Data—Professional learning that improves teaching practices and results in enhanced student achievement uses a variety of data to plan, develop, and assess teacher professional learning.
- Learning Designs—Professional learning that improves teaching practices and results in enhanced student achievement uses research-based learning strategies to achieve its intended goals.
- Implementation—Professional learning that improves teaching practices and results in enhanced student achievement applies research on change and sustains support of implementation of professional learning for long-term change.
- Outcomes—Professional learning that improves teaching practices and results in enhanced student achievement aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards.
[Page xviii]While this book is a balance of research, theory, and practice, it is primarily intended to be a practical resource that educators can use as they work to create meaningful, effective professional learning programs in our schools. For the school principal, it can serve as a comprehensive resource to help them extend and refine their ability to lead effective professional learning. For the superintendent and other central office leaders, it can provide the information needed to give them a sense of the complexity of professional learning and the factors that influence its effectiveness. For the director of professional development, it has the necessary detail and practical information to serve as a guide in creating an effective professional learning plan for the district. And for the teacher-leader, it emphasizes the importance of teachers taking ownership of their own learning and provides practical details regarding how teacher-leaders are an essential part of designing and implementing effective professional learning programs. Finally, most graduate programs in educational leadership, educational administration, or supervision and curriculum have entire courses or sections of courses devoted to leading professional development programs, and this book has excellent potential for use in these settings.
Chapters 1 through 5 provide the foundational knowledge practitioners need to design, implement, evaluate, and sustain effective professional learning in schools. In Chapter 1 I discuss why global and societal shifts make teacher professional learning particularly important today, and reflect on why conventional professional development methods are inadequate in addressing the learning needs of schools and teachers. In Chapter 2 I present current models of professional learning action and examine the characteristics of effective professional learning activities.
The revised Learning Forward Standards for Professional Learning “describe the context, content, and processes for effective professional learning” (Learning Forward, 2011, p. 19), and it is essential that each school leader focus on these three areas to create and sustain an effective teacher professional learning program. While the context, process, and content emphasis are not as prominent in the 2011 Standards as in the 2001 Standards, “they remain a foundation for the seven 2011 standards” (Learning Forward, 2011, p. 19). Learning Communities, Leadership, and Resources standards define the essential context for effective teacher learning and are examined in Chapter 3. Without the appropriate context in place, even the most thoughtfully planned and implemented professional learning activity will fail. Content—establishing the goals of professional development [Page xix]activities and how to assess them—is the focus of Chapter 4. Content, which encompasses the Data and Outcomes standards, refers to the “what” of professional learning and consists of the learning needs of students, and the specific knowledge, skills, and teaching approaches to be acquired by teachers to better meet those student needs. Process—the “how” of professional learning—is the topic of Chapter 5. Process encompasses the Learning Designs and Implementation standards and involves the types of professional learning activities, and the way those activities are planned, organized, implemented, and followed up.
With a foundational understanding established, I proceed to discuss eight powerful professional learning strategies in Chapters 6 through 13: lesson study, Critical Friends, action research, school rounds, mentoring, peer coaching, online professional learning, and personal learning networks. Many professional learning approaches exist; I have intentionally limited my discussion to just the eight listed earlier for four reasons. First, each of the eight strategies is consistent with research-based principles of effective teacher professional learning. Second, practitioners have found these strategies to be effective in bringing about improvements in instructional practices and student learning, the very outcomes that are the goals of professional learning activities. Third, these strategies are representative of a variety of approaches with some being group approaches (lesson study, Critical Friends, action research, and school rounds), some being individual or pair approaches (mentoring and peer coaching), and some being approaches leveraging technology (online professional learning and personal learning networks). Finally, by limiting the focus to eight strategies I am able examine each one in detail rather than just provide the cursory descriptions found in other works on the subject.
Each strategy chapter provides the detail and guidance school leaders need to use the approach in their schools. Specifically, every strategy chapter includes the rationale behind the strategy, the essential features of the strategy, suggestions for implementing the strategy, resources for learning more about the strategy, and examples of the strategy in action. Some designs will appear more daunting than others, particularly if your school is in the early stages of becoming a learning community. However, we can't wait to implement the strategies presented in this book. Our students will be more engaged, and will learn more, when we create and sustain a context supportive of adult learning, when we intentionally focus the content of professional learning on student needs, and when we carefully choose strategies that help teachers meet those needs.
[Page xx]Following the eight chapters on strategies, I devote Chapter 14 to the very practical concern of how school leaders can overcome the teacher resistance involved in moving to new professional learning practices. Finally, in Chapter 15 I summarize the take-home messages from the book and emphasize the urgency educators must have in making teacher professional learning a priority. I hope this book will serve both as a source of information about teacher professional learning and a “how-to” manual that can be adapted to the particular characteristics and circumstances of individual schools. We are unlikely to seek the services of mechanics, surgeons, or plumbers who are not current with the latest knowledge, products, and procedures in their fields. Our students deserve the same from the educators who serve them. Effective teacher learning programs in our schools are a necessity, not a frill. It is time to engage all teachers in a lifelong process of professional growth. The stakes are too important to ignore: our schools, our children, and our future.
I am fortunate to be able to work on a daily basis with dedicated principals and teachers. They are committed equally to teaching, understanding their students’ learning, and developing their practice. It is because of them and teachers like them that I am able to illustrate the principles of building and sustaining effective teacher professional learning opportunities. Particular thanks go out to the following educators who inspired me to believe that teachers, and their students, deserve more than occasional traditional drive-by professional learning opportunities: David Mallery, Kerry Brennan, Toby Jones, Stephanie Perrin, Ben Gregg, Julie Faulstich, and Lisa Kensler. I also express my deep gratitude for the service rendered by Lisa Kensler and Cynthia Reed in their honest appraisal of several draft chapters and for Dan Alpert, senior editor at Corwin, who believed in this book from the very beginning. Finally, I have had the great benefit of patient and loving support from my wife, Krissy, and my daughters, Emma and Claire, particularly when I was thoroughly distracted by the work of seeing this project to fruition.Publisher's Acknowledgments
Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:
- Kathy Gross
- Director of Professional Learning
- Springfield Public Schools
- Springfield, Missouri
- Nancy Kellogg
- Education Consultant
- Boulder, Colorado
- [Page xxii]
- Primus M. Moore
- Assistant Principal
- Parker Intermediate Center
- McAlester, Oklahoma
- Sylvia Roberts
- Adjunct Associate Professor
- The City College of New York
- New York, New York
- Sheila M. Robitaille
- Director of Learning and Innovation
- Ashbury College
- Ottawa, Ontario
- Jeff Ronneberg
- Spring Lake Park Schools
- Spring Lake Park, Minnesota
- John D. Ross
- Educational Consultant
- http://TeachLearnTech.com and Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center
- Pulaski, Virginia
About the Author
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