- A Comprehensive Paper on Staff
By Annick M. Brennen, 2001
Chapter I -
Chapter II -
Importance of Staff Development
III - The Principal as Initiator and
Facilitator of Staff Development
- Since the mid-1980s, staff development has
been the focus of considerable research. Yet, most of this literature provides
compelling evidence that a significant number of schools have not implemented
effective staff development programs. Staff development has four broad purposes:
(1) curriculum implementation, (2) instructional improvement, (3) professional
development, (4) school and organization development. This paper will
concentrate on instructional improvement for increasing the effectiveness of the
learning process for children. Thus, the purpose of this study is to describe
and explain the need for, importance of, the role of the principal, and the
nature of an effective staff development program.
Glickman, Gordon, and Ross-Gordon (1998) tell
the following story:
When one of the authors gave a presentation
to a Michigan school board to explain the need to allocate more money for
professional development, he used an analogy to the automobiles made in
Detroit. When a customer purchases a new car costing upwards $30,000, he or
she brings it in every 5,000 miles for preventive maintenance and
fine-tuning. The customer continues to put additional money into the car to
prolong its life and performance. Simply to run the car into the ground
would be a dumb way to protect such an investment! In education, the school
board is the customer, who purchases more than a new car with its $30,000
initial investment—it purchases a living and breathing professional! Without
resources for maintaining, fine-tuning, and reinvigorating the investment,
the district will run teachers into the ground. (p. 347)
- This analogy supports the central idea of
this paper that staff development is not optional but critical to the
development of elementary schools.
Broadly defined, staff development is a term
referring to a plurality of formal or informal efforts and activities that
schools undertake to enhance individual or institutional capacities to teach
and serve students. Staff development programs are an economically viable
way to improve institutional outcomes and maintain institutional integrity.
Some practitioners use the terms staff development and professional
development interchangeably. Staff development, which has a broader scope,
should not be confused with in-service education which is its subcomponent.
Daresh and Playko (1995) defined staff development as "an ongoing process
that promotes professional growth rather than remediation;" and they refer
to inservice education as "those activities directed toward remediating a
perceived lack of skill or understanding" (p. 357). Nevertheless, when one
refers to staff development and inservice education, one is talking about a
learning process designed to assist teachers carry out their duties more
effectively so that children are able to learn better.
Historical Perspective on Staff Development
The literature accessed for this research
overwhelmingly suggests that staff development was best described as a
haphazard endeavor with sporadic, isolated, relatively ineffective events
unconnected to school’s goals and aspirations. Typically, it attracted the
smallest percentage of the school budget, and it was mostly based on courses
students take, the grades they get, or the textbooks selected (Green, 1996,
p. 10). Lieberman (1995), in an article entitled, "Practices That Support
Teaching Development," implies that teachers were not involved in the
planning of their professional development because their teaching expertise
and knowledge were undervalued. Generally, staff development was conducted
mostly outside the school in fragmented, piecemeal improvement efforts, with
no connection to teachers’ and students’ needs.
Before the mid-1980s, staff development was the
object of very little research. Showers, Joyce, and Bennett (cited in Glickman
et al.,1998) mentioned that until 1957, only about 50 studies had been conducted
on professional development in schools. Now several times that number of studies
are being conducted every year; however, some of these studies have attracted
negative reviews. McLaughlin and Berman, and Henderson (cited in Daresh & Playko,
1995) state that staff development and inservice education remain part of a
field with few theoretical or conceptual roots. Brimm and Toillet (cited in
Daresh & Playko, 1995) mention that staff development activities have little
respect from practitioners, while Swenson (1981) affirms that staff development
has a meager research base. Daresh (cited in Daresh & Playko, 1995) confirms
Swenson’s findings when he claims that research on staff development and
inservice education contained two serious flaws:
First the research techniques used to study
staff development and inservice education have been seriously limited. Most
work used survey questionnaires exclusively, for example. Second, most
research has centered on only three targets: (1) the evaluation of specific
inservice or staff development models, (2) the content of inservice and
staff development activities, and (3) the delivery systems typically used.
Additionally, staff development programs did
not provide the support system needed in the workplace to maintain innovations
Staff development was ineffective for several
reasons: (1) practitioners did not grant it much importance, (2) they did not
recognize the correlation between strong staff development programs and quality
teaching, (3) they did not devise strategic plans that would incorporate the
three stages of development described by Glickman et al. (1998). Staff
development programs usually stopped at the first stage. These stages of
development are: (1)the orientation stage, (2) the integration stage, and (3)
the refinement stage.
- Stages of Professional Development
They say that in the orientation stage,
teachers are given rudimentary knowledge of skills. If staff development
programs stop at this stage, then they are ineffective (p. 361).
They state also that in the integration stage,
teachers are assisted as they apply previous learning in their classrooms and
schools. Two other aspects of integration are: (1) learning to adapt general
learning to specific situations, (2) effective use of the new learning (p. 361).
Finally, they mention that in the refinement
stage, teachers move from basic competence to expertness through continuous
experimentation and reflection. Teachers in the refinement stage synthesize
different types of previous learning in order to create new learning (p. 362).
- The Importance of
- If elementary schools’ principals hope to
improve the quality of learning of their students in this complex,
sophisticated, information-driven, technologically changing society, then they
must devote much thought to the strategy they will adopt for staff development.
Furthermore, if they hope to be successful at helping students meet much higher
academic standards necessitated by these changes, they must heed to the
abundance of up-to-date research existing on this crucial subject.
Staff development is important for two main
reasons: (1) for improving the entire professional teaching staff of a school,
and (2) for improving instruction and learning.
A good staff development program is geared
toward the improvement of a school’s entire teaching staff. Brophy and Good
(1997) state that although a staff development should first help teachers to
address their individual’s needs, ultimately staff development should lead to
the improvement of a school’s entire teaching staff. Staff development will have
a greater impact on school performance if teachers work collectively to improve
it. Obviously, the truism is that the effort of many is greater than the effort
Assistance to Novice Teachers
Of great concern to researchers in staff
development is the need to provide effective programs which will assist novice
teachers as they begin their teaching profession. Montgomery Halford (1998)
describes the teaching profession as the "profession that eats its young." In an
article entitled, "Easing the Way for New Teachers," referring to the staggering
teacher attrition rate in the United States today, she observes that "nearly 30%
of teachers leave in the first five years, and the exodus is even greater in
some school districts." Gonzales and Sosa (cited in Montgomery Halford, 1998)
point out that "research indicates that the most talented new educators are
often the most likely to leave."
- Improvement of the Entire Teaching Staff
Of equal importance to our Caribbean context is
the need to effectuate a smooth transfer of novice teachers from training
schools to the classroom. New teachers are faced with several challenges upon
beginning their teaching career: (1) class assignments, (2) a change in school
culture, (3) classroom discipline and management, (3) working with a new
curriculum they have not established, (4) demanding teaching loads with
assignment of extra duties, (5) motivating students, (6) dealing with individual
differences among students, (7) assessing students, and (8) communicating with
Being able to evaluate the different needs of
beginner teachers plays an important role in providing effective support.
Beginner teachers come to the classroom with different skills and needs, and
they react to teaching in different ways. Glasberg (cited in Brophy & Good,
1997) found that more mature beginner teachers emphasized the need to understand
individual students and to be flexible, whereas less mature novices held a more
restricted view of teaching. Thus, new teachers may need different types of
Although several models exist for analyzing the
development level of teachers (example, Hunt & Joyce, 1981; Sprinthall &
Thies-Sprinthall, 1983, cited in Brophy & Good, 1987), the first explicit theory
describing teacher development was proposed by Fuller (1969) and elaborated by
Fuller and Brown (1975). According to these studies, "the first stage of
teaching is concern
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with survival. . . . The
second stage is concern with teaching situation. . . and the
third stage reflects concern with students" (p. 474). An
effective staff development program will pay attention to the different
needs of novices, and it will include appropriate systemic strategies
for long-term support.
Relevant to the satisfaction of beginner
teachers’ needs is Maslow’s Theory of Growth Motivation. In essence, Maslow
(1987) proposes that people are motivated to satisfy deficiency needs only when
those needs are unmet. Self-actualization depends on satisfaction of lower
needs, belief in certain values. For the beginner teacher, self-actualization
will occur when the lower needs mentioned by Fuller and Brown (1975) would have
Although veteran teachers would have overcome
these challenges; nevertheless, they too need to hone their existing
professional skills. Howey (cited in Daresh & Playko, 1995) lists six critical
functions to be served by staff development geared toward experienced and
successful teachers: (1) continuing pedagogical development, (2) continuing
understanding and discovery of self, (3) continuing cognitive development, (4)
continuing theoretical development, (5) continuing professional development, and
(6) continuing career development.
- Assistance to Experienced
According to Howey, continuing pedagogical
development involves "learning about more effective instructional techniques in
the classroom, such as classroom management skills and teacher presentation
skills" (p. 370).
Furthermore, continuing understanding and
discovery of self demand "learning more about developmental needs; for example,
in interpersonal skills" (p. 370). Crucial to teachers’ growth at a personal
level is the availability of avenues to interact with peers and to have
opportunities to maintain and develop creativity. The teaching profession is
characterized by isolation. Teachers are cut off from one another as they spend
the whole day in their classrooms with little outlet to share views with other
teachers. An effective staff development program will cater to these needs, and
it will encourage and stimulate personal and professional relationships that
will give teachers a sense of community.
Additionally, continuing cognitive development
consists of "determining the level of cognitive ability and development of
teachers so that future staff development and inservice schemes might be able to
address potential differences more completely" (p. 370).
On the other hand, continuing theoretical
development is "contributing to the attainment of goals set forth in a selected
educational theory" (p. 372),
Thus, continuing professional development means
"increasing the competence levels of teachers in a way that would enable these
individuals to contribute to a knowledge base which would, in turn, also
contribute to the development of teaching as a profession" (p. 372).
Furthermore, continuing career development
refers to "creating greater leadership skills and other competencies that might
lead teachers eventually to greater career development opportunities." This view
is consistent with that of Brophy and Good (1997) who imply that although staff
development’s primary goals is to make all teachers instructional leaders, it is
also concerned with increasing teacher leadership outside of their classroom
responsibilities and subject-matter knowledge.
Some of these critical functions can also be
applied to novice teachers, taking into consideration their level of teaching
maturity and their specific needs.
Staff development for experienced and
successful teachers present greater challenges to the principal, as they require
assessment of all these various levels of development. Nevertheless, appropriate
procedural methods and teacher participation in the process will provide the
appropriate feedback needed to carry out such a monumental, but not impossible
Instruction and learning are mentioned
together for the two are closely intertwined. Without contest, the overriding
goal of staff development is to improve instruction and student learning.
Improvement of instruction means teachers’ acquisition of effective and
up-to-date techniques and methods of instruction, while improvement of learning
refers to increasing the student ability and capacity to cope successfully with
increasingly more complex academic and social challenges.
- Improvement of Instruction and Learning
The majority of articles on the issue of staff
development strongly suggests that most teachers are dissatisfied with the kind
of inservice education provided, and that strategic and purpose-driven staff
development is and will continue to be a major point for attention in the 21st
As Daresh and Playko (1995) suggest,
educational reform requires that we pay attention to discovering how classroom
teachers increase the effectiveness of the learning process. Linda
Darling-Hammond (1996), executive director of the National Commission on
Teaching and America’s Future, in an article entitled, "The Quiet Revolution
Rethinking Teacher Development," gives us the imperative for such a reform. She
These initiatives are partly a response to
major changes affecting our society and our schools. Because rapid social
and economic transformations require greater learning from all students,
society is reshaping the mission of education. Schools are now expected not
only to offer education, but ensure learning. Teachers are expected not only
to "cover the curriculum" but to create a bridge between the needs of each
learner and the attainment of challenging learning goals.
These objectives—a radical departure from
education’s mission during the past century—demand that teachers understand
learners and their learning as deeply as they comprehend their subjects, and
that schools structure themselves to support deeper forms of student and
teacher learning than they currently permit. The invention of 21st century
schools that can educate all children well, rests foremost upon the
development of a highly qualified and committed teaching force. (p. 5)
A strong advocate for teaching practices that
support student learning, Darling-Hammond (1998) in another article entitled,
"Teacher Learning that Supports Student Learning," elaborates further on what
teachers need to know to help children meet today’s standards. She emphasizes
the variety of technical, cognitive, affective, analytical, and reflective
skills teachers need to meet the new demands of school reform. She says: "First,
teachers need to understand subject matter deeply and flexibly, so that they can
help students create useful cognitive maps, relate ideas to one another, and
address misconceptions" (p. 7). To accomplish this first goal, skillful teachers
will possess various competencies and knowledge: (1) knowledge of child and
adolescent development and an understanding of how to support growth in the
cognitive, social, and emotional domains; (2) competencies in understanding a
child’s milieu (family and cultural background), and how this milieu affects a
child’s approach to learning, and how the child develops intelligences; (3)
discriminatory knowledge of material for different purposes and types of
learning relevant to different contexts.
She continues: "Teachers need to know about
curriculum resources and technologies to connect their students with sources of
information and knowledge that allow them to explore ideas, acquire and
synthesize information, and frame and solve problems" (p. 8). Teachers need to
know how to promote collaboration among students, teachers, and how to work well
Finally, she says: "Teachers need to be able to
analyze and reflect on their practice to assess the effects of their teaching,
and to refine and improve their instruction" (p. 8).
Green (1996) brings another perspective to the
question, "What do we want our students to know and be able to do?" His research
indicates that in general, the goals listed fit nicely into the four well-known
classical categories suggested in the research of Goodlad, Sirotnik, and their
colleagues: (1) academic, (2) social/civic, (3) personal, and (4) career. That
students should be lifelong learners emerged as a common factor in three of
these categories. The research shows also that present methods of teaching are
not congruent with stated academic goals such as "think critically, understand
written material, think creatively, be self-directed learner" (p. 11). In other
words, 21st century students must become strategic learners if they hope to cope
with the massive production of information that typifies this service and
Using Bloom’s levels of learning (knowledge,
comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation), Green asserts
that teachers are still using the lecture/recitation method and lower thinking
skills such as memorization, recitation, summarization, naming, recalling, and
paraphrasing. As he points out, the lecture-and-recitation method does not teach
students to apply the new information to other situations or to analyze it,
integrate it with previous knowledge, or evaluate it. More than this, he says
that textbooks are oriented toward Bloom’s two lowest levels—knowledge and
comprehension. Teachers who want to develop students’ critical thinking and
problem-solving skills will utilize relevant instructional approaches.
Staff development programs should provide
training and practice in powerful new ways of teaching. Green concludes that at
minimum, Adventist teachers should know and use the following teaching methods:
(1) dimensions of learning, (2) models of learning, (3) cooperative learning,
(4) integrated thematic instruction, (5) use of multiple intelligences, use of
learning styles, use of technology, distance learning, biblical values and
character development. A brief review of some of these teaching methods and
techniques will provide meaningful insight into their nature.
Models of teaching, described by Bruce Joyce
and Marsha Weil, are a modification of Jerome S. Bruner’s, Jacqueline J.
Goodnow’s, and George A. Austin’s concept attainment model found in A Study
published in 1959. Gunter, Estes, and Schwab (1995) summarized the concept
attainment model in these words:
The concept attainment model describes the
steps in teaching the meaning of a concept by presenting positive and
negative examples of the concept to the class until the students can
identify the essential attributes and state a concept definition. In
addition, this model helps students understand the process through which
concepts are defined. The teacher may present a new concept to the class or
focus on one particular aspect of a familiar concept. Because the
understanding of concepts is so essential to learning in the classroom, the
time taken to identify and clarify these concepts is time well spent. In
addition, teachers find that in preparing to teach this model, they clarify
their own understanding of essential concepts. (p. 112)
Howard Gardner, the originator of multiple
intelligences theories (cited in Sergiovanni, 1991), proposes that people
possess seven relatively autonomous intellectual competencies: linguistic and
mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and two personal
intelligences (one focusing on self-understanding and the other on the
understanding of others.) Utilizing multiple intelligences theory, the skillful
teacher will recognize and capitalize on the student’s dominant intelligence.
Learning style refers to how a person prefers
to gather and utilize information. Several learning styles have been identified:
(1) sequential vs. random learning; (2) left brain/right brain theory; (3)
visual, auditory, and kinesthetic theories; (4) social and independent learning
Marks-Beale (1994) provides an
easy-to-understand description of these learning styles. She says that a
preference toward the sequential learning style means that one tends toward a
more logical, step-by-step approach to taking in information (p. 34). A
preference toward the random learning style means that one learns in a less
structured manner (p. 35).
Furthermore, she states that the left
brain/right brain theory, also known as hemisphericity, says that the brain has
two hemispheres, a left side and a right side. Each side represents certain
qualities. A left brain person tends to resemble a sequential learner, while a
right brain person tends to resemble a random learner. She mentions that persons
who have researched and written about this theory include Roger Sperry, Kenneth
and Rita Dunn, and Ned Herrmann (p. 44).
Moreover, she observes that visual, auditory,
and kinesthetic learning theories can be summarized into two words: sensory
theory. Sensory theory indicates a certain preference in utilizing the senses to
absorb information. A visual learner prefers using the eyes to learn. She
respond bests to demonstrations, pictures, and visual aids. An auditory learner
prefers using the ears to learn. He would rather hear lectures than see
demonstrations. A kinesthetic learner prefers using the body to learn. He would
rather be physically involved in learning. John Grinder and Richard Bandler have
researched and written about this theory. Social and independent learning
theories advance that some people prefer to learn independently while others
prefer to learn in a group (p. 45). Teachers who consider learning styles
theories will use a variety of instructional approaches in their classrooms.
Cooperative learning, an old concept with a new
twist, aims at improving student achievement using small groups. Cooperation,
socialization skills, and class unity are some of its by-products.
Thus, improved teaching means improved and
increased student learning. One could ask who in an elementary school should
initiate staff development programs? The writer of this paper believes that the
principal should be the initiator and facilitator of a staff development
The Principal as Initiator and
Of Staff Development
Because the principal has a global,
comprehensive, and intimate knowledge of the school and of its various
components and resources, she is the person best qualified to initiate and
facilitate staff development. One of the most important functions of the
principal is to support and evaluate the instructional efforts of teachers.
Sergiovanni (1991) in examining the principal’s
job states that "successful leadership and management within the principalship
are directed toward the improvement of teaching and learning for students" (p.
16). He provides a comparison of principal leadership in effective and
In effective schools principals are
instructional leaders who hold strong views about instruction and exhibit
strong and highly visible managerial skills to ensure that all features of
the model (objectives, curriculum, teaching, testing, expectations, and
classroom climate are properly aligned. . . In successful schools,
principals are educational leaders with strong views about schooling,
teaching, and learning. . . . (p. 96)
This comparison emphasizes the key role the
principal plays in directing and influencing the instructional process and
outcomes of the school. The principal is able to exert that influence because
her principalship endows her with the power to do so. Sergiovanni describes this
power as "educational force." He says:
When expressing the educational force, the
principal assumes the role of "clinical practitioner" who brings expert
professional knowledge and bearing to teaching, educational program
development, and supervision. As clinical practitioner, the principal is
adept at diagnosing educational problems; counseling teachers; providing for
supervision, evaluation, and staff development; and developing curriculum.
On the other hand, staff development should be
a collaborative effort between principal and teachers. The principal, as leader
of leaders, recognizes the role teachers must play in taking responsibility for
improving their own instruction and for planning, implementing, and evaluating
all faculty staff development programs. The involvement of teachers in planning
staff development programs will guarantee that these programs meet their needs
and interests. Also, they will be able to advise the principal about the type of
inservice education needed to meet these needs, and they will be able to provide
meaningful feedback to the principal as the staff development and inservice
education activities are implemented. Brophy and Good (1997) state that "schools
where teachers engage in considerable job-related discussion and share in
decisions about instructional programs and staff development are more effective
than schools where decisions are made by rule-bound bureaucratic procedures" (p.
Now that the role of the principal and teachers
in creating a staff development program is established, the writer will turn her
attention to its critical components.
Components of an Effective
- Staff Development
A strategic staff development hinges on the
vision, mission, and goals of a school. Before planning the program, the
principal considers what instructional improvements are needed. In general,
instructional improvements include: (1) improving technical skills, (2)
increasing repertoire of strategies, (3) developing teacher’s individual
strengths, (5) building competence and strengths in teacher’s weak areas. Also,
the principal addresses which aspects of instruction should be changed. Is it
the content, the knowledge, or the skills? Is it all of them? Once these are
determined, the principal selects methods and approaches that most closely meet
the characteristics of a successful staff development program. Next, based on
review and analysis of data gathered formally and informally through her own
efforts and the participation of teachers, the principal establishes general
objectives, specific objectives, topic priorities; chooses and matches type of
staff development activities to teacher characteristics and learning needs;
budgets; schedules and implements activities; chooses presenters and venues;
monitors these activities; gets feedback from teachers; and prepares a sound
evaluation instrument to assess the effectiveness of the staff development
program. After careful review of the evaluation, the principal fine-tunes future
- Characteristics of a Successful
Staff Development Program
- A wealth of knowledge exists on successful
professional development. The writer has selected nineteen of these
characteristics, from the web page of the Illinois Staff Development
Council, that offer practical suggestions in planning a staff development
program. These characteristics are comprehensive, and they encompass all
others offered by various experts.
1. Involvement in planning. Staff
development activities tend to be more effective when participants have taken
part in identifying the objectives and planning the activities.
2. Time for planning. Whether the staff
development activities are mandated or participation is voluntary, participants
need time away from their regular or administrative responsibilities in order to
plan the program.
3. Involvement of principals. Staff
development activities in which principals are active participants are more
effective. Active involvement means that principals need to participate in most
if not all of the activities in which their teachers are involved.
4. School board- or district-level support.
For staff development activities to be effective, higher governing bodies’
support needs to be active and visible, especially through the approval of an
5. Expectations. Participants should
know what is expected of them during the activities, as well as what they will
be asked to do when the experience is over.
6. Opportunity for sharing. Staff
development activities in which participants share and provide assistance to one
another are more apt to attain their objectives than activities in which
participants work alone.
7. Continuity. Staff development
activities that are thematic and linked to school goals are more effective in
producing significant, long-lasting results than a series of one-shot activities
on a variety of topics.
8. Follow-up. Staff development is more
successful if follow-up activities are part of the design of the program.
9. Opportunity for practice. Staff
development activities that include demonstrations and practice with feedback
are more likely to accomplish their objectives than those activities that expect
participants to store up ideas and skills for use at a future time.
10. Active involvement. Successful staff
development activities are those which provide participants with a chance to be
actively involved. Participants are more likely to apply what they have learned
when they have "hands-on" experiences with materials, actively participate in
exercises that will later be used with students, and are involved in small group
11. Opportunity for choice. When
participants have chosen to be involved in a program, there is a far greater
likelihood that the experience will be helpful. A meaningful series of
alternative activities should also be offered within a staff development
12. Building on Strengths. People like
to be recognized as valued, competent, liked, and needed. Staff development
activities that view each participant as a resource are usually more favorably
received by participants.
13. Content. Successful staff
development activities are often geared toward a relatively narrow grade-level
range and address a specific topic or a specific set of skills. They help
participants develop a plan that is ready for intermediate use or a set of
instructional materials which translate the idea presented into practice.
14. The presenter. Successful presenters
approach a subject from the participant’s point of view. The presenter’s
expertise is important, as is his or her ability to convey genuine enthusiasm
for the subject.
15. Individualization. Staff development
programs that provide different experiences for participants who are at
different stages of their development are more apt to obtain their objectives
than those in which all participants engage in common activities.
16. Number of participants. Some
presentations are as effective with 100 participants as they are with 10;
however, for staff development activities requiring personal contact,
informality, and an interchange of ideas, 7 to 10 participants appear to be
optimal. There are exceptions based on the skill of the presenter, the
organization of the activity, and the nature of the topic.
17. The learning environment. As a
general rule, successful staff development activities occur within a low-threat,
comfortable setting in which there is a degree of "psychological safety."
Openness to learning is enhanced when peers can share problems and solutions.
18. The physical facility. Accessibility
of supporting materials, appearance of the facility, room temperature, lighting,
auditory and visual distractions, and many other physical factors have subtle
but sometimes profound effects on the success of a staff development activity.
19. Time of day and season. Staff
development activities which take place at the end of a school day are often
less successful than those offered when participants are fresh. Further, staff
development activities are less likely to be successful when they are scheduled
at times of the year when seasonal activities (for example, parent conferences,
holiday celebrations) occur.
Once the principal is aware of these
guidelines, her task in planning the staff development is easier.
- Approaches to Staff Development
- In reviewing the literature for this study,
the writer identified two main approaches to staff development: (1) the
research-based approach, and (2) the supervision approach.
Green (1996) insists in two articles, "Making
Decisions About the Content of Staff Development Programs," and "How Do We
Maintain New Practices in Staff Development" that "decisions about staff
development programs should be informed by research" (p. 10). As he explains,
teachers should acquaint themselves with the findings of research that relates
to their questions and problems in the classroom, and they should design new
action research around their own work and that of their students. Such research,
he says, should deal primarily with student learning.
He states further that staff development
efforts should follow research-based methods. One of these research-based
methods is the Four-Step Plan described by Joyce and Showers (1987): "(1)
presenting the theory or content of the practice; (2) modeling or demonstrating
the new practice; (3) practicing the new strategy; and (4) receiving expert
feedback." These four steps can be compared to the three stages of staff
development recognized by Glickman et al. Combined and utilized, the Four-Step
Plan and the three stages of staff development can ensure that teachers maintain
innovative practices learned during inservice education or staff development
The research-based method ensures that relevant
content and topics will be selected based on current research.
Green (1996) offers three criteria for making
decisions about the content of staff development programs. He says that although
not exhaustive, these criteria will help to direct the decision-making
1. What does current research recommend?
2. Does the content fit our goals? and
3. Do the methods and content reflect our
values? (p. 9)
The supervision approach has received strong
support from experts such as Daresh, Oliva, Pawlas, Playko, Sergiovanni,
Sturges, and others. As Sergiovanni (1991) states, this approach responds to the
need of supervising novice and experienced teachers. The principal can match the
four options of supervision (clinical, collegial, self-directed, and informal)
to teacher needs, professional development levels, and personality
characteristics. Embedded in the supervision approach is the evaluation of
teachers in the classroom, which seen in its broader judgmental conception, is a
powerful tool in improving instruction and student learning. The writer will
describe briefly these four options, and she will show that each option lends
itself to the latest types of staff development activities suited for novice and
The classroom is the place where clinical
supervision occurs. The principal acts as an expert, analytical, and unobtrusive
observer; she interacts individually with teachers, and she provides feedback
that is of interest and value to teachers for improving teaching and student
learning. Teachers also play an active role in the process. As Sergiovanni
points out: "It is the teacher who decides the course of a clinical supervisory
cycle, the issues to be discussed, and for what purpose" (p. 298).
Clinical supervision lends itself to
individually planned staff development for experienced teachers within which
they set individual goals and objectives, plan and carry out activities, and
Allan Glathhorn (cited in Sergiovanni, 1991)
describes collegial supervision as cooperative professional development within
which teachers agree to work together for their own professional development.
This concept ties in very well with collegial support groups, networks, and
teacher centers. Beginner and experienced teachers can benefit from these
collegial activities. In collegial support groups, teachers within the same
school engage in group inquiry, address common problems, jointly implement
instructional materials. Henriquez-Roark’s and Green’s study groups (as
described in "the Missing Piece of the Staff-Development Puzzle: Teacher Study
Groups") are an example of collegial support groups. In networks, teachers from
different schools share information, concerns, and accomplishments and engage in
common learning through computer links, newsletters, fax machines, and
occasional seminars and conferences. In teacher centers, teachers can meet at a
central location to engage in professional dialogue, develop skills, plan
innovations, and gather or create instructional materials. A modified version of
this type of collegial support is mentoring. In a mentoring program, an
experienced teacher is assigned to a novice for the purpose of providing
individualized, ongoing professional support.
With self-directed supervision, as Sergiovanni
(1991) indicates, teachers work alone and assume responsibility for their own
professional development. They assess their own needs and develop from the
assessment a yearly plan comprising targets and goals. This form of supervision
goes well with the latest practice of building teacher portfolios. A teacher’s
portfolio enables him to self-assess, self-evaluate, and self-regulate.
An informed principal will combine the
research-based approach and the supervision approach to develop strategic
programs for the school.
Another important aspect of planning a staff
development program is matching activities to adult characteristics and
individual learning needs. The next section will deal with this aspect of staff
- Matching Staff Development Activities
to Adult Characteristics and
Individual Learning Needs
- Experts who have surveyed teachers report that
they have voiced their frustrations about the quality of staff development
activities. Teachers feel that staff development activities do not match their
cognitive, social, and emotional characteristics. Thus, experts have identified
two basic ingredients of good programs: (1) a recognition that adults have
specialized learning needs, (2) an understanding of the individual differences
Knowles (cited in Daresh & Playko, 1995)
identified four critical characteristics of adults and their patterns of
1. As a person matures, his or her
self-concept moves from one of dependency to one of self-direction.
2. The mature person tends to accumulate a
growing reservoir of experience that provides a resource for learning.
3. The adult’s readiness to learn becomes
increasingly oriented toward the developmental tasks of his or her assigned
4. The adult’s time perspective changes
from postponed application of knowledge to immediate application, and
accordingly his or her orientation toward learning shifts from
subject-centeredness to problem-centeredness. (p. 363)
Wood and Thompson (cited in Daresh & Playko,
1995) add some salient aspects of adult learning. They say that adults will
learn when the goals and objectives of a learning activity are considered by the
learner to be realistic, related, and important to a specific issue at hand.
They add that adult learning is highly ego-involved. When a person is
unsuccessful at a given learning task, it is likely that he or she will take it
as an indication of personal incompetence and failure. Also, adults will tend to
resist any learning experience that they believe is either an open or implied
attack on the their personal or professional competence (p. 364).
Taking into consideration these characteristics
of adult learners, what kinds of activities should the principal choose for
workshops and seminars? The Illinois Staff Development Council, using John
Goodlad’s research, provides the following guidelines:
Adults prefer learning situations which are
practical and problem-centered so give overviews, summaries, examples, and use
stories; plan for direct application of the new information; design in
collaborative, problem-solving activities; anticipate problems applying the new
ideas, offer suggested uses. Guard against becoming too theoretical.
Also, adults prefer to promote their positive
self-esteem, so provide low-risk activities in small group settings; plan for
building success incrementally; help them become more effective and competent.
Remember that readiness to learn depends on self-esteem.
Likewise, adults prefer learning situations
which integrate new ideas with existing knowledge, so help them recall what they
already know that relates to the new ideas; help them see how the new
information is relevant to them; plan ways they can share their experience with
each other. Find ways to assess participant knowledge before an event.
Moreover, adults prefer learning situations
which show respect for the individual learner, so provide for their needs
through breaks, snacks, tea, comfort; provide a quality, well organized
experience that uses time effectively; avoid jargon and don’t "talk down" to
participants; validate and affirm their knowledge, contributions, and successes;
let the presenter ask for feedback on his work or ideas, and let him provide
input opportunities. Choose words carefully to avoid negative perceptions.
Besides, adults prefer learning situations
which capitalize on their experience, so don’t ignore what they know, it’s a
resource for the presenter; plan alternative activities so he can adjust to fit
their experience level; create activities that use their experience and
knowledge; listen before, during and after the event. Provide for the
possibility of a need to unlearn old habits.
Finally, adults prefer learning situations
which allow choice and self-direction, so build plans around their needs,
compare goals and actual achievements; share agenda and assumptions and ask for
input on them; ask what they know about the topic; ask what they would like to
know about the topic; build in options within the plan so change can be made if
Because teachers are at different stages of
teaching experience and have different learning needs, inservice education
should be tailored to meet these needs. Turner (cited in Daresh & Playko, 1995)
defined four stages of professional growth reflected within most school staffs.
Of particular interest to this paper are three of these stages: (1) the initial
training period, (2) the security-building period, and (3) the maturing period.
He says that teachers who have from one to five
years’ experience fall into the initial training period. The principal will
design activities that will address the concerns of beginner teachers such as
discipline, routine organizational and administrative chores, etc. (p. 366).
Also, he says that teachers with five to
fifteen years experience belong to the security-building period. At this stage,
teachers are interested in increasing their personal knowledge and skills. The
principal will make sure to provide inservice and staff development activities
that promote individual growth (p. 366).
Furthermore, he says that master teachers who
have an undefined number of years of experience but a clear depth of
professional expertise are in the maturing period. The principal will tap into
their knowledge and skills as additional resources in promoting professional
growth (p. 366).
If all teachers in the school belong to one
stage of professional growth, the principal can use the "Levels of Concern"
method pioneered by Fuller, but built upon by Hall and Loucks (cited in Daresh &
Playko, 1995). Hall and Loucks suggest that an important way to differentiate
needs of staff members is according to their levels of concern about a
particular educational practice: (1) refocusing, (2) collaboration, (3)
consequence, (4) management, (5) personal, (6) informational, (7) awareness.
They say that at the refocusing level, teachers
believe they have some ideas about improving practices; while at the
collaboration level, teachers are interested in combining their good ideas with
the ideas of coworkers (p. 367).
Furthermore, they state that at the consequence
level teachers are concerned with the extent to which there will be a positive
impact on student learning; while at the management level teachers are concerned
with getting materials ready for instruction (p. 367).
Moreover, they point out that at the personal
level teachers are most interested in what personal effect a school practice
will have on them (p. 367).
Finally, they assert that at the informational
level teachers are most concerned with finding out basic information about a
practice; while at the awareness level teachers are not interested in a
particular issue of practice (p. 367).
Of what significance is the Level of Concerns
method to the principal in planning staff development activities? Hall and
Loucks (cited in Daresh & Playko, 1995) provide the answers:
1. The staff development leader must attend
to the teachers’ concerns as well as to the content to be covered.
2. It is all right to have personal
3. Change cannot come overnight.
4. Teachers’ concerns might not be the same
as those of staff developer.
5. Within any group, there is a variety of
concerns. (p. 368)
An effective staff development program should
include evaluation. Daresh and Playko (1995) mention that this area has been
overlooked often; however, referring to Joyce and Showers (1998), they make the
recommendations found in the next section.
According to Joyce and Showers (cited in
Daresh & Playko, 1995), the evaluation instrument may contain three categories
of questions: (1) questions related to the human resource development system as
such, (2) questions related to the major dimensions of the system and the health
of those dimensions, (3) questions related to the study of specific programs and
events within each dimension of the system.
- Program Evaluation
They say that questions related to to the human
resource development system help to determine generally how a system is doing.
Is the system in good health? Does it achieve its purpose? How well does it
provide for individuals, schools, and district initiatives (p. 371)?
Furthermore, they mention that questions
related to the major dimensions of the system and the health of those dimensions
should say how well individuals, schools, and system initiatives are being
served. Answer to these questions should help improve each identified dimension
within a system (p. 371).
Finally, they state that questions related to
the study of specific programs and events within each dimension of a system
should provide answers to the following: Are programs that give teachers the
option to study teaching skills and strategies succeeding? Are school
improvement programs being executed and affecting the lives of students in a
positive way? Are school district initiatives being implemented, and are they
improving students’ performance (p. 372)?
A search of the Internet on the evaluation of
staff development programs proved fruitless. What the writer found, however, was
a call for professional educators to submit articles for an upcoming issue on
evaluating staff development. According to Joan Richardson (1998), the fall
issue of the Journal of Staff Development, the flagship publication for
the National Staff Development Council, will address these questions:
1. How do staff developers determine if staff
development programs are achieving their desired results?
2. How can staff development programs be
3. How can evaluation information be used to
inform decision making, improve program effectiveness, and document progress?
4. How can evaluation results be presented in
appropriate and meaningful ways?
5. What knowledge and skills do staff
developers need to evaluate staff development?
As these questions indicate, preparing an
evaluation instrument requires much thought and a high level of expertise. The
principal will need to devise an evaluation instrument in collaboration with
teachers, and refine it as time progresses. The results of the evaluation will
give the principal all the information needed to assess and improve staff
The writer of this paper has endeavored to show
that staff development is extremely important for improving instruction and
student learning. She has done this by describing and explaining the need for,
importance of, the role of the principal, and the nature of an effective staff
The writer recommends that principals who want
to have successful schools do the following:
1. Emphasize continuous staff development.
2. Implement mentoring and peer coaching for
3. Give teachers more time to practice and hone
new teaching skills.
4. Provide the support system needed to
maintain innovation in teaching.
5. Create an evaluation instrument to measure
and document improvement in student learning as staff development programs are
6. Prepare an evaluation instrument to assess
the effectiveness of staff development initiatives.
7. Allocate a greater percentage of the budget
to sustain long-term staff development programs and inservice education.
8. Prepare special staff development activities
for principals and vice-principals.
In future, the writer expects that as more
schools embrace staff development and document their results, and as more
research is conducted, quantitative and qualitative data will provide evidence
that staff development is indeed critical to school development.
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