Professional Development as a Multifaceted Tool

Superintendents that are focused on and accomplish improvement throughout their systems often view professional development (PD) as a tool that can both prepare for the successful implementation of new innovations and correct existing implementation practices that are poor. They generally work to deliver PD through more than just workshops. They use methods such as job-embedded instructional coaching, collaboration meetings, peer observation, and the Danielson Framework for Teaching model as a formative process.

Peer observation stands out as a promising practice to deprivatize practice and spur collaborative professional growth. Often, peer observation is not seen by leaders as a viable option because of the difficulties involved with coordinating time out of the classroom, the potential awkwardness between peers, and various other challenges. However, peer observation can be a powerful tool to advance improvement efforts because, in essence, it centers teacher collaboration on the refinement of their own actual teaching practices. Peer observation stands out to some superintendents as not only possible, but is seen as a natural way of moving professional conversation forward. Its importance was shown in that many superintendents encourage their principals to stand in for teachers to free them up to observe, and, in some smaller rural settings, superintendents themselves are even willing to fill in for a teacher to make peer observation possible.

Regardless of the model for professional development, in districts with strong leadership in the superintendent's role, its purpose is always intentional. It is not viewed as a choose-your-own-adventure plan. It is purposeful, either to meet a pre-defined goal or to correct and improve performance in relation to a pre-defined standard for high quality instruction.

Connections & Resources

The following indicators in the WISE Tool (Idaho's online planning tool) would make for natural connections for superintendents who are considering making plans related to this topic.

IA14 The district recruits, trains, supports, and places personnel to competently address the problems of schools in need of improvement. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IC08 Staff development is built into the schedule for support staff (e.g., aides, clerks, custodians, cooks) as well as classroom teachers. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link

The resources below are provided for further exploration of this topic. They are among many tools and readings that Idaho School Superintendents have either used or cited in their work.

Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don't Learn

Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don't Learn (DuFour et al., 2004)

In the well known book, Whatever It Takes, DuFour et al. outline how professional learning communities can leverage the power of collective knowledge to engage in learning processes that will in turn improve the system. Professional development thus becomes defined in many ways as collective learning and problem solving. This book is an excellent resource for leaders who are thinking about how to turn dysfunctional collaboration meetings into a teaming process that truly focuses on how the community responds to students who are struggling.

An Introductory Guide for Reading First Coaches

An Introductory Guide for Reading First Coaches (National Center for Reading First Technical Assistance, 2005)

Instructional Coaching is a process used by many districts. While this guide is a product of Reading First, its principles are transferable to many aspects of instructional coaching. It includes a description of what coaching is and what it is not, as well a research on why coaching is an effective practice.

It is available for free download from the US Department of Education at:

The Phi Delta Kappan (no image available)

Fusing Lesson Study and Authentic Achievement: A Model for Teacher Collaboration (Stewart & Brendefur, 2005)

In this article published by professors of education here in Idaho, the authors identify a strategy that combines focused lesson study processes, including peer observation, with authentic instruction. This is one of many models that superintendents might encourage within their schools.